At the moment use of devices for the purpose of jamming mobile phones is broadly prohibited. That restriction dates from 1999 when ACMA's predecessor published the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition, which formally sought to "prohibit the supply and operation of specified radiocommunications devices commonly known as mobile phone jammers" after criticism that "a small number of retailers were marketing mobile phone jammers" and the regulator "could not identify any legitimate uses for them".
ACMA has come under pressure from other government agencies to loosen or even abandon the prohibition. In particular, correctional agencies (ie the public/private bureaucracies that operate places where you can share a cell or shower with Bubba ... and twenty of his mates) have argued that use of jammers at prisons is a key law enforcement tool.
That argument reflects incidents where visitors or prison staff have been found smuggling mobiles to inmates, or where inmates have been found to have used mobiles, a use that breaches institutional expectations regarding discipline and denies the prison operator the ability to monitor incoming/outgoing calls (a monitoring that's useful if the inmates are threatening witnesses, attempting to commission a 'hit' on a judge or rival, seeking to coordinate drug importation/distribution or to corrupt some of their keepers).
ACMA indicates that it
has formed the preliminary view that a trial of mobile phone jammers, at a suitable correctional facility, would be a useful first step in evaluating the feasibility of making regulatory arrangements to enable ongoing deployment of mobile phone jammers in correctional facilities in Australia.The paper -
In particular, [it] is considering the potential for an exemption to the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition to facilitate the trial of mobile phone jammers at the Lithgow Correctional Centre, a maximum security correctional facility in regional NSW.
# examines the ten year history of the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition and its interaction with other provisions of the Radiocommunications Act;It concludes that -
# considers the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition within the broader context of relevant regulatory theory;
# identifies problematic aspects of the current regulatory approach;
# explores options for future regulation of mobile phone jammers; and
# invites comment on those options and other matters relating to the regulation of mobile phone jammers; including consideration of the proposed trialling of mobile phone jammers at the Lithgow Correctional Centre.
The making of exemptions over the past 10 years has brought into question one of the main reasons for the general prohibition of mobile phone jammers — the understanding that no legitimate uses for mobile phone jammers existed. However, the legitimate uses that have emerged are generally sector specific (defence, law enforcement, emergency situation management). That is, while some of the reasons given for making of the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition in 1999 would now be qualified, other concerns remain valid (such as the use of jammers for nuisance purposes) and some new issues have arisen (such as the potential use of jammers by terrorists).