back to article FCC gives cautious go-ahead for signal boosters

The US comms regulator looks set to permit consumer-owned boosters, including mobile ones, despite the industry's adamant opposition and predictions of worse service for all if the rules go ahead. While indisputably illegal in the UK, cell boosters have slipped between the rules in the USA where many companies sell them to …

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WTF?

How is it illegal in the UK?

At the top of the article it says that boosters are illegal in the UK , how is it then that you can get boosters in the form of Vodafone SureSignal boxes which act as mobile phone boosters sending the data/signal via the internet.

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Femtocel

The article mentions these. Did you read it all? These devices transmit and recieve. A femtocel transmits only across the internet connection.

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Ummm...

You mean like "Some operators will now provide femtocells, which use broadband internet access for the backhaul"?

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Anonymous Coward

Why ask that question here?

Surely the first thing to spring into your head would be OFCOM or at least a regulator.

Tho the article does read Femto cells are "intelligent enough" not to cause interference, boosters are not.

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Simples

Boosters are illegal because it's a transmitter for which you don't have a licence - and couldn't get one if you tried.

Femtocells like Vodafone's SureSignal are legal because they are covered by the operators licence - ie VodaFone supplies it, and VodaFone has a licence to operate transmitters at certain frequencies.

One obvious (to me at least) option would be to have a frequency in the GSM band set aside for the repeated side of the signal. Ie the repeater can talk to the base on the normal frequency licences to the network operator - which is OK as that's no different to a phone. - while on the local side it uses a set of channels reserved only for such use (but still within the band that the phones can work at).

That way, any interference would affect only others using repeaters. A tight limit on power levels would also limit range, making issues like device location problems moot.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

signal strength

"The converse argument is that if the network operators built out decent coverage then the question would be moot"

Exactly. I live in a well populated area but I still occasionally have to step outside to use my cellphone. Every time I see one of AT&T's "more bars in more places" or "fewest dropped calls" commercials I have to fight back the urge to reprogram my television with a fire axe. I use a small booster that sometimes helps and sometimes does not. The signal broadcast from it doesn't appear to reach outside my home so I doubt I'm contributing to any interference my neighbors may have.

Problem is, I can't switch providers. AT&T are the only GSM provider in my area. And they are the only provider offering the "rollover" plan for unused minutes. AND their family sharing plan is less expensive than the similar plan from Verizon.

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Silver badge
Boffin

Maybe if handset manufacturers put decent antennas in...

Everyone seems to want phones to be as small as possible. Or at least, that's what the manufacturers would have you believe. I wonder how effective these reduced-size antennas are.

More to the point, ever tried to buy a phone with an external antenna jack? Yes sure, there's capacitive coupling, but you loose a few dB through one of those, so it totally nulls any benefit of the external antenna.

Want to truly boost your signal? Get a phone with an external jack, a suitable adaptor, and read up on some antenna theory. You can make an efficient antenna in about 5 minutes, and it'll cost you $2. A bit more effort, and you can make yoursef up a directional yagi antenna which would enable you to pick which tower you want to connect to and greatly improve your effective radiated power.

If we create demand for this sort of thing, companies will start including the antenna jacks in their devices, and we can benefit without needing to resort to hap-hazard approaches like unregulated repeater station installations.

Not sure where to start? Drop in to your local amateur radio club and ask there.

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Antenna Connector

Most phones actually do have an external antenna connector, though it's not neccessarily the most convienient to use, or the most convienient connector style. Frequently it's an obscure connector designed for only a few connect-disconnect cycles, and hidden under the battery cover. It's primary intended use is for product testing.

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Jobs Halo

Battery Cover?

Sorry, I don't have a battery cover. The beloved leader tells me that my iPhone doesn't need one and the phone is powered by magical apple dust and smugness.

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The Network Extenders in Verizon...

From some of the comments, you appear to be talking about something cruder than the Verizon Network Extender. I cannot be sure, though.

I have one of the Network Extenders in my house. It certainly improves in-house communication for both voice and 3G (only the newer ones do the 3G). It DOES report its position, using its GPS device. Verizon can vary the power output.

I can control which-Verizon-customers routinely use it (I don't do that now). Verizon advises that, if someone dials 911 (emergency), they might jack up the power on my Network Extender to handle the call. The 911-user does not have to be on my control-list, either.

Any user can dial #48 to find out if they are going through a network extender. They can then go-around the network-extender, if they like.

Like the other comment, It appears to give about 100 feet of coverage. I paid a one-time charge for the device, there is no monthly component. Verizon DOES NOT give a break for data-time through the device. If you are limited to x minutes, you could certainly exhaust all of that time through the extender. It also uses my cable-modem, so it competes for bandwidth with Netflix, computer, cable-phone and any other usage of the resource.

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Gold badge

Not a femtocell!

A signal booster is not a femtocell! That is, it's not a Verizon Network Extender, it's not a Vodafone SureSignal, etc. A booster simply takes whatever it receives, amplifies it, and retransmits it.

Some US Carriers have sold them. Some of them out west ran cell sites with over a 50 mile signal radius, so people out on towards the edge of the service area (or *past* the edge of normal service) could get a booster, perhaps a directional Yagi antenna, and have plenty of signal strength for their phone.

I'm actually with the cell cos on this one. I figure there are 2 likely outcomes, neither desirable. I figure either people either people will abuse boosters (for instance, buying a booster because they "only get 3 bars", LOTS of AT&T users are already buying femtocells because they get 2 or 3 bars but bad service, so i could see them buying boosters instead) and this will generate additional service problems. Or boosters will become fully FCC-approved but will be absolutely neutered, so people who have a legitimate use for one will no longer find one that has the amplification they need. I do think the cell cos should permit boosters (not requiring femtocells) in cases where the booster truly increases service though; in general, they already do though.

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Gold badge
Grenade

Oh yeah?

"lasted for 21 hours, and led to 2,795 dropped calls and 81,000 blocked or impaired calls".

Translation:

"We saw one of these once and took the opportunity to blame it for our usual shite service."

Seriously though, that's a meaningless statement without the qualification of how many calls get dropped / disrupted in a normal 21 hour period....

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