Mobile phones ‘give away locations of soldiers’

New field orders

It's just as well that they didn't manage to install the magical CDMA mobile phone system that Qualcomm would have liked to see in Iraq; they'd have had to prevent their soldiers from using it. At least, that's the logical deduction from new field orders.

There are mobile phones that work in Iraq. They just have to be satellite based; there's no standard cellphone network there - and as we reported recently when one was originally ordered, American military interests blocked the deal, because it would be useable for military purposes.

But modern phone networks are increasingly clever at reporting the location of users. And the most popular satellite phone in Iraq, used by reporters, is the Thuraya phone - which includes exactly what Congressman Darrell Issa wants - a built-in GPS unit which pinpoints the user's location exactly.

Now, Reuters reports that military commanders in Iraq have banned the use of Thuraya phones carried by journalists attached to their units, apparently fearing the signal could give away their location to Iraqi forces.

Reuters tried to find a communications expert who could explain how this might be done, but without success. The answer appears to be that they don't trust the Thuraya operator, which is based in the Middle East, in Abu Dhabi - because that's where the location data from each phone call is stored.

The rival Iridium network is operated from the US, and is also less precise in the location data it provides.

If Congressmen Issa's propaganda on behalf of the Qualcomm-based CDMA mobile phones were correct, of course, then anybody using a local phone would have their location reported direct to the local phone company. Fortunately, any such network would probably have been restricted to the large cities anyway, and CDMA phones are probably the least accurate of any, in reporting location data.

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