Despite having no approval from the government, many unscrupulous electronics retailers are selling mobile phone jammers illegally in parts of the country, especially in the major cities.
The electronic devices are even available on some online shopping outlets.
They are mainly used in mosques, factories and offices in violation of the government’s restriction in this regard, sources said.
According to the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), dealers need to get prior approval from the government to import them.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), which authorises the import of the electronic gadget, has some listed importers selling them to local traders.
Any organisation or person, with permission from BTRC, can buy and use them by showing proper document and on reasonable grounds, sources added.
CIID Director General (DG) Dr Moinul Khan said law enforcers, from intelligence agencies to prisons, are the key users of the mobile phone jammers.
If any organisation or individual are found to possess the electronic gadget without the government’s permission, they can be detained for criminal charges, he said.
The illegal possession of the mobile phone jammers are actually considered threats to security, he observed, saying: “If there is a specific complaint against anyone, legal action will be taken against the accused.”
A mobile phone jammer or blocker is a device that deliberately transmits signals on radio frequencies, effectively disabling mobile phones within the range of the jammer, preventing them from receiving signals and from transmitting them.
What traders, users say about legal bar
The Dhaka Tribune recently talked to many electronics gadget retailers and their salesmen in the capital city, who claimed to be unaware of the illegal sale of the device.
Md Azhar, employee of TechLand, an electronics shop in Hatirpool, said the mobile jammers are priced at Tk7,000, but they are sold at a Tk500 discount to mosque authorities.
When asked if it is legitimate to sale the jammers, Azhar said he had no idea in this regard.
However, trader Md Farid of Motijheel said there is no need to take permission from the authorities concerned to sell mobile jammers.
But Hossain Sumon, business development manager of security product seller Trust Securities BD, refuted Farid’s claim and said it is necessary to take permission from the BTRC when the jammers are used for a space exceeding 3,000 square feet.
When contacted, Green Road Jame Mosque’s Imam Abu Bakkar said they use mobile jammer in the mosque as many devotees do not switch off their cell phones during prayer time.
The ringing of mobile phones causes disruption to prayers, he said.
Interestingly, the Imam admitted that he was completely unaware of the legal obligations in using the jammers.
Complaints by mobile operators
Some mobile operators have recently complained to the BTRC about illegal sale and use of mobile phone jammers.
They blamed the authorities of mosques and factories for randomly using the device.
Asif Ahmed, communications director of Banglalink, suggested that proper guidelines on the legal and right use of the device be adopted.
“If so, it will help customers enjoy smooth connectivity and get rid of call drops,” he said.
Sayed Talat Kamal, head of external communications of Grameenphone, told the Dhaka Tribune that the importers of all kinds of telecommunication equipment, including mobile jammers, need approval from BTRC.
The mobile phone blockers are not meant to be sold openly, posing security threats, he said.
BTRC’s take on importing jammers
BTRC’s Senior Assistant Director (media and communication wing) Md Zakir Hossain Khan said they do not give a go-ahead to any importer right away.
“After scrutinising their application (to import jammers), we decide who will be given permission,” he said, adding, BTRC has some enlisted vendors.
Many mechanics or dishonest traders collect spare parts of the jammers, available at electronics gadget stores, to assemble the device, he said, expressing his concern over the malpractice.
He claimed that the BTRC conducts raids with the help of law enforcers if they receive such complaints.
On March 17 this year, a mobile court seized telecommunication equipment, worth Tk2.5 crore, from three markets in Dhaka and fined seven shop owners Tk19.75 lakh for importing and selling them illegally.
Jammers being used by militants
Other than the illegal sale, what appears as the greatest threat is the mobile phone blockers ending up in the hands of militants.
In such an incident, detectives had arrested three suspected members of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh at Uttara in possession of mobile phone jammers on December 6 in 2015.
Members of Detective Branch (DB) said the militants had been using the device during secret meetings, mainly to avoid arrest.