Cellular jamming device

A very annoying aspect of the cellular revolution is people sitting in your office answering their mobile phone at the expense of your precious time, or leaving the important board of directors' meeting to take a cellular call, or enjoying a nice long chat during a movie. This is besides the fact that radiation from cellular telephones can be extremely hazardous in certain places, such as hospitals or army bases.

Tel Aviv company Netline decided to do something about it and developed a device that can block cellular transmissions. The company's C-Guard product prevents the telephone receiving cellular base station signals (which transmit to our mobile phones), so that it is regarding as outside territorial coverage. "It is as if the user is in the Sahara desert," says company general manager Ben Te-eni. C-Guard covers all cellular transmission protocols.

C-Guard is already selling successfully, Te-eni says. Its target market is divided into three categories: places in which the cellular telephone creates electromagnetic disturbances, such as hospitals, computer rooms and airplanes; places that fear eavesdropping, such as security services and companies fearing industrial espionage; and places in which the use of cellular telephones disturbs the work routine or provision of services, such as movie theaters, funeral homes and concert halls.

According to Te-eni, cellular operators are interested in the company, as its next product will assist them in providing the auxiliary third generation services they are planning, referred to as "location oriented services". The intention is to provide the cellular telephone user with a digital program at concert halls, or sales promotion material in shopping malls, or generate additional revenue through advertising.

Te-eni says that all existing locating methods are geographically based, and can trace a user to within tens of meters, while Netline's technology is capable of providing cellular companies with unequivocal information regarding a user's location, as long as there is the device there. This product does not completely jam or release transmissions, but screens the location dependent services the subscriber receives, depending on the location. It will be ready in the second quarter of next year.

Business Card

Name: Netline Communications Technologies

Founded: 1998

Product: Cellular jamming device

Employees: 11

Market: Hospitals, theaters, movie houses, businesses.

Customers: Israeli and overseas security concerns, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, The Viennese Opera, and others.

Competition: Media, Japan.

Ownership: Israel and Te-eni (29% each); Yarden and Gofman (14.5% each); and the remainder - Smartcard Insight, a technology company based in Ireland and Coronation Global, an investment firm based in Ireland.

It will not be merely another service the operators offer. According to the US Law E911 (named after the US emergency call service '911'), cellular operators are obliged to track subscribers by various pinpointing methods for emergency purposes. Te-eni says this requirement has set off an entire industry seeking to exploit financially the enormous investment the cellular operators are obliged to undertake to comply with the law. Netline plans not only to sell the location product, but is considering providing services as well. "That's the product we'll make a great deal of money from," says Te-eni.

Netline currently markets C-Guard through distributors who supply equipment to its target market - hospitals, movie theaters and suppliers of security equipment. "Our sales are going quite well," says Te-eni, claiming that the company anticipates profits as early as this year, or by the second quarter of next year, depending on how much it invests in development. The product is priced from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, according to the configuration requested. Te-eni refuses to be more specific. "It is not a technology breakthrough. However, it's the cash cow for our other product, through which we are laying the technological and marketing infrastructure of the next product. At present, we don't have any competition on the location product."

Are there no legal aspects, such the right to privacy, that could dim this product's future?

"There are legal questions regarding both the products. You're right regarding the right to privacy. There is some reference in E911, despite the fact that the law was made in relation to emergency services. We still don't know to what extent it will serve commercial needs. Regarding C-Guard, the picture is not yet clear. In most countries, they are discussing where cellular communications can be forbidden. We cover places where they are prohibited anyway, such as hospitals and movie theaters. But there is no disputing that the product serves a legitimate need, in contrast to radars in vehicles, for example. Cellular operators claim we are using frequencies allocated to them in order to jam their transmissions, and the question arises of whether we have that right. On the other hand, there is the legal argument that a concert hall owner has the right to reduce his damage."

In the meantime, you are taking advantage of the loophole?

"In the meantime, it's a loophole until proven otherwise. But we are examining the matter in each country. In Israel, for example, we applied for a permit from the Ministry of Communications, although we are not obliged to do so. We're trying to circumvent the issue through technological means, and provide additional services instead of preventing calls, through our next product."

Netline was set up last year by Gil Israel (31), Ben Te-eni (30), Ofer Yarden and Yossi Gofman. The company raised $250,000 in seed money, and will apparently raise additional funds shortly. "We could continue with the revenues we have, but we want to get to market faster," says Te-eni.

Published by Israel's Business Arena June 22, 1999

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