ACA blocks phone jammers in prisons

Aussie crims will get to keep their mobile phone coverage for the time being after the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) threw out any possibility of prisons using mobile phone jamming devices, claiming the risk to lives and services of legal users in the community is just too great.

The ACA says it investigated the possibility of using jammers following "recent publicity surrounding the use of mobile phones in a NSW prison", adding it "understands the concerns raised by the NSW Department of the Corrective Services".

Among a number of concerns cited, the ACA lists the possible health effects from electromagnetic radiation, the interference, disruption and disturbance to public mobile phones and wireless communications causing inconvenience and loss of business, and possible prevention of access to emergency services.

The report also found that jammers could affect all mobile phones within a radius of four kilometres, trunked land mobile systems, fixed point-to-point links carrying multichannel voice and data, outside broadcast and transmitter facilities for the media, cordless telephones, wireless LANs and garage doors. Computerworld understands that baby monitors, some car alarms and radio controlled toys could also be affected.

One intriguing alternative the ACA raises is that future prison facilities be built to act as a Faraday cage, thus blocking out any signal. The ACA, however, does not say what prison staff could use as an alternative to handheld radios.

Mobile phone jammers, in certain frequency bands, were declared prohibited devices by the ACA in 1999 under the Radio Communications Act (1992) and it is an offence to operate or supply, or possess for the purpose of operation or supply, such a device.

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