Cellphone Jammers Are Effective, Illegal

The power to silence the annoying schmo yabbering away on their cellphone rests within a small black box the size of a cigarette pack. Selling for as little as $50, cellphone jammers can spew radio signals powerful enough to disrupt all nearby cell signals. The downside? It’s illegal.

The Federal Communication Commission says people who use cellphone jammers could be fined up to $11,000 for a first offense. Its enforcement bureau has prosecuted a handful of American companies for distributing the gadgets — and it also pursues their users.

Investigators from the F.C.C. and Verizon Wireless visited an upscale restaurant in Maryland over the last year, the restaurant owner said. The owner, who declined to be named, said he bought a powerful jammer for $1,000 because he was tired of his employees focusing on their phones rather than customers.

“I told them: put away your phones, put away your phones, put away your phones,” he said. They ignored him.

The owner said the F.C.C. investigator hung around for a week, using special equipment designed to detect jammers. But the owner had turned his off.

The Verizon investigator was similarly unsuccessful. “He went to everyone in town and gave them his number and said if they were having trouble, they should call him right away,” the owner said. He said he has since stopped using the jammer.

Of course, it would be harder to detect the use of smaller battery-operated jammers like those used by disgruntled commuters.

An F.C.C. spokesman, Clyde Ensslin, declined to comment on the issue or the case in Maryland.

$11,000 for a roving cellphone-free zone? Seems cheap to us.

Devices Enforce Silence of Cellphones, Illegally [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. yahonza says:

    The downside is that it’s illegal? How about that it disrupts cell phone service?

    Surely the Consumerist is going to lead the crusade against these devices which deprive paying consumers of the services that they paid for.

  2. Baz says:

    Just TRY to wire the subway trains for cell phones MTA – the people will rise up!

  3. rg says:

    There is absolutely NO good reason why these should be illegal in places like theaters, hospitals, etc. It’s obvious that people can’t control their phone usage on their own, so they need to be shown. Common sense tells you not to use your cell phone during a movie, and on top of that the theater tells you to turn it off before the movie begins. Still, that’s not enough for a lot of people.

  4. AD8BC says:

    @rg: Common sense aside, a cell phone jammer amounts to an unlicensed radio transmitter that transmits on a frequency that requires a license. Transmitting unlawfully is the crime, not necessarily jamming someone.

    For them to be legal, they would need to be type accepted by the FCC and then licensed.

  5. darkclawsofchaos says:

    soon the consmerist will be complaining why can’t we transmit microwaves into the air to melt people, well, ok fine I give them jammers are useful in the right places, but still,the FCC does a somewhat decent jod of controlling the airwaves

  6. WTRickman says:

    Anyone see the Mythbusters episode where they built a Faraday cage using brass screens to block any radio signal?

    Why don’t people do that when they build a building that is inappropriate for cell phone usage. Put brass screens behind the sheetrock as you’re building it.

    I’ve contemplated it for my classroom… The kids just won’t quit texting in class!

  7. Sian says:

    @WTRickman: You can’t just fail them if they won’t stop?

  8. Ailu says:

    Interestingly, I used to always get a great cell signal when flying – until post-911. (After thorough research I axed the bogus notion that it would bring down the plane.)

    But after 911, I can get no cell on any plane, whatsoever. Anyone else notice this?

  9. Galls says:

    Cell phone jammers will block the federal range, as well as local PD, FD and EMS.

    Technically the frequencies the cell phone companies operate on are considered public space. I can legally listen in to a cell phone conversation. But to interrupt that communication goes against Telecommunication acts.

  10. Galls says:

    @Ailu: If you use a cell phone on a plane you deserve to be taken out back and shot. The firing squad will be volunteer and there will be many lined up.

    Yes it has no effect on the plane. And you may not have made any calls. But you are still a dick for taking an inch and paving the way for someone else to take a foot.

    And no I work in the post 9-11 radio industry it has nothing to do with jammers, that is because the national grid switched from analog signals to shorter range digital.

  11. bugsbenny36 says:

    This is part of the same article: “Using the jammers is illegal in the United States. The radio frequencies used by cellphone carriers are protected, just like those used by television and radio broadcasters.”

  12. TMurphy says:

    To me the big illegality issue is the fact that someone could stop a 911 call from going through. Yes, this thing usually sends out a brief burst, but not only can that be enough to slow response time, but the user of the device could just keep spamming the signal. Yes, there should be other options to make the call, but in an emergency you aren’t going to patiently go through the list of options.

    Also, it doesn’t selectively end the conversations of the noisy people, but everyone within range. Abuse of this can easily become worse than abuse of the cellphones themselves. At least you know who is the loud talker, and can ask them to stop. It is a little harder to confront someone jamming your signal, assuming you can pin down that that is the reason for your calls cut short.

