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FCC establishes rules for cellphone signal boosters

updated 04:12 pm EST, Wed February 20, 2013

Regulations aim to prevent interference

The Federal Communications Commission has established a set of rules that will govern cellphone signal boosters, in response to concerns over network interference. The regulations have been drafted in collaboration with all four major US carriers, along with many of the smaller players, which have agreed to share the use of their licensed spectrum if booster manufacturers agree to implement safeguards that will protect network operation.

The ruling groups boosters into two classes, with separate technical requirements for consumer and industrial equipment. A wide range of boosters are already available to consumers, however some companies have reportedly failed to voluntarily implement the technical requirements necessary to avoid causing problems with networks. In such cases, a booster can interfere with signals from other cellular devices that are attempting to communicate with network towers.

Electronista has talked with booster manufacturer Wilson Electronics on several occasions at CES and CTIA's trade shows, where we have discussed issues surrounding network interference and the FCC's regulations. The company's boosters are designed to automatically reduce gain or shut down in certain situations, such as operation in close proximity to a cellphone tower, and representatives had expressed hope that the FCC would impose strict rules on the industry rather than banning the devices outright.

"Wilson Electronics applauds the adoption of FCC certification specifications for consumer cell phone signal boosters, which will eliminate poorly designed products that currently plague the market, and have been a source of cell site interference," said Wilson COO Joe Banos in a statement.

"Signal boosters not only help consumers improve coverage where signal strength is weak, but they also aid public safety first responders by extending wireless access in hard-to serve areas such as tunnels, subways, and garages," the FCC wrote in a separate statement. "This Report and Order reflects a common sense, consensus-based technical solution that will help millions of consumers across the country."

Consumers will be required to obtain permission from their cellular carrier to use a booster, and must register their boosters with the wireless provider.

By Electronista Staff
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