With more than half of the population owning mobile phones and over six million active pre-pay handsets, the UK could be poised for a backlash against the devices. Findings from Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) reveal that 45 percent of mobile phone owners in Britain think the handsets should be banned in public places, such as cinemas, concert halls, restaurants and hospitals.
The intrusive nature of cell phones, and the proliferation of teen users, coupled with recent legal measures about GSM [define] jamming — a procedure that scrambles radio signals and makes cell phone usage impossible within certain locations — spurred the study of 1,032 adults during the first week of June 2002.
GSM jamming is controversial because the technology could also disturb emergency mobile communications signals, disrupt 3G geographical location systems or prevent parents from contacting children in busy shopping centers. France and Canada have already instituted GSM jamming to prevent the use of mobile phones in certain public places.
Tom Perrott, director TNS Telecoms comments, “…there are many technical questions that need to be addressed, for example how do you fine-tune the jamming device to ensure that it doesn’t impact upon mobile usage outside or near to the building in which mobile signals have been jammed?”
Significant findings from the TNS research include:
- 33 percent of Britons claim that their enjoyment at a public event has been reduced because of a disturbance by a mobile phone.
- 62 percent of non-owners are in favor of restrictions on phone usage in public places compared to 45 percent of owners.
- One in four people under age 24 say that mobile phone usage should not be banned in public places.
- One in seven respondents feel that something ought to be done about mobile phone disturbance, but are undecided about what to do.
- Only 11 percent support designated ‘mobile phone usage’ areas on public transport and 10 percent in public buildings.
A similar study, consisting of data from 1,834 interviews among Finland, France, and Italy, indicated much stronger support in some European countries for blocking mobile phone signals in public places than in others. In Finland and Italy (where over 80 percent of the population has mobile phones), more than seven out of ten people were in favor of using mobile phone blocking technology (72 percent in Finland and 73 percent in Italy) while 85 percent in France supported the idea.
“These relatively high levels of support for GSM jamming in certain types of public venues suggests that users and non-users alike feel that mobile phone usage can be intrusive and are keen to see measures taken to limit its impact. However this issue needs to be considered carefully, particularly the effect that any legislation may have on mobile operators at a time when they are facing increasing financial pressure,” said Alain Imbert, director, TNS Telecoms.