  13. GeekChicCanuck says:

    I’m probably going to get flamed… but here it goes.

    I’ve heard all of the negative comments about jammers – but I really don’t get the addiction people have to cell phones. I suppose they can be useful in emergencies – but society has survived for quite some time without them (they really haven’t been around that long).

    Where I think jammers would be especially useful is in specific types of buildings (places of worship, hospitals, hospices, courthouses, libraries, theatres, restaurants, etc.). Building-type jammers are permitted in France and Japan so long as the signal doesn’t bleed into neighbouring buildings or public areas.

    In those countries, you have to have a government license and you have to publicly alert people to the jamming so that they know they’re entering a “cell dead zone”. This way, you can make other arrangements if you need to receive urgent calls (if you’re an on-call doctor, for example) or you can choose to not patronize the business and go somewhere that doesn’t jam cell signals.

    For the record, I’m not a complete Luddite. I’m actually a sys admin – but I don’t own a cell phone.

  14. cmhbob says:

    I’d like to point out a couple of things most pro-jamming folks probably haven’t thought about.

    People waiting for organ transplants don’t always have to stay in the hospital. They’re allowed to have a life while they wait. Are you going to jam their calls?

    Some police officers (especially SWAT types) are always on call. They’re also allowed to have a life. Are you going to jam their calls?

    What about medical personnel, such as surgeons who are on call?

    Finally, don’t forget that jamming works both ways. People can’t call in, and you can’t call out, if, you know, you should ever have an emergency or something.

  15. Buran says:

    @Galls: Wow, threatening to take people out and shoot them just for using a cell phone? That’s going too far.

  16. Saydur says:

    This is what comes from a society so passive-aggressive that one cannot go up to such an offender and say “Turn your mobile phone off, it is rude and inappropriate.” Cell-dead zones make a bit more sense, since the owner of the building is deciding for their property, and people are informed, but vigilante jamming? Anonymity does things to people (and I say this on the internet of all places.)

    As for the restaurant owner, Maryland is an “at-will” employment state. Which is to say, the restaurant owner could easily have fired his employees for such constant rule-breaking. Not that it’s the best idea, but if the boss can’t stand up to his employees, he’s got big problems.

  17. GeekChicCanuck says:


    There have been on call medical personnel (and others such as police or fire) for a lot longer than there has been broad market penetration of cell phones. And yet, they managed (and continue to manage) to live their lives quite well and still remain in touch.

    A real life example, there are several nurses and doctors that frequent the library at which I work when they are on-call. Our number is on the list of contact numbers at their various hospitals and we occasionally get calls for them. The individuals are paged over our PA system and take their call. The doctors and nurses have similar arrangements at many area restaurants.

    As for the problem of calling out in an emergency, land lines aren’t affected by jammers. There are certainly emergencies that would effect land lines – but many of these are so bad that they would also effect cell service (9/11 comes to mind).

  18. iamme99 says:

    I like the personal jammer. Think I will pick one up. Do I get a color choice?

    I’m not sure how to use it though. If it just sends a short signal, then the person will redial. Do you just keep blowing them away until they shut-up?

  19. BigNutty says:

    Jammers? No way. It would obviously be used by people to disrupt signals for any reason, including pure mischief.

    The problem lies in the people that don’t pay attention to rules and manners. Phones used by students during class should have them confiscated. People using them in theatres should be kicked out.

    Put the responsibility on the person, not the device.

    Bye the way, my son once asked me about 8 years ago what that thing on the store wall was. He never used a pay phone before. How did we ever survive before cell phones?

  20. DrGirlfriend says:

    Sometimes you’re not within easy access of a landline during an emergency.

    If the idea is to “get back” at people who use cell phones inappropriately, then this is just a band-aid solution.

    I agree with the point cmhbob is making. Just because there are annoying people who misuse cell phones, it doesn’t mean all cell phone owners misuse their cell phones.

  21. Xkeeper says:

    I’d rather have a super-soaker or similar for use whenever some idiot’s on the phone.

  22. othium says:

    I hate to admit it on here, but I own one of these and have used it many times.

    Riding the bus to work and back has been a much more enjoyable experience now that I can stop loud, annoying cell phone conversations near me. It isn’t like I use it to “zap” just anyone. The typical situation is some idiot using a cell on “chirp” mode and/or ignoring the stares from all the other riders. This merits a furtive movement inside my messenger bag. Done. Problem solved. Usually the person looks in dismay at the phone and puts it away.

    Illegal? Maybe.

    I love the damn thing. It set me back a chunk of change four years ago when I got my tax return, but I swear it is worth it.

  23. iamme99 says:

    DRGIRLFRIEND said “I agree with the point cmhbob is making. Just because there are annoying people who misuse cell phones, it doesn’t mean all cell phone owners misuse their cell phones.”

