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Ain't no jammin' goin' on

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The royal wedding won't be blanketed in a smog of radio-jamming despite reports to the contrary; such a measure is unnecessary and unworkable, not to mention illegal.

Yahoo! seems to have started the rumour, claiming that Westminster Abbey will be covered with a mobile block to prevent guests tweeting when they should be watching. But such a thing is clearly against UK law and the police tell us they've no intention of breaking that law, while O2 is proudly rolling out additional base stations to cope with the expected traffic.

O2 reckons they'll have more than 300,000 customers at the wedding (though not all in the church obviously). The operator expects an average of one call and four text messages per customer, contributing to the 65 million images which are expected to pop up on social networking sites during the event. So if you can't get a signal on the day, don't blame overzealous security forces but those around you who are uploading their experience to Facebook.

It would be perverse for a network operator to increase capacity while expecting its customers to be cut off by governmental jamming, not to mention that any use of jamming equipment is against UK law, which the police are expected to obey just like everyone else.

Ofcom tells us the only place a jammer may be permitted is within the walls of one of Her Majesty's prisons, as they belong to the Crown, though even that exception is legally unclear. America permits federal bodies to jam mobile phone frequencies, but not state ones, oddly enough preventing the use of jamming in prisons.

But even if jamming were permitted, it would be of little use on Friday. The justification is usually that a mobile phone may be used to remotely set off a bomb in a parked car, or concealed at the side of the road, but along the royal route there will be no parked cars so such a plan is anyway doomed.

As for blocking mobile signals to ensure polite behaviour by guests, etiquette can't really be enforced by technology. These days everyone from Nick Clegg to Elton John to the Abbey itself are part of the Twitter generation, and won't stand to have their scribblings interfered with. ®

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