Rule change applies to “provider-specific” signal boosters

Cellular signal boosters provide a real benefit for both consumer and enterprise users; but some of the systems, which capture, amplify and distribute carrier frequencies generally to solve for in-building coverage issues, can interfere with macro service provider networks, which irritates carriers and can prompt intervention from the Federal Communication Commission’s Enforcement Bureau.

But, in many cases, signal boosters don’t interfere with the macro networks. Carriers work with signal booster vendors to certify the equipment for use. Last week during its open meeting, the FCC voted to do away with restrictions on “provider-specific boosters so that businesses, public safety entities, educational institutions and other enterprise users and their customers can also benefit from the use of boosters.”

Further, the FCC adopted what’s called a notice of proposed rulemaking “to explore ways to allow additional flexibility in the use of consumer signal boosters, including seeking input on removing unnecessary barriers to embedding boosters within vehicles.”

SureCall, a major vendor in the space, said it looks forward to further loosening of restrictions related to both narrow band and wide band signal boosters. “This vote is a great step in the right direction,” company CEO Hongtao Zhan said. “The FCC has been listening to the opinions of signal booster manufacturers and it’s great to see manufacturers like SureCall are having an impact of legislation.” He said changes to rules governing wide band boosters “would likely come to a vote sometime next year.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Signal boosters are one tool in the toolbox for providing ubiquitous wireless coverage to the American people. And with our action today, we aim to make that tool a more powerful means of meeting our goal of expanding wireless connectivity. Someday, hopefully soon, failed calls can be relegated to the silver screen.”

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, regardless of planning, networks still have dead zones, “particularly indoors. Whether it is calling your mother while pressed up against the kitchen window, because that is the only place in your apartment you have cell coverage, or wrongfully concluding that you are getting the silent treatment from your significant other, as you step into the elevator: bad connectivity can mean bad news, when you want to keep in touch. Signal boosters, those devices that extend the range of wireless networks into buildings and elsewhere by, you guessed it, boosting the original signal that may be weak, can be an effective means, of improving your wireless experience.”


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