LAHORE -  Despite reservations by telecom operators, jammers at prisons throughout Punjab are still tuned at high frequencies, severely affecting not only telecom services in the surrounding areas but also affecting the business of cellular phone companies.

Industry sources said that a large number of people living in the surrounding localities of prisons are unable to use phone as jammers apparently block their income and outgoing calls/SMS and internet speed. Besides, franchise and retail outlets of cellular phone companies are unable to proceed business activities including balance upload and transfer of money through branchless banking services due to the jammers blocking.

The deployment of these jammers is carried out by National Radio and Telecom Corporation (NRTC). Usually, officials of the prison and jail enhanced the blocking intensity of the jammers that cause blockade of carriers’ /telecos signals to big surrounding areas. According to reports, the telecom industry officials had held a meeting with the home secretary of Punjab and IG Prisons to convey their reservations regarding jammers at jails which had been affecting their quality of services around jails. In this regard, a team of technical experts from the telecom industry comprising of members from every cellular operator met representatives from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to discuss the situation and briefed them about their concerns. The meeting with the provincial home department was also held; but no action has been taken so far. CMOs (cellular mobile operators) have presented solution of the issue which is to set jammers across the jails at a specific limit instead of putting it level on high level that affect the coverage of various kilometers across the jail causing trouble to mobile phone users.

If the agreed frequency suggested by CMOs is implemented, the problems will be fixed. CMOs invested billions of rupees on the deployment of 3G technology, if these hurdles are not removed immediately, the customers will not incline to new technology.

Although the jammers had been installed to block any communications originating from within the jails housing hardened terrorists, but on the contrary, they had been tuned to such high frequencies, that they had started disrupting normal communications in the vicinity of jails.

The residents of Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Bahawalpur, Multan, Kasur and Sheikhupura, especially the ones living near central jails in these areas were the most affected.  Umair, one of the annoyed residents hailing from Lahore, said, “ Initially I used to think of it as an issue arising from the operator’s side, but recently I got to know about the issue. I can barely make calls. Yhis should be fixed as soon as possible so that my life can return to normalcy”. PTA had set SOPs (standard operating procedures) for jammer frequencies to be kept at certain levels so as to not disturb the mobile communications occurring around prison areas, but non-adherence to these SOP’s by the authorities concerned is resulting in huge losses to cellular companies, in addition to disruption in mobile communication, the brunt of which is being bore by the customers.