November 03, 2007
Cellphone Jammers Grow In Popularity

The New York Times reports on the growing use of illegal cellphone jammers by people who do not want to hear one side of many different phone conversations.

As cellphone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cellphone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent.

The technology is not new, but overseas exporters of jammers say demand is rising and they are sending hundreds of them a month into the United States prompting scrutiny from federal regulators and new concern last week from the cellphone industry. The buyers include owners of cafes and hair salons, hoteliers, public speakers, theater operators, bus drivers and, increasingly, commuters on public transportation.

The development is creating a battle for control of the airspace within earshot. And the damage is collateral. Insensitive talkers impose their racket on the defenseless, while jammers punish not just the offender, but also more discreet chatterers.

My sympathy is with the jammers. I'd love to see jammers used during concert, movie, and opera performances. We need a political movement in support of the legalization of jammers under at least some conditions.

Cellphones are not just a hazard while driving. Cellphones make many otherwise peaceful settings into irritations. Restaurants become less enjoyable. Meetings of people get interrupted by cellphone ringtones. Why don't people put their phones on vibrate? Given that a substantial fraction of humanity has no problem with imposing themselves on others we need technological counters to these impositions.

Hearing half of a phone conversation is more distracting than hearing both sides. The brain can't make sense of it and that causes greater distraction (and I can't find a report on a study that showed this result - anyone know the study I'm referring to?). If you are sitting somewhere trying to think it sure is handy to have a way to block out electronic sources of distraction.

The article above reports that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and cellphone companies such as Verizon try to catch the people who use jammers. Business owners who are trying to jam continuously in a fixed location are most likely to get caught since a place that consistently has no reception gets reported and investigated.

Also see my posts Work Distractions Lower Effective IQ and Brain Limits Ability To Multitask Interruptions. Oh, and don't forget Locking A Car With A Short Horn Blast Is Rude And Obnoxious.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 November 03 06:04 PM  Comm Tech Society

Anony said at November 3, 2007 8:38 PM:

Jamming cell phone signals is and should be illegal. Can you guarantee that your jammer stays within your property lines?

On the other hand, I've never heard that stopping cell phone signals from entering your business is illegal, and I read back in 2002 about wooden panels that would absorb cell phone signals.

Never heard of it since though.

aa2 said at November 3, 2007 9:38 PM:

Cell phones are an added annoyance in life and an added reason(among many) people like me are shying away from public places. For example trying to do homework in a library and every few minutes a super loud ring tone song going off, then the person spending a minute trying to find the phone.. then five minutes yelling into the phone.

Also in classrooms every class phones are going off.. either the people are rude or even out of 30 polite people 5 or 10 will invariably forget to turn their ring off. It interupts the train of thought, in an orweillian sort of buzz. I'm sure it doesn't help in the grade school system, where millions of children are already struggling with adhd. If they don't get through highschool they are looking at best at a life of chronic welfare, and likely prisoners.

I've already been talking about getting a cell phone jammer for the last few months, I probably will get one and try it out. I saw a site of electronic gadgets from China where they were 50 dollars for 30 foot range!

One other annoyance that makes it hard to live in an urban area. Police and ambulance sirens. They go off so often that I simply tune them out at all times now. I really question whether ambulances save more lives then they cost either. Quite often I read of stories of ambulances getting in major crashes, or people swerving to the side on highways getting in sometimes fatal crashes.

Then when they get the person, usually extremely old and in poor health near death anyway.. they take them to the hospital and to the waiting area for emergency patients.

wcw said at November 3, 2007 9:58 PM:

Anony, even to a rational propertarian capitalist, both public space and the spectrum itself are public goods. This is not a question of property rights even for those who are fans. It is a collective action problem.

Not being shy, I pretty often and with the politesse of middle age ask jerks like those our host describes to lower their voices in inappropriate settings. Jammers, I assert, are substantially more polite -- but perhaps you're the type who just doesn't see a cost to being glared at by a train full of overworked commuters.

RP, I remember the same paper you read. You're not dreaming the result, but I can't recall the source. We remember the same thing, though: a real, two-sided conversation is something humans are able to tune out. A one-sided telephone conversation is not.

Dermot said at November 4, 2007 6:18 AM:

Thank God for this new cellphone jammer technology! Inconsiderate cellphone yackers have brought this upon themselves.

How many times have you been in a supermarket check-out line when some hyper-ventilating cretan right behind you urgently uses his cellphone to call his wife for advice on whether she prefers that he buy cheerios or frosted flakes or fruit loops for the kiddies?

