The use of a device to jam cellular phone signals, privately or publicly, is illegal in South Africa, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) said on Wednesday.
“No organisation is allowed to jam cellular signal, and any device which is used to jam signal is illegal,” Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka told Sapa.
Maleka referred to Government Gazette 24123, from November 2002, which contains Icasa’s findings on “mobile telephone blocking devices”.
“There appears to be no legitimate radio communications use for cellular jamming devices. Icasa has therefore decided that use of jamming devices will not be authorised,” the gazette reads.
“Icasa notes the concern around the use of cellphones in public places and encourages the mobile cellular industry to embark on programmes to promote responsible mobile phone use by consumers.”
Icasa had accepted submissions on jamming before it finalised the report.
Security companies and asset trackers argued against jamming, saying they could not protect their clients’ assets without using cellular phones.
Others argued it could promote criminal activity, where robbers might take advantage of a blocked signal in a bank to ensure no one called the police.
Emergency services would also be unavailable should the need arise.
It was argued that people who were using their cellular phones “responsibly” would be unfairly disadvantaged by a blocked signal.
Icasa found that security cluster departments, such as defence, the Hawks or correctional services, could not use jammers as they had “alternative legislation” to support other means of security.
Jamming devices emit radio waves with the same frequencies as cellular phones. This causes enough interference and renders the phones unusable.
These devices were found primarily in places where a phone call would be particularly disruptive, or could be used to prevent sensitive information from being leaked during meetings.