FCC proposes tougher rules for deploying cell boosters

The FCC wants to impose stricter guidelines for the use of cell phone boosters, which are designed to fill gaps in wireless coverage in areas where signal strength is weak. The agency had planned to vote on cell phone boosters during its meeting today, but instead issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the topic.

Specifically, the rulemaking provides guidelines for those that operate boosters and rules for technical and RF exposure that the agency believes will prevent interference. The new technical standards apply to both mobile boosters and fixed (in-home and in-building) signal boosters.

The CTIA and wireless operators have tried to ban the sale or use of cell phone boosters, arguing the devices can cause substantial interference in their networks and result in dropped calls and blocked calls, including 911 calls. In addition, operators maintain that finding and fixing interference caused by these boosters is extremely difficult.

In a statement about the FCC rulemaking, the CTIA said it remains concerned that poorly manufactured or improperly installed boosters can create more harm than good for consumers and public-safety officials.

On AT&T's (NYSE:T) public policy blog, the company's assistant VP of federal regulatory, Jeanine Poltronieri, said in 2007 a luxury yacht off the coast of Florida used a cell booster to strengthen its signal when it was out at sea. That booster interfered with six AT&T towers in Florida for 21 hours, and resulted in 2,795 dropped calls and 81,000 blocked or impaired calls.

At least one manufacturer of cell phone signal boosters is happy about the FCC's rulemaking. Lloyd Meese, CEO of Wi-Ex, said his company already complies with guidelines to prevent interference with the carrier network and has a patented technology that will solve problems such as oscillation.

Likewise Wilson Electronics issued a statement saying that the company hopes that this NPRM process will bring Wilson and the cellular operators to the table to discuss what needs to be accomplished on a practical technical level.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this CTIA release
- see this FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
- see AT&T's public policy blog post
-see this statement from Wilson Electronics

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