-or- You are driving down the road when you notice some space cadet in the vehicle in front of you engaged in some animated conversation on his cellphone,totally oblivious to the potential danger he is causing you and the other drivers around him?

-or- You are in line to receive communion at mass when a cellphone in the pocket of the person in front of you suddenly starts ringing louder than the 'Big Ben' clock in London?

-or- You and your wife are sitting in the best seats at Carnegie Hall when the musical chimes of a cellphone in the pocketbook of the person in front of you begin to compete with the Mendelsohn symphony that you are trying to listen to?

Oh, the times I would like to have zapped these inconciderate people with a cellphone jammer!!!

Hillary, Rudy - are you listening out there? If you want to liven up your debates, bring up this issue. Now that's something we wouldn't mind listening to!

Frustrated in Babylon, New York

Kumaar Thakkar said at November 4, 2007 10:55 AM:

Check this one...
We have been getting clients buying these gizmos for most amazing reasons like
CEO of a co. meeting his personal Dr every time wants his undivided attention and has the pocket jammer ON
Toyota Salesman almost closing a deal and the client gets a urgent call and is gone...not any more with the jammer ON
Like this lady fed up with her husbands cell ringing right in the middle of x finally found a sexy solution...
This Govt Tax officer using it when clients are found running to the bathroom to make a call to a VIP official to save them during a Tax Raid...
And the list is endless...will keep on updating every month...

Roger said at November 4, 2007 10:59 AM:

Bought one of these from kumaardotcom and works pretty well
Always found this toy useful in Restaurants, Trains and Theatres.
Atleast Peace of Mind is guaranteed

2C said at November 4, 2007 11:35 AM:

They are a godsend on a crowded commuter train, and those who have them don't indiscriminately cut off important conversations. You can tell if it is an important call by listening.

Now we need a device to render neighbor's leafblowers inoperative after 9PM.

Jim said at November 4, 2007 3:27 PM:

Hi parapundit and futurepundit readers - I'm a long-time reader/commenter, and I'm writing to remind all Ron Paul supporters that tomorrow is November 5th - the long-planned date for an avalanche of campaign contributions. As many know, Ron Paul is a 10 term congressman from Texas, who has been consistently in favor of greatly increased border security. As a medical doctor and flight surgeon during Vietnam, has has the intelligence and skills to run this country effectively. And, as someone who has raised 5 children during his 50 year marriage, he is living his life as a model of Christian ideals. 20,000 people have pledged to contribute $100, which would garner media attention in addition to a lot of money!

Finally, besides sharing his initials Randall Parker has informally endorsed Ron Paul because of his strong anti-immigration record; and I quote:


I'd be happy to vote for Ron Paul too.....

Posted by: Randall Parker on June 15, 2007 06:58 PM

A month ago, Randall re-emphasized his support for Ron, but without much optimism that Ron Paul has a chance:

The Iraq war is a pointless waste. We have no national interests to defend there. Paul wants out and he is opposed to illegal immigration. So for paleocons and the non-open borders libertarians (and there are plenty such people) Paul's candidacy is attractive.

Paul raised almost as much as John Edwards.

True, $5 million pales in comparison to the $27 million Hillary Clinton raised this past quarter or the $100 million she and Barack Obama are each expected to raise this year. But Paul's haul isn't far behind the far-more-established John Edwards' $7 million for the third quarter.

And get this: Ron Paul's $5 million is about five times what former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee raised last quarter, despite all his enhanced publicity springing from a second-place finish in the Ames straw poll.

I'm skeptical of Paul's ability to win in a general election because as near as I can tell it sure looks like the welfare state is popular with the majority of the voters. Otherwise conservative Republican farmers support their farm subsidy pork. Lots of retired Republicans support Social Security and Medicare. Real limited government libertarianism is supported by a pretty small minority of the electorate.

Update: What is with Rudy Giuliani? He regularly interrupts public appearances to take phone calls from his latest wife. Can someone so nutting win the Presidency? Of course, George W. Bush won. But back in 2000 he tried to act sensible. Rudy can't be bothered. We seem to be looking at a President Hillary future.
By Randall Parker 2007 October 03 10:18 PM Entry Permalink | Comments ( 26 ) | TrackBack ( 0 )

Let's give Randall something to restore his HOPE FOR AMERICA!!!

Jerry Martinson said at November 4, 2007 4:13 PM:

I can appreciate being annoyed with people on cell phones however...

Don't buy one of these products or dare use one in the US if you value your freedom or property.

