Mobile Phone Jamming Devices Not Solution to Smuggling in Prisons

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) supports the Australian Government’s ban on jamming devices that block mobile phone signals, following confirmation from the Indian government that the technology is not a viable solution to stop smuggling in prisons.

“Recent reports from India showing up to 15 per cent of calls are dropping out in the vicinity of Bangalore jail due to a jamming device that was installed in 2001 demonstrate it is a short-sighted solution that does not take into consideration the potential outcomes,” said Mr Graham Chalker, CEO, AMTA.

“Most people don’t realise that it is impossible to only block radio signals within the four walls of the prison. Jamming devices could have fatal consequences if someone living close to a prison was prevented from using their mobile phone in an emergency. A mobile phone call can make all the difference in instances where time is of the essence and people do not have access to a fixed line phone,” he added.

Almost one third of all genuine emergency calls to ‘000’ in Australia are made from mobile phones. And a study by Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Medicine at the University of Sydney, clearly demonstrated the enormous benefit of mobile phone technology in emergency situations. For instance, the study found that one in four mobile phone users have used their phone to report a dangerous situation.

Marketing materials for jamming devices claim that all mobile phones could be ‘jammed’ within a distance of up to four kilometers. If these claims are true, the potential for disruption to legitimate mobile phone services is enormous. Conceivably, one jammer could inadvertently take out the whole district if a jamming device was not used correctly or fell into the wrong hands.

“Although it has been proven that jamming devices are not a solution, there are other viable options that will yield better outcomes in prisons. Authorities could use radio frequency sniffer technology to identify whether mobile phones are in use or install a prison telecommunications base station, which would register all mobile devices used within the prison. Illegal handsets and handset numbers could then either be blocked or monitored.

“Furthermore, jamming devices will not target the real issue, which is the smuggling of contraband into prisons. Just as occurs thousands of times each day at Australian airports, surely prisons could detect mobile phones using x-ray and metal detectors,” added Mr Chalker.

Link to Sen Coonan's Press Release.