Limits Relaxed on Wireless Cell Signal Boosters

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More people can now access wireless cell signal boosters. The Commission voted in March to remove the personal use restriction so subscribers can use boosters to improve their coverage indoors, underground and in rural areas. The rule change becomes effective today.

The original rules, enacted in 2013, were conservative. They limited operation to certain spectrum bands and authorized provider-specific boosters and wideband boosters, which extend coverage by all providers in range. The agency says the personal use restrictions on provider-specific devices are no longer needed, meaning businesses, public safety entities, and schools can use them. Specifically, whereas the existing rules restricted provider-specific consumer signal boosters to personal use, the Commission will now permit any subscriber—an individual or a non-individual—with a proper registration to use these boosters.

Wilson Electronics CEO Bruce Lancaster told Inside Towers at the time, the change can especially help small businesses. “Boosters help users stay connected in areas where the carriers struggle to reach with their network. Whether this is in remote areas while camping, or in difficult to reach areas in buildings, boosters have solved hundreds of thousands of consumers’ connectivity issues, without causing any issues to any of the carriers’ networks,” he said. The elimination of the personal use restriction makes this same benefit available to businesses, which have similar connectivity challenges for themselves or their customers, he added.

T-Mobile agreed, telling the FCC, the existing rules blocked, “whole segments of the public—e.g., small businesses, institutions of higher education, office parks, factories, warehouses, and government buildings—from taking advantage of the boosters’ benefits.” For example, “a small business may need to install a booster to improve signal strength within its office,” noted T-Mobile. The restrictions meant ‘‘[t]he only options available to such [small businesses and others] would be to deploy an industrial signal booster, switch carriers, or continue to endure indoor coverage issues.’’

Publication in the Federal Register triggered the effective date.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

May 18, 2018

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