x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Telecoms watchdog seizes thousands of illegal mobile phones

Thousands of illegal mobile phones have been confiscated by UAE authorities, who say the handsets could pose a health risk or interfere with emergency services frequencies.

DUBAI // Thousands of illegal mobile phones have been confiscated by UAE authorities, who say the handsets could pose a health risk or interfere with emergency services frequencies.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) yesterday said it had confiscated 27,600 electronic devices that did not comply with local guidelines.

The haul, from a warehouse in Dubai, included thousands of mobiles, walkie-talkies and radios, the TRA said.

"This equipment was not compliant with the technical standards here in the UAE," said Ahmad Al Shamsi, director of type approval at the TRA.

"Some work on different frequencies, like the walkie-talkies … The mobile-phone radiation levels were much higher than those approved."

Some of the devices could have interfered with frequencies used by agencies such as the police or army, said Mr Al Shamsi, and the radiation from some of the mobiles could be damaging.

"If the radiation is above the approved level, as per the international standards, definitely it will harm people," he said.

"A lot of health problems can be caused by the high radiation … There are some kinds of cancers that can be caused by the above-standard level."

The haul was the biggest ever by the TRA, which has handed the devices to the Department of Economic Development in Dubai.

The TRA has so far this year confiscated 35,000 devices that do not meet guidelines, Mr Al Shamsi said.

He said he did not have information about the owner of the devices, who could face legal action, or whether they were intended for sale in shops.

"Our team is still trying to find who is the owner of this equipment and how it came here to the UAE," Mr Al Shamsi said.

"If we find these illegal phones available in the market, definitely we are taking legal action against them."

Local retailers said they knew telecoms devices that did not meet the UAE standards were available.

Yasser Sharaf, the managing director of the electronics store Sharaf DG, said he only dealt with authorised mobile distributors.

"If you want to do something illegal, there are a thousand ways to do it," Mr Sharaf said. "They are quite strict on it, I'm sure, because there are a lot of channels coming into the UAE."

Omar Kassim, chief executive of the online retailer JadoPado, said many of the illegal devices were meant for the re-export market.

"There is certain equipment that is illegal, that operates on different frequencies," said Mr Kassim. "A lot of it is being re-exported out."

bflanagan@thenational.ae