    Yes, and the jammer would only be used against against annoying people who are being rude and inconsiderate. Fight fire with fire.

    Otherwise what are you supposed to do? Ask them nicely to be considerate? Yeah, right. Grab the phone out of their hand and throw it out the window? Smack them upside their head? Get in a fight and get shot by some punk who thinks he is a man because he packs a gun??

  24. alice_bunnie says:

    People keep mentioning jamming use in hospitals are ignorant in the reasoning behind the reason you don’t use cellphones in hospitals. It’s the radio signals themselves that disrupt the equipment, such as heart telemetry, so jamming with more signals would not be a good idea.

  25. dualityshift says:

    Jammers should not be illegal, and if you own and run your own business, and you have a no cell phone policy, you should be able to enforce it within your own work environment.

    If the FCC does not want people to use these large jammers, they should allow a smaller, less intrusive model to become available.

    This businessman should be able to use his jammer in his own business. He should also be required to put up a sign for customers stating his business is a cell-free zone. Jammers in use, and no, it should not be illegal to use.

  26. mac-phisto says:

    @Galls: no you can’t. from fcc rule 15 ->
    Section 15.9 Prohibition against eavesdropping.
    Except for the operations of law enforcement officers conducted under lawful authority, no person shall use, either directly or indirectly, a device operated pursuant to the provisions of this Part for the purpose of overhearing or recording the private conversations of others unless such use is authorized by all of the parties engaging in the conversation.

    jammers are illegal. anyone who knowingly (or unknowingly) operates a device that interferes with radio waves governed by the fcc are violating the law. go ahead & use them if you want, but those black vans are real & they will find you. ask any ham that hasn’t tuned his equipment right.

    you couldn’t even license use for jammers b/c licensed radio wave operators are responsible for insuring their devices do not cause harmful interference.

    @iamme99: actually, i’ve found the best method is to enter the conversation. not only does it work almost all the time, it’s fun as hell.

    we just need to retrain ourselves as a society to “stand up” when someone is abusing their cell phone. how many times have you seen someone confront a mouthy user & everyone else shrinks back & pretends to ignore the exchange?

    even the most brash among us cave to mob pressure.

  27. Riddar says:

    Most simply put, you then consider your comfort above others legal rights. Like it or not, they indirectly pay the FCC for the right to use that airspace, and there is nothing against them doing so on the bus. Do I talk on the bus, or even in public? No, my conversations are private, but I have learned to tune out and rise above some irrational hate of other people doing what they are entitled to do. Then again, maybe it isn’t even that which draws people to the buzzers. Might just be the power trip of total and secret power over the cares on concerns of the people around you, right? Their conversation is annoying, they shouldn’t be having it in your presence.

    And if the fact that you are breaking the law for the sake of elevating yourself above the people around you doesn’t bother you, please remember you are on a BUS and that many jammers cover police bands (or soon will, as bands may be shifting soon). For every jerk on a Nextel you feel the need to block, the cop in the car behind the bus may miss a message. Just think twice next time you ‘need’ your silence, ok?

  28. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    Ailu deserves to be taken out back and shot??? Dial it back a notch.

  29. ironchef says:


    Who appointed you to the job of big nanny?

  30. Televiper says:

    When you go out in public you have to enjoy yourself because you’re not entitled to enjoy the company of others. So the entire world is supposed to step back 20 years in technical evolution because of a few annoying phone calls? Should we ban bicycles because of the few inconsiderate riders who bomb down the sidewalk? We’ve turned into a nation of sheepish little babies. Since when was your ride on the bus supposed to be quiet and peaceful? So now you use a cell phone jammer to disrupt the lives of everybody on the bus?

  31. Interestingly, most high-school-and-under teachers I’ve talked to are DYING for jammers in their classrooms because it’s sooooo hard to control students texting during class.

    But when the college I teach at briefly thought about NOT extending cell coverage (not jamming, just not extending — we could only get coverage in very limited spots in the buildings, and then only spottily) to keep students from constantly using phones during class, faculty didn’t like that idea one bit, because (and especially after Virginia Tech) we’re all encouraged to keep campus security on speed dial on our cells. Especially female faculty.

    Although I suspect college students are slightly less problematic in general. First, a lot of my students are either EMTs (we have a lot of programs relating to EMT fields or medicine generally) or have kids, so I see no reason they shouldn’t have cells on vibrate. And secondly, they just skip class if they don’t feel like listening to me.

  32. Gopher bond says:

    I made my jammer myself. It fits in an Altoids tin. I only use it when people are annoying me, not for mischief. Like the other day, this women was talking about how her “flow” was ridiculous and wouldn’t stop. I just fired that baby up a couple of times to knock the signal off. Although I do admit I take it personally when they try to call back 4 or 5 times. It becomes a game to see how many times they’ll try to call back before giving up.

