3 May 2002
The law of 17 July 2001 opened the way for devices preventing the use of cellular telephones in theatres and auditoriums, both for transmission and reception.
However, before this measure can be enacted, Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) must take a decision defining the technical conditions for the use of these devices. Such a decision will be submitted to the Minister of telecommunications for approval.
In order to apply this measure as quickly as possible, ART consulted players on this important and sensitive subject via a call for comments published on 6 December 2001. It recently submitted the results of its consultation to the Commission consultative des radiocommunications (CCR).
Some contributions to the consultation pointed out the needs of theatres and auditoriums. Others highlighted the technical and legal concerns raised by the use of scramblers. Thus, players stressed two types of risks:
Technical and operational risks and concerns:
The impact on the coverage and quality of service of mobile networks, difficulties in making emergency calls causing safety problems and jeopardizing the obligations imposed by operators' authorisations
Uncontrollable spread of scramblers
Difficulties in restricting the scrambling area to auditoriums
Challenge to the principle of free establishment of scramblers in auditoriums, introduced in the 6th paragraph of article L.33-3, in particular regarding the principle of proportionality
Incompatibility of the use of GSM or UMTS frequencies by these systems, with their allocation intuitu personae to operators for payment, and with the national frequency band allocation table (TNRBF)
Given these elements which affect public safety and the proper operation of networks, ART consulted the government on the means of continuing the process. At the request of the government, it decided to create a working group, whose first meeting might be held in late May or early June, in order to discuss in depth the major difficulties raised by players. Depending on the topics discussed, the group will include concerned ministers, representatives from operators, industry and auditoriums, as well as qualified experts, as required. Its work will include the following issues:
How should the problems caused by the potential impossibility to make emergency calls be dealt with, in particular in terms of liability?
How can "scramblers" be limited to cellular telephones used by the public? Technically, how can "scrambling" be strictly confined to an auditorium?
What measures should be taken to avoid the illegal use of apparatus to render cellular telephones inoperable?
How should the concept of "auditorium" be interpreted?
More generally, how to ensure that scramblers are compatible with operator authorisations?
Thus, within the framework of its mission, ART intends to continue its work initiated following the introduction of the law in July 2001, in order to ensure the respect of essential interests. It will keep Parliament informed of the advancement of its work.
Until then, ART and the government reiterate that the use of this type of device is prohibited and punishable by law.