Cheap calls gateway operator has been on bail for 7 years

Kent man faces Wireless Telegraphy Act charges

A Kent man has been on bail for seven years over allegations he operated a GSM gateway which allowed consumers to get cheaper calls abroad.

Daniel Mahony, 42, is accused of two counts of breaching section 35 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 by operating his GSM gateway without an Ofcom-issued licence.

The gateway in question was a Commercial Multi-User Gateway, or COMUG. Customers dial the gateway through a published phone number and their calls are then forwarded on to the destination, typically at a lower charging rate than just dialling direct.

Gateways achieve this by using mobile phone SIM cards in bulk and taking advantage of operators’ roaming deals on mobile-to-mobile calls.

Mahony denies the charges. The history of the present case stretches back to 2010.

Last year Ofcom decided to exempt Commercial Single-User Gateways (COSUGs) from the licensing requirement. These differ from COMUGs in that they have only one customer, normally a corporate one. The Register understands that no licences have ever been issued to operate COMUGs in the UK, meaning that the “licensing” requirement amounts to a ban.

Ofcom held a public consultation which ended in February this year on whether to exempt COMUGs from the licensing requirement. The Home Office Investigatory Powers Unit attempted to make an anonymous submission to that consultation by posing as a private citizen, and was caught after its digital fingerprints were found in their submission’s metadata. That metadata was updated after a week to remove all mention of the Home Office but not before copies had been seen by The Register. The department said in a later statement: “At no point did the Home Office seek to hide the fact that it was responding to this consultation.”

A pre-trial hearing took place this morning at Southwark Crown Court. Mahony remains on bail, in perhaps the longest-running period of bail in modern English legal history. The case continues. ®


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