    OK, so it’s illegal. I don’t understand how I could ever get caught. Even with detectors, I can activate it from inside my pocket so if I only do it in a crowed, what are they going to search 20 people in the area?

  33. mmcnary says:

    You know, there is another use for these devices that has not been brought up. Many IED’s in Iraq are triggered by cell phone. How great would it be to have one of these things attached to every vehicle? The would-be bomber sends his signal and nothing happens. He goes to check on the bomb and when the jammer clears the area, BOOM!

  34. balthisar says:

    Jammers are momentary. They disconnect current calls, and very temporarily drop phones off the network (like having zero bars for just a blip as you move from one cell to another in certain areas). They burst for a second, dropping a call, and then you’re free to call again. If this happens a couple of times, you just figure you’re in a bad cell, and wait until later to bother everyone else.

    This isn’t unlike entering some buildings, tunnels, or otherwise bad service areas. If everyone’s going to gripe about safety and emergency calls, then we need to make it a national priority to improve our infrastructure to the point that coverage is absolutely universal and available everywhere. Otherwise, interruptions are to be expected, jammers or otherwise notwithstanding.

  35. harumph says:

    safety concerns aside, this would be great to combat the endless, inane chatter that anyone who lives in a city overdoses on daily. used selectively, it could be very satisfying.

  36. vex says:

    I hope these are legalized! Every restaurant and movie theater in the US should have one! If you make a phone call, even for an “emergency”, you can just as easily step outside. A simple sign notifying customers should suffice.

  37. If this happens a couple of times, you just figure you’re in a bad cell, and wait until later to bother everyone else.

    @balthisar: Or I figure someone is using a jammer and I start playing around with my ring tones, at full volume, over and over again.

  38. AD8BC says:

    @balthisar: The priority for improving the infrastructure should remain with the cell phone companies and not the government. Nowhere is there stated a right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, cell coverage and internet access.

    Regarding kids using cellphones in schools during class, there is a better idea than jamming them — it’s called confiscation. Take it and let the parent come pick it up.

  39. bluesunburn says:


    I’m with you. Nothing gets the point across to a cellphone-using misanthrope than responding as if they’re talking to you. :-)

  40. zibby says:

    @Baz: Can you imagine the nightmare? I shudder whenever I have to ride a line that’s above ground – from the idiotic ringtones to the Gump-level convos that people are forced to endure…well, let’s just say I see a big market for these things if the MTA does go ahead with that little scheme.

  41. ironchef says:


    The military already employs jammers. [www.defensetech.org]

  42. Maulleigh says:

    I’d like it for the area the 6 train goes above ground in the Bronx. If they don’t like it, heck: switch cars!

  43. @AD8BC: “Regarding kids using cellphones in schools during class, there is a better idea than jamming them — it’s called confiscation.”

    Right, but it turns into a daily classroom time-suck, because the parents just give the phones back to their kids the next day (with, of course, strict instructions only to use them for emergencies) and the kids are right back to texting. Under the desk. Whipping it out of sight. And unless a school has a rule that students can’t have cell phones AT ALL, which parents usually object to, you have to catch them with the phone ON. (A lot of schools allow students to carry phones OFF in their bags during the day, because parents REALLY want their kids to have cells available for emergencies, after-school contact, etc.)

    If you spend class time confiscating 30 phones every single day, that’s a lot of lost teaching time.

  44. Landru says:

    I don’t think jammers interrupt texting. Anybody know?

  45. savvy999 says:

    @GeekChicCanuck: This is the correct response, IMO. Businesses, libraries, places of worship, etc, should have the right to stop whatever cell traffic they want, as long as they clearly publicize it. Individuals on a bus? Not so much. The bus company itself would need to create ‘dead zone’ routes or buses or parts of therein.

    When you think about it, this debate highly parallels the arguments for/against public non-smoking policies (without the health aspect). Two sides fighting over the same things– dubious individual ‘rights’ (‘right’ to talk obnoxiously? ‘right’ to absolute quiet?) and how or what is a common sense solution.

    I can see it ending similarly– no-cell buildings, with designated cell-approved areas somewhere either inside or out.

  46. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    From http://www.instapundit.com:

    Reader Ken Johnson explains another problem:

    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?

    Right on.

  47. digitalgimpus says:

    Most arguments against Jammers are FUD. They don’t stop incoming calls, they just don’t let you keep connected long enough to have fun.

    First responders on call can still be contacted, they just can’t have a long call. They would still see who called and can call back, or check their voice mail while on the way out.

    Personally I’d like to see the FCC encourage development of the ability to selectively ban all but data services. So that everything voice is dropped, but text messages etc. will still go through.

    Of course cell phone companies are going to stand up here. It’s their business on the line. If people can’t burn through their minutes as quickly, they don’t get as much money on overage charges. That’s the reason why it’s illegal.

