Archived — Notice No. DGTP-002-01

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Industry Canada

Radiocommunication Act

Notice No. DGTP-002-01 — Public Discussion on Cell Phone Silencers (Devices Capable of Interfering with or Blocking Mobile Telephone Communications)

1. Intent

The purpose of this Notice is to invite public views and comments on the use of cell phone silencers (also known as radio jamming devices). Through this consultation, the Department seeks to establish whether the public interest would be served if the present occasional authorization of these devices, for law enforcement and public safety purposes, were to be broadened for wider niche market and location-specific applications. However, it should be noted that, within the scope of this consultation, the Department is not prepared to address a licence-exempt status for these devices.

2. Background

A number of countries are dealing with whether jamming devices should be permitted for broader niche market applications. There have been a range of positions taken by these countries. For example, the United States has incorporated by law an outright ban on their use. The United Kingdom has announced it will take all necessary steps to ensure that "Cellphone Jammers" are not used. Some countries have restricted their licensing or permitted the use of certain types of devices (Australia, Japan). Other countries, such as France, have decided that further evaluation of these devices is required. In the end, all of these administrations have faced the same challenge. That is, the challenge of balancing the needs of some, for a preserved quiet zone in their private environment or in public places like restaurants and theatres etc., with the concerns of the wireless service industry regarding the impact of these devices on the delivery of public mobile services. Added to this balance of needs, are radio jamming devices manufacturers/distributors and entrepreneurs who wish to establish a broader market for these devices.

Industry Canada has been in discussion with representatives of the wireless industry and developers of jamming devices software, to develop an understanding of the application and operation of the various devices now available. This has been necessary for Industry Canada to determine the impact of these devices on wireless services and put appropriate measures in place.

There are five types of known devices currently capable of blocking or intentionally interfering with wireless communications, and they can be described as follows:

  1. Jamming Devices - By way of radio frequency interference, the device prevents pagers and mobile phones from transmitting or receiving calls by transmitting a jamming signal.
  2. Intelligent Disablers - By way of a signal detection function, the device communicates with the base station of the mobile phone users' wireless service provider indicating that particular mobile phone is in a quiet zone and consequently communication is not established.
  3. Intelligent Beacon Disablers - By way of beacon-like operation, the device instructs any compatible mobile phone to disable its ringer, turn down its volume or to switch the phone to a vibrate-signalling mode.
  4. Direct Receive and Transmit Jammers - By way of base station-like features, the device interacts with the operation of local mobile phones in its proximity to break or unhook the communications link, before returning to a passive mode.
  5. lPassive Jamming Devices - By way of electromagnetic interference (EMI) suppression techniques, a defined space/room is constructed in a way that prevents the transmission or reception of radio signals within the shielded space/room (commonly know as a Faraday Cage).

Generally speaking, the use of any of these five devices would place a mobile phone user in the same position as if they had, for example, moved outside of mobile phone coverage, or simply had their phone turned off. In most instances, a message would inform the calling party that the user is currently unavailable and the voice-mail feature would consequently be activated.

During the Department's investigation of jamming devices, various views have emerged.

Views of Certain Members of the Public

Certain segments of the public either wish to keep their corporate boardrooms or their private residences secure. They may wish to enjoy various forms of entertainment in public venues uninterrupted by mobile phone use. Wireless industry associations promote a voluntary phone etiquette using in-venue signs/posters and other vehicles for media awareness to create an environment where mobile phone users acknowledge the rights of others to "quiet time". This is achieved by taking advantage of a technology solution (e.g. putting the ring function of a mobile phone in a vibration mode), or simply going to a more private area of the public venue to make a wireless call. Both of these methods have demonstrated some level of success for mobile phone users and non-users alike.

Views of the Wireless Services Industry

The Canadian wireless industry and associations like the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) and the Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC) are on the public record and have petitioned the Department not to authorize the broader use of jamming devices in Canada. On January 11, 2001, the RABC released a report on jamming devices in which it presented the main concerns of the wireless industry as follows:

  • the blocking of emergency calls;
  • unfair discrimination in blocking among service providers and users;
  • difficulty in controlling unintended blocking of other service providers and users; and
  • the regulatory/enforcement and legal implications of allowing third parties to jam licensed services.

Both associations have been active in presenting their views as well as fostering discussion of possible solutions. Recently, the CWTA wrote, in its primer on mobile phone and pager etiquette entitled, Wireless Etiquette … "It's about common sense and common courtesy" sought to raise public awareness on the public etiquette issue and suggested methods to promote a wireless environment where everyone could harmoniously co-exist.

Views of Manufacturers/Distributors of Radio Jamming Devices

Manufacturers design, sell and distribute these devices to address a number of applications. They range from the security of corporate boardrooms and private residences through to public applications in restaurants and theatres for those patrons who wish to have a mandatory rather than voluntary "quiet zone". The Department is aware of Canadian companies who wish to establish a broader niche market for these devices. Some of these companies are currently doing Canadian software research and development.

