Operators reject mobile blocking for cinemas

15 Aug 2006

The Irish Cellular Industry Association (ICIA) has rejected calls to block mobile phones in cinemas and theatres, labelling the idea as “inappropriate and impractical”.

Last week the Ward Anderson group, which owns more than half of the cinemas in the country, criticised the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) for refusing to allow cinemas install mobile phone interceptors.

Cinemas are entitled only to install this technology, which would block all calls except emergency calls, only with the consent of the mobile phone companies, ComReg ruled. Ward Anderson said it had been unable to reach a universal agreement with mobile phone companies to install this technology.

Tommy McCabe, director of the ICIA, which represents mobile operators, responded: “While appreciating the concerns of those parties that are affected by the inappropriate use of mobile phones, it is the ICIA’s view that the use of jammers or interceptors would be a drastic response, disproportionate to the issues identified.

“The use of interceptors would generate significantly greater concerns for users, venues and operators, particularly where public safety is concerned.”

McCabe went on to say that the use of mobile phones in venues, cinemas and theatres is a “behavioural issue” that needed to be addressed through public education and communication.

He also said the lack of technical standards in the technology used to intercept mobile phone calls could result in surrounding areas being impacted and could potentially pose a risk to safety.

“Implementing interceptors in the network from a practical viewpoint would involve significant network redesign to accurately limit call restriction to the intended area. This, however, would not guarantee that those in surrounding areas would not be impacted, nor would it ensure that those in the zone would be restricted in all areas at all times. The lack of technical standards would introduce uncertainty and unpredictability in network performance.

“On a practical level, there is also the ‘silent’ facility on mobile phones that allows, for example, parents of children some ‘peace of mind’ by ensuring that they can remain in contact with babysitters while at the cinema without disturbing those around them,” McCabe added.

By Niall Byrne