  48. balthisar says:

    @Landru: They don’t, unless the jamming person is draining his batteries and continuously jamming, or it just happens to happen at the very second your phone is talking to the tower — but it’ll let you know to try again, or just try by itself, kind of like how Ethernet automatically routes packets. Phone calls are different in that they require a continuous “session” with the tower. Once that’s broken — even for just a second — you’ve got a dropped call and have to make a new connection. Remember, they’re only momentary devices. They don’t continuously transmit. Well, maybe some of the expensive, plug-in ones, do, but anything that’s hand held shouldn’t. It’ll kill your battery fast.

    @AD8BC: Yeah, I was being a little facetious.

  49. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @digitalgimpus: “…they just don’t let you keep connected long enough to have fun.

    Because only you need to take (or make) important phone calls.

  50. dirk1965 says:

    WTRICKMAN… Your schoolboard needs to pass a rule that the students can’t have cell phones in class. Simple as that! Most school districts across the US have implemented such rules. The main reason is to prevent students from cheating on exams.

  51. 5h17h34d says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people think it is their duty and right to control others.

    Get over yourself. Jamming others calls because it annoys *you*?
    You have issues a jammer can’t resolve.

  52. Eilonwynn says:

    @speedwell: My mother has the same condition, though likely not as serious, it still causes her to go into heart failure completely unexpectedly. If I EVER found out that I didn’t recieve a notice that she was going into hospital because some jackass decided he needed quiet time, I’d find the best lawyer I could. Even in theatres, I have to leave my phone on (but set to vibrate), just in case. I have it on in class (even back when I was in high school), and would simply get a note explaining that yes, I got to keep mine when others were being confiscated. Even in schools, even in church, even when talking to my professor, watching a movie, in a restaraunt, if that cell goes off and it’s the hospital calling, I get up, *run* out of the room, and take the call in a hallway. (Quite frankly, nobody needs to see me freak out as bad as I do when that happens). Another person’s conversation is not hurting you. put on a damn ipod – you can get mp3 players for less than you pay for a jammer.

  53. spadefoot says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand about this disucssion: Other than the ringtone (if it’s an incoming call) how is someone talking on a cellphone any different from them talking to someone who is physically present? Why do cell phone conversations seem to annoy people (waiting in line at a cash register, for instance)more that regular converstaions? No store that I’m familiar with would think of putting up a sign that said “Please don’t converse with anyone while you are in line”, but many have notes asking people not to use cell phones while in line.

    To the folks advocatin jammers for movie theaters, eating establishments, libraries, etc: Would you be equally as comfortable slapping your hand across the mouth of someone talking to the person beside them? I’m guessing not. Jamming is so passive-aggressive.

  54. TurboWagon00 says:

    This issue promises to give abortion and the Death Penalty a run for the money, in terms of public discourse. In one corner, self-entitled consumers with enlarged senses of importance, with the law on their side, and in the other corner, those who have to put up with boorish behavior with no (legal) respite.

  55. TurboWagon00 says:

    @spadefoot: Landlines echo back part of your voice into your earpiece so you can hear a conversation more naturally – cellphones dont. So often you need to speak more loudly becuase you mentally think the other person can’t hear you – its psychoacoustics. Also a lot of cellphones hardware sucks, and coverage issues dont help matters either.

  56. vanilla-fro says:

    @Landru: probably not since the phone will keep trying for a little bit. It will make it take longer to tell Jenny how Betty and Rocco hooked up at the DMB concert though.

  57. balthisar says:

    @spadefoot: It’s not all cell phone talkers. It’s the inconsiderate ones. They talk louder because they have cheap phones or crappy service and they think the other person will hear them better. If they use that stupid two-way radio thing, then they turn up the volume to the point that you can’t have your own conversation.

    @Eilonwynn: Again, there’s nothing stopping you from receiving a call that’s any different than a bad cell location. If you should happen to be receiving a call at the exact time someone fires the jammer, the caller would see the call not go through, and then call again, just like in real life. If you do as you say — get up and leave — you won’t be a victim to these vigilantes. But who are you going to sue when you get a call when switching cells and dropping the call? Or you enter a tunnel?

    Cell phones are not meant for life and death situations. You can never, ever count on them. There are no meaningful service guarantees in your contract. That’s why first responders use things apart from the cell network. They’re convenience items only.

  58. rkm12 says:

    @othium: Gosh I hope you get caught soon.

  59. zibby says:

    People talk about passive-aggressive like it’s a bad thing, but trust me – aggressive-agressive can get crazy in a hurry.

  60. JoeVet says:

    These should be mandatory equipment in each new automobile.