Present Status

Jamming devices are not currently permitted for sale or use in Canada because in the absence of a licence and appropriate technical standards and equipment certification, their use would contravene sections 4 and 9 of the Radiocommunication Act which state, in part:

  • "4.(1) No person shall, except under and in accordance with a radio authorization, install, operate or possess radio apparatus, other than
    • (a) radio apparatus exempted by or under regulations made under paragraph 6(1)(m); or
    • (b) radio apparatus that is capable only of the reception of broadcasting and that is not a distribution undertaking.
  • (2) No person shall manufacture, import, distribute, lease, offer for sale or sell any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment for which a technical acceptance certificate is required under this Act, otherwise than in accordance with such a certificate.
  • (3) No person shall manufacture, import, distribute, lease, offer for sale or sell any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment for which technical standards have been established under paragraph 6(1)(a), unless the apparatus or equipment complies with those standards.
  • 9. (1) (b) No person shall without lawful excuse, interfere with or obstruct any radiocommunication.
  • 10.(1) Every person who
    • (a) contravenes section 4 or paragraph 9(1)(a) or (b),
    • (b) without lawful excuse, manufactures, imports, distributes, leases, offers for sale, sells, installs, modifies, operates or possesses any equipment or device, or any component thereof, under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the equipment, device or component has been used, or is or was intended to be used, for the purpose of contravening section 9,
    • (c) contravenes or fails to comply with an order issued by the Minister under paragraph 5(1)(l), or
    • (d) contravenes or fails to comply with a regulation, where no punishment is prescribed by regulations made under paragraph 6(1)(r) for that contravention or failure to comply,
    • is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable, in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both, or, in the case of a corporation, to a fine not exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars."

Industry Canada through this public consultation, must determine whether the public interest would be served by permitting these devices to be used for broader applications than those limited authorizations issued in the past for law enforcement or public safety purposes. The Department could permit these devices under licence, restricted or otherwise, with appropriate technical standards in place. Therefore, Industry Canada must also explore the potential impact of these devices for both legitimate and illegal purposes from regulatory and enforcement perspectives. In addition, technical issues need to be considered i.e. how would these devices affect the various multiple- access spectrum technologies currently employed by wireless service providers.

3. Invitation to Comment

Industry Canada invites comments on the following questions:

(a)(i) What is the public interest, if any, that could support broadening the Department's occasional authorization of radio jamming devices for other private and public niche market applications (e.g. to increase security in boardrooms or to preserve "quiet zones" in public venues)?

(ii) If a public interest is demonstrated, what applications should be considered?

(iii) What are the potential risks, if any, associated with the use of these devices?

(iv) What potential adverse effects should Industry Canada address in establishing conditions of use?

(b) What is the distinction, if any, between the use of these devices in private places as opposed to public places?

(c) If Industry Canada permits these devices:

  1. on a broader basis, should licensing be restricted and if so, restricted to whom (e.g. law enforcement agencies, wireless service providers, or others) and to what frequency bands?
  2. under what operational conditions and technical restrictions should these devices be licensed?
  3. are there etiquette protocols that manufacturers of jamming devices could put in the equipment to ensure that each jamming device operates only in the area within which it is licensed to operate?

Industry Canada invites interested parties to provide their views and comments on these questions and any other issues relevant to this consultation. Based on the comments received and further consideration of these and any other relevant issues, the Department will, at an appropriate time, announce its decision.

This Notice is available electronically as follows:

World Wide Web (WWW)
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/home

or can be obtained in hard copy, for a fee from:

Tyrell Press Ltd.
2714 Fenton Road
Gloucester, Ontario K1T 3T7
Email: sales1@tyrellpress.ca
1-800-267-4862 (Canada toll-free telephone)
1-800-574-0137 (United States toll-free telephone)
613-822-0740 (Worldwide telephone)
613-822-1089 (Facsimile)

and

DLS, St. Joseph Print Group
45 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard
Hull, Quebec K1A 0S7
1-888-562-5561 (Canada toll-free telephone)
1-800-565-7757 (Canada toll-free facsimile)
819-779-4335 (Worldwide telephone)
819-779-2833 (Worldwide facsimile)

Respondents are strongly encouraged to provide their comments in electronic format (WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF or ASCII TXT) to facilitate posting on the Department's Web site. Documents submitted should be sent with a note specifying the software, version number and operating system used. All comments should make reference to "Comments -Gazette Notice DGTP-002-01" and be sent to Wireless@ic.gc.ca.

Written submissions should be addressed to the Director General, Telecommunications Policy Branch, Industry Canada, 300 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0C8 and must be received on or before July 12, 2001 to receive full consideration. All representations should cite the Canada Gazette Part I Notice publication date, title, and the Notice reference number.

All comments received in response to this Notice will be made available for viewing on the Department's Web site at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/home.

Michael Helm
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch