By David Ellis (partner) and Stephen Bureaux (solicitor)
Originally published in April 2002
On 10 April 2002, in response to a LEGCO question, the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting, Mrs Carrie Yau, outlined the Telecommunications Authority's ("TA") position on devices which block mobile communications. The use of such jamming devices is currently illegal in Hong Kong.
Devices which seek to block mobile phone communications, commonly known as "mobile phone jamming devices" are radiocommunications equipment within the meaning of section 8(b) of the Telecommunications Ordinance, and accordingly the possession or use of such devices is subject to licensing control. The TA has not yet licensed the use of such devices in Hong Kong so the use of such jamming devices is currently illegal.
These devices may be beneficial in preventing some of the adverse effects of mobile phone use in areas such as theatres during performances, or to prevent the use of mobile telephones for illegal off-course bookmaking. However the TA considers that the following issues need to be considered before determining whether to license the use of mobile phone jamming devices:
- Although mobile phone jamming devices are intended to prevent signals within a localised area, their effect may spill over into adjacent areas and cause unacceptable interference to normal mobile phone communications outside the intended area.
- Mobile phone jamming devices will prevent emergency calls from mobile phones within their effective area.
- It is questionable as to whether the community at large will accept that suppression of mobile phone communications should be allowed at all.
- There are alternative ways of dealing with many of the adverse effects of mobile phone use, such as the use of vibration or silent modes at sensitive times.
The TA has noted that this subject has been considered with public consultation in countries such as Canada, but no decision has yet been made. The TA intends to conduct its own public consultation later this year to solicit the views of the public and industry before deciding a suitable course of action.
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