  61. Trai_Dep says:

    @TurboWagon: that’s a great explanation for why cellie talkers are louder. I knew there had to be SOME reason (yeah, I’m sure I do it too, until I catch myself). The lack of a feedback loop makes sense. One of those subtle things that you’d never think of. Until now. Thanks!

  62. @TurboWagon: Most times when I’m next to someone on their cell phone they’re not any louder than the people around them. There are still people who shout but I think at least some people are getting used to not hearing themselves back on their cell.

    Half the time the people talking to someone who is also on the bus are loud anyway. Jamming is pointless because it isn’t just the cell phone users being unnecessarily loud.

  63. descend says:


    The difference is scale. On a bus, there might be a few people who know each other, therefore a few conversation going on. Cell phones make it so that no one ever has to be without someone to talk to, and too many people seem to treat that as a good thing. So instead of two or three conversations on the bus, you end up with a dozen. When there’s a dozen conversations, the probability of a screamer increases, too.

  64. mac-phisto says:

    @digitalgimpus: yes, many of these arguments are FUD, but the central issue is not: intentionally interfering with radio signals is (& should be) against the law. another issue at hand right now is BPL transmissions (read more at ARRL if you want -> [www.arrl.org] ).

    how can you distinguish between a signal that can’t be interfered with & one that can be? the fcc says you can’t.

    @spadefoot: i wish you were at the grocery store with me yesterday so i could show you why cell phones in lines are such a big deal. a woman was holding up an entire line of shoppers while she fumbled around in her purse for her ringing cell phone & then proceeded to have a conversation while she’s writing out her check. she’d stop every 2nd pen stroke – “no…no…300…no…i said 300…not 200…300…no…uh-huh… uh-huh…*sigh* yes…ok…bye…uh-huh…bye…ok…i gotta go…bye.”

    she held the line up for 5 minutes to have that conversation despite my HONK-HONK-HONKing (complete with hand motion push on cart) .

    i still don’t agree with jammers, but i do think that we need to act collectively to determine what is acceptable cell behavior & speak out when we encounter something that is not.

  65. AD8BC says:

    @mac-phisto: I was going to bring up the BPL but you beat me to it! 73, AD8BC

  66. s35flyer says:

    Where can I buy one!!!!!!

  67. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Land phone give you back your own voice at either 80% of volume or 20% of volume, I’ve forgotten which.
    They need to add this into cellphones, even though it will shorten battery life a bit.

  68. mac-phisto says:

    @AD8BC: i’m not actually an operator, so i feel bad for taking your thunder. on the bright side, i know about the issue & i’m not an operator if that means anything.

    picked up what little i know from HB1ILY. you can usually find him on 10 meter. he’s also been playing around with echolink & low ERP* transmissions a lot last i spoke to him, so i guess he’d give you a dit-dit.

    *is that what it’s called? <1-watt long range transmissions. pretty cool stuff.

  69. darious says:

    How to discriminate between legitimate emergency and just vacuous rudeness? Easy – don’t leave the jammer on all the time. If you having your theater, church, or dining experience ruined by some self-entitled post-tweener who can’t hang their cell phone up, turn on the jammer for about 60 seconds and then turn it back off.

    If they continue to be asshats repeat as needed. Eventually they will go away to get a “better” signal.

    If it is a real emergency you simply don’t turn the jammer on.

  70. Parting says:

    I suppose jammers are mainly forbidden due to possible criminal uses.

    It must be much easier robbing a bank with a cellphone jammer, or breaking in, etc.

    Well, it’s just my ”5 cents”.

  71. digitalgimpus says:


    Because only you need to take (or make) important phone calls.

    If it’s important, you can step outside. Don’t meant to alarm you, but nobody is impressed by you because you talk on your phone.

  72. @digitalgimpus: Stepping outside the bus 1) is dangerous and 2) defeats the purpose of getting on the bus.

    Nobody calls their friend, boss, doctor, whomever because they’re trying to impress someone. That’s like trying to impress someone by pointing out you have shoulders.

  73. XTC46 says:

    @iamme99: no the jammer would effect anyone around an annoying person. It’s a area effect, not a targeted effect.

    The first time I find out someone has decided that there rights are worth more than mine and jams my cell (I’m on call 24/7/365, and have family that have no other way to reach me) I will kick their ass. I wont even worry about getting them arrested.

    I use my phone responsibly, I don’t use it in theaters, ever. If it vibrates while i’m in a theater, I leave even before taking it out of my pocket because the screen is bright and I don’t want to bug the guy next to me just because someone else is bugging me.

    I consider this the same as me walking up and punching someone in the jaw because I don’t like their voice. they have a right to talk, if I don’t like it I can leave, I cant force them to stop, even if they are being rude.

  74. lincolnparadox says:

    It seems that the bottom line is this:

    the law protects your right to be a douchebag on your cellphone, but does NOT protect your right to be a douchebag to people using their cell phones.

