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Mobiles can get you killed

9/3/08

Sitting in one of the cheapest of cheap seats – a mere £700 –  at the back of a 767 on the way to MWC, I surveyed the heads in front of me and thought that if anyone wanted to do something statistical to show that mobile phones were dangerous they would look at the correlation between working in the mobile phone industry and baldness. Perhaps skin cancer is a real threat. The plural of anecdote may not be evidence but there sure seemed to be a link to me.

Still there is a certain something about a man with a naked head.

Before that flight I didn’t think that carrying a 900MHz, 1800Mhz or now 2100MHz radio transmitter was dangerous, but the man in the seat next to me convinced me otherwise.

He works in the arms industry, his trip to Barcelona was nothing to do with MWC and he’d chosen a bad week to visit. In particular he works on electronic countermeasures. One side gets better at hiding and then other gets better at looking. So you then need to look to see if anyone is looking so that you can stop them. High stakes, hide-and-seek.

The particular type of  looking this man did was spotting anti-aircraft radar and he said that increasingly the frequencies being used were the ones that belonged to us in the mobile phone world. It’s not like the military don’t have enough spectrum of their own, it’s just that while little boys want to play at being soldiers, soldiers want to pretend to be anything else so that they don’s get spotted. By hiding the anti-aircraft radar in mobile phone frequencies they look less like terrorists and more like teenagers saying “no, you hang up first”. So the anti-anti-aircraft radar has to look at the nature of the signal and decide if it really is a mobile phone call or something attached to a very large missile just pretending to be a mobile phone but really looking at the bounced back signal. This in turn means the signals are better disguised. Squeezing my way past grey men in grey suits in Hall 8 I wondered how many of the lesser brands in the lesser halls really looked like a mobile phone to the network they were supposed to be on, Plenty of the obscure phones would fail European type approval. If they are too far off they might just look like something else to a ‘plane with air to ground missiles and a bout of paranoia.

That would give the men in the room more to worry about than what sun factor to apply to their heads when they next visit Barcelona in June, taking their whole family for a holiday at the cost of their MWC seat.

 

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