LAHORE: Mobile phone jammers, deployed by the jail authorities across Punjab to control mobile phone usage by inmates in the high-security jails, are adversely affecting cellular services in adjacent localities.
There are 32 such jails in different cities of Punjab situated in the center of populous areas with considerable high-tele density. These jails were established in the outskirts of the city but now increasing populations and residential housing societies have surrounded them. Local residents of connecting localities are complaining to cellular service companies about this disturbance.
Shahzad Abdali, a resident of Kotlakhpat area while talking to News Lens Pakistan. complained that he lives about five kilometers away from Central Jail and is receiving poor cellular services for last one year. “Whenever someone tries to contact me, he or she finds my number switched off and if by any chance my call gets connected the other person cannot hear me. The new 3G services are also beyond my reach since its launch because of poor or no signals.”
Jawwad Ahmed, a resident of Shadman, claimed while talking to News Lens Pakistan, “I live about two kilometers away from District Jail Lahore. Every cellular company service is poor in this area. I have complained to the concerned officials of cellular companies, but my complaint has never been addressed.”
Shahram Tauqeer Khan, Superintendent District Jail Lahore said, ” Jammers are covering only 50 percent area of the jail. These jammers are only installed near barracks of terrorists, hardened criminals and prisoners involved in sectarian violence.”
Amir Pasha Spokesman of a local cellular company told News Lens Pakistan, ” A large number of people living in the surroundings of prisons is unable to use phone as jammers apparently block their incoming and outgoing calls/SMS and affect internet speed.” Even people in far localities suffer as the prison authorities illegally increase the frequency of these mobile jammers, he added.
Franchise and retail outlets of cellular phone companies of these areas are also unable to carry out their business activities like balance upload and transfer of money through branchless banking.
“Increasing number of complaints compelled all cellular service companies to conduct a research. We came up with a common finding that jammers installed in the prisons are causing this problem so the cellular companies requested the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) to conduct a survey which confirmed our concerns,” said Pasha.
Khurram Mehran spokesman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told News Lens Pakistan that joint optimization was carried out by Frequency Allocation Board (FAB), National Radio and Telecom Corporation to ensure that cellular signals will not be available in the premises of prisons nor jammer signals will go beyond the respective jail premises. This practice generated good results for a brief period but last month the jails of Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Multan, Kasur, Sheikhupura and Bahawalpur are again under disturbance due to licensed spectrum of cellular operators, said Mehran.
Officials of cellular companies claimed that government authorities are not cooperating with them that gives a reason to jail authorities for not obeying the law. Now a team of technical experts from the telecom industry comprising of members from every cellular operator will meet representatives from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to discuss the situation and brief them about their concerns.