    Aside from the classroom use, most of the other uses for these bad boys run from passive-aggression to pranks.

    Granted, I still want one, but you get my point. I want one so that i can be a douchebag to people, not so that I can save the world from “loud-talking.”

  75. AD8BC says:

    @mac-phisto: It’s actually QRP :-) Hey, we have a lot of fun and would welcome you into our ranks should you decide to get yerself licensed.

  76. pestie says:

    @Galls: You’re wrong about listening in. Not only is it a violation of Part 15, as someone mentioned above, but it’s also illegal under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

  77. Benstein says:

    First off, there is NOTHING against the law with PASSIVELY preventing cell communication. Anyone can build a room made with special materials and paint that acts like a Faraday cage and prevents the signals from passing through. It just costs alot more to do this. But there is nothing stopping a movie theater from doing this.

    Secondly, there is no way you would ever get caught with one of these hand-held battery powered jammers. They are such low power and so small that unless you happen to jam an FCC engineer within a few feet of you, you are pretty much free from being caught.

  78. Sonnymooks says:

    Its funny the first thing I thought of, and I know I should not have thought it, was how this would be perfect for robbing people, home invasions (at least homes where they have gone completely cellular), etc.

    I can think of 2 guys I used to know who would have used this thing, in some very bad ways, and not simple mischief.

    Not taking a position on this, since anything can be used for good or bad, but I am surprised no one thought of how awesome this would if you wanted to rob people.

  79. Ailu says:

    “BY GALLS AT 11/04/07 11:48 PM:

    @Ailu: If you use a cell phone on a plane you deserve to be taken out back and shot. The firing squad will be volunteer and there will be many lined up.”

    Oh yeah? Well tell that to the families of the folks flying on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, k?

  80. Ailu says:

    “BY BURAN AT 12:52 AM

    @Galls: Wow, threatening to take people out and shoot them just for using a cell phone? That’s going too far.”

    Actually, I don’t use my cellphone on flights, but I do like to keep in on – for emergencies. You never know when and where a terrorist might pop up. Instead of using the last few seconds of my life booting up my cell phone, I’d rather use the time to say goodbye to the fam.

  81. davidc says:

    Two Sides to every story.

    I think the business of any sort ought to be able to “jam” cellphones for various reasons. It’s their business and people can vote with their wallet. (Personally I would like cell-free theaters).

    On the other hand, if that cellphone belonged to a doctor or other emergency type people, the cellphone being jammed could cost a life.

    So it ought to be “legal” to jam / interfer / deter and downright stop cell usage in any business / home, but there might need to be some “signs” alerting people to it.

  82. SoCalGNX says:

    I think the $10k fine would be worth it to silence a few folks I know!!

  83. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Here in Texas, you’d find BBQ restaurants that allowed open gun carry but not enabled cell phones, I bet.

  84. G-Dog says:

    $11,000 huh? I can beat and rape somebody and get off with less of a punishment, but only if the person I’m beating and raping doesn’t contribute large sums of money to a political campaign.

  85. pestie says:

    @Ailu: Wow, it’s a good thing you’re one of those extra-special someones exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of us. I’m guessing you don’t use your turn signals when driving, either. I mean, hell, there could be a stalker/carjacker behind you (you never know!) and you don’t want to reveal your intentions!

  86. Baz says:


    Wiring the subway platforms: OK by me. I see the safety benefits, especially for late night riders.

    Wiring the trains for cell phones: Time to buy the jammers!

  87. Ailu says:

    @PESTIE: You are right. Honestly, I really try to obey the rules whenever I can. I always obey all traffic laws, pay my taxes, and all that. I only have a hard time obeying rules when they are based on false premises, like that cell phones will jam airplane signals. Or that blacks must sit at the back of the bus. But you are right, I should obey the rules anyway.

  88. mac-phisto says:

    @Benstein: “They are such low power and so small that unless you happen to jam an FCC engineer within a few feet of you, you are pretty much free from being caught.”

    well, the site that nyt references has a mini jammer with a power ratio of 17dBm. now, they say it’s effective w/in 5 meters (on average), but it actually has a power output of about 60mw. this would give it a range of about 50 meters in open terrain. an fcc black van responding to complaints about mysterious dropped calls within a certain area could probably track the jammer from a block away. & that’s assuming the device operates at spec (which never happens). theoretically this unit could output higher. passing use would be pretty impossible to track, but repeated use patterns along specific routes could be tracked with the tools fcc enforcement agents use.

    @david.c: it is legal to block signals – just not using another transmitting electronic device. see Benstein‘s comment about faraday cages. of course, a 6x4x3ft enclosure will set you back about $4000 & that doesn’t make for a very large movie theatre! metal flashing or rf shielding does pretty well for a lot less, but it’s not really practical for a pre-existing construction.

