Device used to send local SMS blasts being sold online, says telco official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 08 2021 02:36 PM

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MANILA – A device that can be used to send location-based text blasts while bypassing carriers is available online, a telco official said Friday.

Globe Telecom’s Technology and Strategy Service Integration head Manny Estrada said these SMS broadcasters were designed to work in emergency and disaster situations. 

"They’re actually designed to work without any cellular signal altogether," he said in an ANC Headstart interview.

“These are standalone equipment…and you actually deploy it in an area where you need to broadcast emergency messages even when there are no telco networks already available."

Estrada said these devices, which are sold online for as much as 10 million pesos, are supposed to be regulated.

“In the Philippines ano there’s actually a law which prohibits anybody from using it, and in fact you cannot simply buy it, because you need to have government clearance. Unfortunately apparently these particular types of…are even available online," he said.

“All it needs is to be able to turn it on and then immediately scans the vicinity of where its coverage exists, and then it picks up all of the different telephones that are already turned on in the area.”

“Regardless kung sino man yung operator, regardless if it’s DITO or Smart or any other operator, even a person roaming into the Philippines the moment that this particular device is able to scan this, then it’s able to actually send a type zero or class zero SMS message. And this is actually similar to what you would see when you have a cell broadcast emergency message."

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) earlier said it is investigating text blasts promoting the candidacy of presidential bet Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., which were sent out at the time that he filed his certificate of candidacy. 

An NTC official noted text blasts should only be sent during emergencies. 

“These portable cell sites can only be used during emergencies. So in this particular case, there is no emergency. So the use of this is illegal,” NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarrios has said. 

The Marcos camp has denied any hand in the SMS blasts, dubbing it a form of sabotage against his presidential bid. 

--ANC, 8 October 2021