Mark Bridge writes:
Every time a British citizen finds themselves in trouble abroad – whether the problem is pirates, police, having a drink or having a cuddle – it’s very likely someone somewhere will say “you should have checked first”.
That’s sensible advice when it comes to looking at the FCO website… but an extra reminder about checking the legality of your technology came this week when biofuel bus driver Andy Pag was arrested in India for using a satellite phone. Why was he arrested? Quite simply, using a satellite phone in India needs a permit.
Thinking about it from a technical point of view – and with the great gift of hindsight – the potential for breaking the law with a mobile phone is pretty obvious. Radio frequencies are licensed by different authorities in different ways around the world. In the 1970s, you could buy a cordless phone in the USA but you’d have been breaking the law if you used it in the UK. In fact, the cordless-phone-free UK would have prosecuted you as though you were running a pirate radio station. And until last year, the Egyptian government banned the import of GPS-equipped phones. Even GSM handsets aren’t necessarily legal everywhere.
But back to those satellite mobile phones. Okay, so we now know you need a permit for India. But where else?
Well, North Korea, apparently. China, so I’m told. Burma, too. But it’s all a bit vague. Even the Indian press has pointed out there’s no obvious warning for visitors. That’s not good news for anyone… even those people with 20/20 hindsight.