KARACHI (HASSAN JAWWAD) - Experts and officials of the mobile phone companies have said that cellular services could be terminated temporarily in specific sensitive areas without suspending all across the country.
Saeed Azfar, an expert of wireless communication, said the cellular transmission could be controlled through BTS towers with systematic coordination of technical staff of mobile phone companies to suspend services wherever it is required.
The procession of Muharram moves traditionally on fixed routes where thousands of people are gathered and offered their rituals of mourning in Karachi, Quetta and different cities. The BTS towers could be switched off in the areas where procession moves gradually, he said. On the other hand, the BTS switched on again after people move from one place to the main convention place, he added.
According to an estimate, a BTS or cellphone site covers up to 2-3 kilometres area depending on the utility. If the sites situated in the sensitive places are switched off, a big area could be isolated from the cellphone signals. He said the Imambargah could be protected through high powered jammers of mobile phones that could restrict the signals of cellular phone companies from half to two kilometers. In this way, the protection is ensured properly and risks are reduced without shutting overall services of the mobile phone companies to millions of customers.It is merit mentioning here that mobile phone jammers are allowed to install in Pakistan with the permission of PTA and Interior Ministry. The moveable jammers are also used in the VIP movements in all major cities for security purposes, which could also be installed for avoiding any untoward incident.
He said that the companies would ready to deploy extra staff for suspending their services in sensitive areas and retaining services in normal areas because the losses are huge due to blanket suspension of mobile phone services.
There are more than 32,000 cellular sites of five cellular operators in the country. Almost 50-55 per cent of them were switched off due to blanket suspension of 52 cities for 38- 40 hour in 52 cities of the country on 9th and 10th Muharram constituting the 70 per cent area of mobile phone subscriber base.
If 50 per cent of the BTS towers are switched off on last Saturday and Sunday in 52 cities, the cellular phone companies could be prevented from huge losses of Rs1.3 billion, an official of the mobile company said. Though 20 per cent cellular sites of these cities could block signals of the sensitive areas. The government does not take on board the mobile phone companies and take unilateral decision which is not investor-friendly at all, he said wishing not to be named.
The suspension of the services is illegal and forceful because only the President of Pakistan can take this action in any emergency.
He said that the company moved into litigation for its possible situation because the government does not care about cellular phone companies and their losses, instead taking undue measures in the name of security. The government has failed to control terrorists attack in DI Khan despite suspending the services, he said.
Another official of a mobile phone company said that blanket suspension of services for long hours was not the solution for ensuring security as it does not happen in any part of the world even in war-affected Afghanistan.
The mobile phone operators could take an out-of-box solution for security reasons and they are ready to cooperate with the government to secure the life of masses in the country, he said on condition of anonymity.
The government ordered cellular phone companies to suspend their services on five occasions earlier that has become a permanent security measure despite of the fact millions of customers faced difficulties and mobile phone companies incurred losses of nearly Rs2.5 billion.
It is expected that the federal government on the advice of provincial government will order operator to suspend their services in the Islamic month of Safer and Rabiul Awwal.
However, the federal government could be barred by the Sindh High Court to repeat such measures, which is hearing a petition against suspension of mobile phone services submitted by a cellular operator.