  89. digitalgimpus says:

    @RECTILINEAR PROPAGATION: Your logic doesn’t really hold any water. If you really can’t spend a minute making your call before/after your bus ride, you can easily afford an assistant who can do it for you.

    We all survived very well without cell phones for thousands of years. I’m sure you can survive very well for a few minutes without one. If not, then get an assistant, you need it anyway.

  90. drjayphd says:

    Find me one legitimate business owner that would get this and use it in their business, where blabbing on your phone is entirely inappropriate.

    I’ll find you a couple hundred people who’d use these jammers out on the street to get their truly epic LULZ.

    Probably the same people who pull the whole IM IN UR HOMES JAMMING UR TV REMOTES schtick on the Make: blog. They’re probably the bigger weenies, yes?

  91. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    The problem with an active jammer is that it’s an unlicensed transmitter, and it’s not certified or designed to prevent interference to other services. While its main purpose might be to fill up the cell band with RF garbage (thus preventing the use of phones), that “garbage” can bleed over into the 800 MHz public safety band, or if the transmitter is dirty enough (which for this application..it probably is), it can mix with other RF signals, and then you can end up with interference almost anywhere in the radio spectrum.

    I wouldn’t want to be trapped in the burning building next-door while the firemen who are trying to look for victims and knock down the fire can’t talk to each other or back to dispatch.

    Mixed feelings though…I’m all for anything that would promote peace and quiet in public spaces. I’m not talking about the “Hello, honey, yes, I’ll stop and pick up milk on the way home” user..I’m talking about the people who carry on for an hour at the top of their lungs because they think they own the world and don’t give a crap about being polite.

  92. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I see that this conversation has really drifted from the core issue, which is not “your right to not have to be annoyed,” but the idiots’ right to use their property in a non-criminal fashion.

    Appeals to the First Amendment right of free speech may be taking it a little too far, but you can certainly use the Amendment as an example of this country’s preferred attitude toward speakers versus those who want to silence them.

  93. scoosdad says:

    @Ailu: “I only have a hard time obeying rules when they are based on false premises, like that cell phones will jam airplane signals.”

    Actually, the issue is that a hundred or so operating cell phones on every plane flying around in the sky will jam the ground-based cell phone network. With practically nothing in the way to stop it, a cellphone tries to connect to dozens of towers while flying at 35k feet, instead of only one or two while on the ground and being blocked by terrain. The cellphone network was never designed for that.

    What you apparently don’t realize is that when you’re sitting on a plane with your phone turned on, even when you’re not using it, it’s continually talking to a cell tower somewhere. How else do you think the phone system knows where you are to send you an incoming call? If everyone had your attitude the cell phone system would be brought to its knees. Shut the phone off so the rest of us can continue to use ours.

  94. Ailu says:

    @scoosdad: Show me a couple of authoritative sources (not wikipedia) for your assertions, and I’ll happily acquiesce.

  95. othium says:

    After reading some of the comments on this thread and looking up some other information – I have decided to put the device away for good. Even though the chances are pretty small, I don’t want to block someone’s important call with my selfishness. Mea culpa. Having something bad happen to someone due to a missed call would weigh on my conscious too much.

    Jeez. I feel bad now…

  96. consumerd says:

    Well, I am considering a jammer. Reason being when I give my $7-10 for a movie, and $4 for popcorn and soda I want to be able to hear and enjoy my movie I paid for in peace.

    It’s a small price for a larger benefit.

  97. scoosdad says:

    @Ailu: “Show me a couple of authoritative sources (not wikipedia) for your assertions, and I’ll happily acquiesce.”

    Happy to do so:


    and a Wall Street Journal article reprinted here:


    (particularly see the paragraph headed “A Sponge in the Sky”)



    (particularly see the paragraph about half way down that starts:”There are two

    additional facts that the commission needs to understand…”

    I’m an EE and I used to work for what was know as Western Electric. Our R&D arm Bell Labs invented the cellular technology that makes this work (or doesn’t) back in the 70’s and early ’80s. We let Al Gore take credit for the internet.

  98. Ailu says:

    @scoosdad: Your last reference is the one that convinced me. Thanks, much appreciated. :-)

    Quite interesting this quote, which leads me to believe even more, that they have been using cell jammers since 911:

    “The Department of Justice (DoJ), including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), raised the prospect of terrorists using cell phones: “The uniqueness of service to and from an aircraft in flight presents the possibility that terrorists and other criminals could use air-to-ground communications systems to coordinate an attack (e.g., a hijacking).

    For example, persons in the air could coordinate their attack with persons on the ground, with persons traveling on different aircraft, or persons traveling on the same aircraft located in different sections of the cabin. This being the case, the capability to at least record the origin and destination of wireless calls is essential, the DoJ argues.”