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November 23, 2013

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Lack of laws hinders clampdown on illegally run mobile stations

More than 40 illegal mobile stations which block cellphone signals and send spam messages to users in Shanghai have been detected but industry officials said cracking down on the operators is difficult due to lack of legislation.

The illegal stations were discovered by China Mobile’s Shanghai branch. In China, there are no specific laws to bar the spread of spam messages, which makes it difficult for regulators and mobile carriers to take action against the illegal operators, industry experts said. The potential to make huge profit is also fueling the spread of such centers.

The illegal mobile stations placed in sedans usually work around hotels, restaurants and other downtown public venues with big crowds. Several hundred spam text messages can be sent to affected cellphone users in seconds, according to Shanghai Mobile.

More than 50,000 messages can be sent out through the base stations operating from the sedans within an hour, Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

Thomson Li, who works at an IT firm and receives about 10 spam messages a week, said: “It’s horrible because those spam messages are sent from familiar numbers like 10086 (China Mobile’s hotline number) or 95555 (China Merchants Bank’s number). Users are easily cheated by the familiar numbers.”

The messages usually contain advertisements and lure users to visit websites, which will steal their personal information and even bank accounts and passwords.

An illegal base station consists of a laptop, a special battery connecting cars and antennas, which can be easily bought on online shopping websites like Each station costs  20,000 yuan (US$3,252) but the operator is able to reap 1 million yuan within several months.

The stations transmit their own signals and break normal connections of China Mobile’s users, which actually is interfering in local mobile communications, said Liu Yuanming, Shanghai Mobile’s marketing manager.

“It’s easy for people to form such illegal stations, some sponsored by restaurants and hotels for marketing promotion,” said Liu.

Only China Mobile users are affected by these stations and the telco has reported the case to police. But Shanghai police was not available to make comment on the issue yesterday. China Unicom and China Telecom users are not affected, according to the carriers.

The Shanghai Radio Administration Bureau said it has urged tightening rules on personal radio devices.


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