SA illegal phone problem growing

Vodacom Western Cape managing executive Steven Barnwell has warned that the problem of illegal phones is impacting on the mobile network. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Vodacom Western Cape managing executive Steven Barnwell has warned that the problem of illegal phones is impacting on the mobile network. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Cape Town - Cordless phones that are not authorised by Icasa (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) can cause interference on mobile networks, resulting in deteriorating service.

"People complain about the network deteriorating, but what we find - and it seems to be an increasing trend - people go overseas and buy a cordless phone and bring it back here, not realising that it, first of all it's illegal, because it's not Icasa approved," Steven Barnwell, Vodacom's managing executive for the Western Cape told News24.

He said that the cordless phones operate in the mobile operator spectrum and could negatively affect everyone in an area served by a particular base station.

"You at home, using you cordless phone, not realising that it’s interfering with the base station... and if it interferes with the base station, it affects that entire suburb - everybody served by that base station."

Vodacom was actively engaged in tracking down illegal phones, but Barnwell said that it was an expensive process because the operator had to ensure that teams patrolled an area to locate the phone.


"We spend a lot of time tracking it down. You’ve got this signal somewhere in the network and you need very advanced triangulation technology and vehicles to pinpoint it: Three vehicles triangulating where that signal is coming from - it's not that easy to just pick up that signal," he said.

Many users are unaware that the phones are illegal and Vodacom advised that only phones with an official Icasa sticker are legal to use in SA.

When phones are found that contravene the Electronic Communications Act, Vodacom informs Icasa which takes further action.

"We will hand it to Icasa and Icasa will go and confiscate the phone, but it's a growing problem," Barnwell said.

For its part, the regulator said that it also investigates dealers who sell illegal phones in SA.

"The Authority would therefore visit the premises where illegal equipment is stored, sold, hired or manufactured. Such illegal equipment may be seized and sealed; and also refer the matter to the Complaints and Compliance Committee for investigation and adjudication," Icasa manager for Media and Stakeholder Liaison, Paseka Maleka, told News24.

He added that consumers who suspect that their cordless phones are not Icasa approved may call the regulator at 011 566 3000.

"The consumers can also call Icasa if they suspect that the equipment is not approved by the Authority. The Icasa sticker is on the package/container and permanently affixed on the product."

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