I'd be very skeptical of the claims of a product that claims to jam "cell phones". First, the companies selling this are selling a product that likely violates US law, even if it is under the unintentional FCC Class B limits, which I doubt any of these products meet. Check the products FCC ID and FCC submittal. Do you think that they would care about making a product that actually worked if they want to make a product that opens them up to massive FCC fines and possible criminal charges? There are several RF bands that cell phones operate in. If they were to block all the cell-phone bands, they would likely block other areas that used for other purposes.

The FCC auctioned off a lot of this cell phone spectrum to large corporations with a lot of money, in-field technical resources, and political influence. While the government might get a little slow, it is not a difficult law enforcement task to track down those who purchased such products, nor it is it technically difficult to find out where these products are in use since they broadcast RF energy. The FCC has quite a bit of legal clout and intentional disruption of wide bands of the RF spectrum that is used for commerce, emergency, law enforcement, and military purposes can make you a very attractive target for the government to extract a lot of money from you or your business.

As far as trying to shield your property with materials that do not allow cell phones to work, while this is perfectly legal, you'll find it nearly impossible to do it reliably. I know it seems like it would be easy to do since there are many places where cell phone coverage isn't good but it isn't easy to do at all. I often work in large Faraday cages and anechoic chambers intentionally designed to block all radiation by a factor of a million. There are many times where the door is open only a crack and I get a call from my wife on the cell phone. This happens even though the door is on the far side of the chamber where the cell tower is and the cell tower is pretty far away. There is no way you can practically cover some external walls with anything resembling simple architectural materials and get even 10dB of shielding. What's going to cover your windows? How about the gaps between the panels?

Brian Wang said at November 4, 2007 10:01 PM:

the assumption and defense of those who use the jammers is that they "only use it against rude people"

Just as there is no guarantee that someone will follow rules with cellphones there is even less guarantee for jammers.

Plus a jammer blocks incoming calls as well.
Do you know if someone who is not talking but in the 30 ft radius of the handheld jammer is not a doctor ?
The jammer would be blocking an incoming emergency call, which for some medical emergencies could cost lives.
Just so the jammer could stop someone "rude" from speaking loudly, who they do not have the guts to politely ask to go elsewhere for a conversation ?
A jammer who called into a radio program on the topic admitted to using it several times a week and often messed with teenagers at the mall.

Jammers give the impression of more dead zones and worse cellphone reception.
This increases service calls which increase cellphone company costs which usually get passed onto consumers.

Jammers block silent text messages, pages and sms.

Jammers are more rude than cellphone call makers.
Someone could just be talking loud even when not on a cellphone. Jammers should grow or buy some "balls" to handle the situations directly when necessary instead going for an underhanded and indiscriminant technical "quick fix".

Dowlan Smith said at November 5, 2007 3:06 PM:

I work in a corner office with tinted windows covering about 60 percent of two walls and the reception is almost nonexistent unless you go outside. The tinting must attenuate the signal and I'm sure the office building is metal framed. It is probably a metal sheet under the exterior stucco.

Penny said at November 5, 2007 6:11 PM:

Yes, cell phone yakkers are annoying. No, you do not have the right to jam communications.

Instapundit posted this letter recently:

"My wife has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition with which I believe you are familiar. For 30 years, she been slowly losing her battle with the disease and is now on the list to receive a heart transplant.

Neither she nor I had a cellphone when she went on the list. We purchased two of those cheap, pay-as-you-go phones so the hospital can contact us if a heart becomes available.

Basically, we're waiting for one life-changing phone call -- and if we're sitting next to one of these lawbreaking, self-righteous jerks when it comes, we'll miss it.

Who the hell do these people think they are that they imagine they have a right to interfere with the communications infrastructure in the United States?"

Jerry Martinson said at November 5, 2007 10:22 PM:


Tinted windows, depending on what they are tinted with, are often RF reflective. Under stucco is typically a wire mesh backing that usually has holes smaller than 1 inch which to RF waves is a reflective sheet to any thing under 2GHz including 1.9GHz and 900MHz cell phone signals. While these materials likely are reducing your net signal strength in your case, in many cases using reflective materials can actually paradoxically increase the signal strength in the area you think you are shielding. Just one long slit in an otherwise perfect Faraday shield can radiate quite efficiently - in fact there are some antennas called "slot antennas" that are intentionally designed to do this. Outside of extreme structures like Faraday cages and huge distances, RF propagation often defies all human intuition!


Steve said at October 8, 2010 8:22 AM:

I would just like to be able to use my cell phone at home, but it appears someone on my block is using a jammer. I understand how rude many people are on their cell phones, but I feel punished here. As I only tend to text in public and I keep my phone on vibrate all of the time, to have no cell service in my own home and not be able to talk to my family or significant other on the phone is horrible. There has got to be a better way!

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