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UK Government to Shut Down GSM Networks

 Sold 1st April 2006

Mobile Gazette has learned of a shock move by the British Government - it has decided to take back the part of the radio spectrum currently used for GSM networks in the UK, and will force mobile operators to run a 3G-only service in the future.

According to an interview in a secret location with someone claiming to be close to the heart of government (known to us only as "Barry"), the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands are to be taken away from mobile operators from 1st April 2007 and redeployed to other functions. This means that all mobile phone users in the UK will need to switch to a 3G handset before that date. Part of the transcript of our conversation follows:

    MG: So, tell us some more about these government plans.

    Barry: Well, what Whitehall wants to do is end the licence for that part of the radio spectrum early and redeploy the frequencies to something else.

    MG: Can thay do that?

    Barry: Sure, under the Anti-Terrorism and Domestic Communications Act of 2005, the government has pretty much all the power it needs. If it deems the frequencies to be important to the security of the country, then it can take back the frequencies without compensation. Anyway, these companies spent a lot.. I mean really a lot.. of money on their 3G licences. The government's going to be helping them out in the transition to 3G, isn't it?

    MG: So, it's a national security issue? What are the frequencies going to be used for.

    Barry: Well, there are two areas. The 1800 megahertz band is going to be used for a new network of gambling kiosks that will be linked to the forthcoming supercasinos planned for the UK. The government wants a gambling kiosk in every street corner and public place by the end of 2008.

    MG: Errr... that's hardly national security, is it?

    Barry: Well the money raised from gambling will go towards the other system, using the 900 megahertz band. That's going to be the State Safety and Security System. That's quite an interesting development.

    MG: In what way?

     ID card Barry: Well, it's the next step after national ID cards. As you know, each card will have an RFID tag in it, and the new monitoring system will be able to track the movement of the RFID tags as the card holder moves around. These will be placed in public areas, pavements, roadsides, major buildings.. that kind of place. One neat feature of the system is that it can detect people who aren't carrying their ID cards and it will then distribute a photo of the offender.

    MG: That's going to cause quite a stir with civil liberties groups, isn't it?

    Barry: Well.. if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. I understand that the fine for a first offence is only going to be around five thousand pounds or so. Of course, once the system is complete it will be able to identify the offender from a facial recognition program, and then it will automatically convict and sentence that person without having to go through the effort of using the courts. Offenders will simply have the fines deducted from their bank accounts, or if it's a second offence then the police will be sent round to their homes to pick them up. They're hoping for about 90% accuracy in the facial recognition program.

    MG: So.. what happens if it can't pick up the RFID tag? It might be blocked by something bulky.. like a 3G phone, for example.

    Barry: It's up to every person to make sure that the RFID tag can be picked up by the scanners at all times. Again, the system is quite simple.. the fine or whatever will happen automatically. Ignorance of the law is no defence, but the government does acknowledge that a small number of people will be fined in error. We think the scanners will pick up the tag correctly in 99% of cases. In the future, we may implant the RFID tag directly into the subject to reduce the error rate.

    MG: 99% sounds great - but that means that for every thousand people who pass by the scanner, 10 will be incorrectly flagged as offenders?

    Barry: Well, that's quite a small proportion. And after they've been arrested and searched by the police and had a DNA swab taken, then they're quite welcome to lodge an appeal against the fine.

     Confidential MG: Wow.. that's going to cause a stir when it gets out. Thanks for that.. can I buy you another drink, Barry?

    Barry: Better not, I think I saw one of the black-out helicopters hovering across the street.

With that, out contact vanished into the night and we haven't heard from them since. If anyone else remembers seeing a black helicopter hovering outside the Springtime Jester pub in Shoreditch, then please let us know.

At Mobile Gazette we are extremely concerned about these forthcoming regulations. Not only will they be damaging to the mobile industry, but it's just possible that their may be privacy implications with the ID card monitoring system. We urge anyone who is concerned to write to their MP as soon as possible. For more details about this legislation, please click here.

Some other relevant links of interest:

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