All about jammers installed at Parappana Agrahara

Brajendra Kumar, advisor, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, clarifies that the calls are being blocked by a Tower-Harmonious Call Blocking System (T-HCBS) and not jammers.
Last Updated : 25 June 2024, 22:35 IST

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Residents around Parappana Agrahara say the jammers installed at the Central Prison are disrupting the 4G and 5G mobile network in the area. Earlier this month, they protested against the issue near the Jail Circle.

Brajendra Kumar, advisor, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, clarifies that the calls are being blocked by a Tower-Harmonious Call Blocking System (T-HCBS) and not jammers. He explains, “Jammers are crude. A T-HCBS is different. When a jammer is involved, nothing will work near its frequency.”

He likens a T-HCBS to a regular cellular network tower. “These towers are set up on the periphery of the central jail. It is like a normal base station but radiates stronger power. Due to this, all mobile phones and electronic devices in the locality latch on to this tower over weaker towers in the neighbourhood. Your device will have signal, but since you aren’t on the authorised network, you won’t be able to make or receive calls or access the Internet,” he elaborates.

A T-HCBS is installed by service providers on the request of jail authorities. “It was installed at the Parappana Agrahara jail about six months ago after being tested at Tihar Jail (in New Delhi),” he shares.

An independent security researcher, Karan Saini says service providers are supposed to ensure that the jamming system is only applicable to the prescribed area and civilians are not inconvenienced. “But the prescribed area here is left to the discretion of the jail authorities,” he says.

He finds it concerning that the government authorities are setting up such rogue towers. “Right now they are using them to block calls but they can be used for call-tapping too,” he reasons.

Kumar doesn’t see a solution in sight for the residents living near the jail premises. “If the transmitting power of the tower is reduced, then the whole point of installing a T-HCBS is defeated. And the towers can’t be moved within the jail premises as they can be vandalised,” he says.

Legal guidelines

The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, lays down the permissions required for possession, manufacturing and use of jammers. “It allows such devices in sensitive areas such as examination halls, defence areas, and prisons,” shares Akanksha Natesan, advocate. Moreover, the Jammer Guidelines (2023) state that jammers installed in examination halls should not disrupt the mobile network of residents living in surrounding areas. “However, the guidelines are silent on the action that affected residents can take against the wrongful use of jammers. Plus, they do not mention guidelines for jammers used in prisons,” she says.

An advisory on the proper use of wireless jammer and booster/repeater has been published by the Department of Telecommunications. It asks people to report the unlawful use of the device to the Wireless Monitoring Organization (WMO) of the department, says Pranav M Bidare, a researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society. “It doesn’t prescribe a procedure for a legal complaint,” he adds.

‘Making calls over WiFi’

Residents living within 700 metres of the Central Jail continue to face network issues despite raising concerns with multiple authorities.

An auto driver, Shoaib has been unable to access cab-hailing apps while plying the area for months. “On rare occasions when I can access the apps, I can’t communicate with customers and figure out their location. This is impacting my income drastically. It’s the same for many auto drivers,” he says.

Residents like Isaac Nico had to convince his father to switch to a different cellular network. This has improved the connectivity marginally. “Now, we depend more on calling over WiFi. It is better than mobile data,” says the 32-year-old.

Published 25 June 2024, 22:35 IST

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