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Mobile Etiquette?
Posted on 11-Mar-2003 18:32 by GSM World Association | Filed under: Articles

Mobile Etiquette?
Not surprisingly, the GSM Association encourages the widespread adoption and use of GSM equipment. Having said that, we recognize that, as GSM equipment appears in new and unexpected places, and in greater numbers, it introduces a new challenge for users.

When it comes to wireless etiquette, the GSM Association believes that rules of etiquette governing the use of mobile phones should be premised on the same considerations as the "rules" which apply generally to the behavior and conduct of people in society. Such rules of etiquette are fundamentally based on concepts of courtesy and respect. Importantly, these rules do not lend themselves neatly to rigid "do's" and "don'ts", as norms vary from culture to culture, from context to context and even over time. What may be considered acceptable in one situation may well be considered inappropriate elsewhere. What may be considered inappropriate today may well be considered quite 'normal' tomorrow. Therefore, some vigilance is required to determine appropriate behavior.

The appropriate use of GSM technology and equipment is primarily your responsibility as a user (as is the case with most technology). However, the GSM Association believes that we have an important role to play in educating users about wireless etiquette and facilitating the widespread use of GSM equipment - whether mobile telephones or sophisticated combinations of phones, computers, and two-way video terminals - in a responsible and courteous manner. It is in this light that we offer the following advice. We stress that this advice should only be construed as guidelines and that individual circumstances will require a flexible approach. At the end of the day, the best etiquette rule of all is to put yourself in the other person's shoes and act accordingly.

Laws Governing the Use of Mobile Phones
In some places, laws have been enacted which place restrictions on the use of mobile phones and other similar devices. You are advised - regardless of other circumstances - to observe local laws.

Using Mobile Phones in Public Places
It is generally accepted that there are some places where people should never talk on a mobile phone and where even the ringing of a mobile phone would be considered unacceptable.

In most countries, movies and stage shows, weddings and funerals, concerts speeches and lectures are the sorts of public gatherings where the ringing of a phone and the carrying on of a telephone conversation (indeed, any conversation) is likely to be considered an unacceptable and rude interruption or distraction. Whispering into the phone is no more likely to be considered acceptable than whispering to a neighbor.

But this does not necessarily mean that mobile phones must be switched off or that they cannot be used at all. If continuing communication is vital on these occasions for whatever reason, you should consider changing your phone alert setting to vibrate silently and, if appropriate, using the keypad of the phone to transmit SMS text. Alternatively, allow the call to proceed to voice mail and retrieve any message later. .

If, in error, you forget to put your phone on silent or vibrate mode and it rings at an inappropriate moment, the best course of action may be to switch off the ringer immediately or send the call to voice mail (usually by pressing the hang-up key).

Restaurants pose a more subjective question. The general atmosphere in the restaurant may give a clue as to the proper etiquette, but it is always an option to ask the restaurant if they have a policy. In any event and as above, the phone can be set to vibrate silently or ring quietly. In appropriate circumstance, you may consider leaving the table, and continuing the call in the foyer.

Given the global roaming capability with GSM, if you are away from your home, you may also want to turn off or divert your phone to avoid receiving calls at unsociable local hours!

Further information on the silent messaging features of individual GSM phones may be found in the handbook of the phone. Your GSM service provider can advise you about available voice mail options.

Business Meetings
Business meetings do not share the same attributes as 'public' places. Accordingly, although considerations such as courtesy still apply, the meeting convenor is generally empowered to establish rules of appropriate phone use, which should be observed by all. Where no rules are established or there is no custom, the more acceptable approach may be to turn your phone off or set it to vibrate silently, enabling important calls to be taken outside of the meeting.

Public transport
Passenger in some public transport, such as trains, may have expectations of quiet which might be offended by loud phone conversations. For this reason, some trains offer "quiet zones" and mobile-free cars. In unrestricted cars, it may make most sense to simply speak quietly. Given technology improvements and increased microphone sensitivity, one generally can speak softly and still be easily understood by the other party.

Small, enclosed public spaces are usually not the best places for mobile phone calls. In a crowded elevator, for example, it may be best to simply ask anyone who calls to wait for a moment. As in all other cases, we encourage you to be respectful of the reasonable expectations of those around you.

Be careful on foot
Streets and sidewalks are completely appropriate for walking and talking. But it's important to remember how easy is can be for an intense conversation to distract you from paying attention to traffic. And shouting into a mobile phone is no more acceptable to passers-by than shouting to a companion. This is especially true in remote areas.

Mobile telephones are modern lifesavers, summoning needed help all over the world every day of the year. Tens of thousands of emergency calls are made daily to operators around the world who then dispatch police, firefighters, and ambulances. Emergency assistance services attest to countless stories of life and death rescues that were made possible or expedited because of an emergency call.

While emergency help should be sought even where there may be doubt as to the 'emergency' nature of the situation, you should recognize the unique public service offered by emergency assistance services and refrain from abuse. Unwarranted calls may not only be inappropriate; they may be illegal.

For those travelling with a GSM phone, make sure you know the local emergency number and use it when necessary.

The GSM Association advises phone users not to rely on mobile phone coverage for emergencies in remote and coastal areas. Proper safety equipment should be carried.

Jamming of Mobile Phones
Mobile phone jammers transmit signals that interfere with the ability of handsets to communicate with base stations. Regulators in Australia, the USA and other locations have issued orders under radio communications legislation banning the sale or use of these devices citing among other reasons that jammers could prevent access to emergency services or cause loss of business to other users.

The GSM Association opposes the use of these jammers that deny legitimate services to customers. We support the introduction of legislative and regulatory measures designed to prohibit their use generally. Alternatives to active jammers include promotion to encourage people to use silent messaging features of their mobile phones; signs advising that mobile phone use is unwelcome or could disrupt sensitive equipment; and passive detection of active mobile phones, followed by a request to restrict use. As a response to inconsiderate use of mobile phones, jammers are the wrong approach.

To sum up
The GSM Association encourages customers to use their mobile phones and other mobile devices in a responsible manner. To be aware of where they are, whom they are with and what they and others are doing when deciding whether to make or accept a call, and to respect the reasonable expectations of others in their immediate vicinity.

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