Phone companies cool on plan for jammers

The possible introduction of cellphone jammers in cinemas is likely to meet staunch resistance from the telecommunications sector.

The Motion Pictures Exhibitors Association is investigating the legality of using cellphone jammers to put an end to cell phones disrupting movies.

But the idea has met with a frosty response from Telecom and Vodafone who say the technology is an "extreme" solution to the problem.

Telecom spokeswoman Sarah Berry said the majority of situations when cellphone use became an issue could be solved by asking people to switch off their phones.

While situations where people use mobiles in the movies could be frustrating, she said introducing mobile phone jammers would be an "extreme response".

Ms Berry said anyone wanting to use a mobile phone jammer in New Zealand would need to get a licence to do so from all mobile providers in the area and from any other provider of radio services operating on nearby frequencies.

Current mobile jamming technology was "not acceptable", she said, because Telecom believed it would block legitimate users operating in the vicinity of theatres, including emergency calls, and degrade network quality.

Vodafone public policy manager Roger Ellis said the company certainly didn't condone rude or offensive behaviour, but there were other ways of dealing with the problem -- by using the on-off switch, putting the phone onto silent mode, and turning on voice mail.

He believed that jammers were illegal in most countries.

This was because if an emergency situation arose and people needed to use their cellphones and they couldn't there could be disastrous consequences.

Mr Ellis said the problem with these devices was that it was difficult to control where the signal went.

"You can't draw a line around a cinema or a person or say it won't go beyond the walls. It may extend to local businesses, buildings, or housing nearby.

"We want people to respect the right to go to a movie, but that's not a reason to attack technology rather than the behaviour of the person."

He said the issue was far from being straightforward and would need to be properly considered from a policy point of view.

"If a customer has bought a phone and can't use it in a part of the country because someone's installed a jammer, who is liable for that situation, particularly if someone's life is lost?"

- nzpa

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