The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to remove the personal use restriction for consumer cell signal boosters, Inside Towers reports. These boosters help individuals improve their wireless coverage indoors, in rural areas and underground and may not always require professional installation.
“With our action today, we aim to make that tool a more powerful means of meeting our goal of expanding wireless connectivity,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said during the vote. “Someday, hopefully soon, failed calls can be relegated to the silver screen.”
In 2014, the original rules limited cell signal booster operation to specific spectrum brands in operation then and authorized provider-specific booster and wide-band boosters, which extend coverage by all providers who are in range. The FCC however now says the personal use restrictions on provider-specific devices aren’t necessary anymore. The lift of the restriction allows businesses, schools and public safety entities to use boosters.
“This vote is a great step in the right direction,” Hongtao Zhan, President and chief executive of SureCall, which manufactures and designs cell signal boosters and amplifiers told Connected Real Estate Magazine. “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 on legislation. This decision focuses on narrow band signal boosters and does not yet cover the wide band booster, which is more readily used nowadays. That would likely come to a vote sometime next year.”
Bruce Lancaster, CEO of Wilson Electronics, which also makes cell signal boosters, believes the removal of the personal use restriction will provide relief to small businesses.
“Boosters help users stay connected in areas where the carriers struggle to reach with their network,” Lancaster told Inside Towers. “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. The elimination of the personal use restriction makes this same benefit available to businesses, which have similar connectivity challenges for themselves or their customers.”
The FCC is also looking for public input on how to allow more flexibility for consumer signal booster use. The agency proposed removing barriers to embedding boosters in vehicles and boats. According to Lancaster, when the initial rules went to effect, consumers had to abide by specific registration requirements. Those rules can be tough to follow if the device user is not the original buyer.
“An example is a person buying a car that could have a booster built into the vehicle to improve the connectivity while in the car,” Lancaster said. “Even though the customer purchased the car, they may not be aware of the booster’s presence or the fact that it is improving the connectivity of everyone in the car. Asking this person to register this booster would be complicated and a challenge that automakers have not been able to resolve under the current rules.”
The FCC proposed to rid wideband boosters of the personal use restrictions as well. Its other proposal included authorizing non-subscribers to operate both versions of the signal booster and the agency is looking for a comment on whether to grow consumer signal booster operations to additional spectrum bands.
“We also commend the FCC for demonstrating its leadership by pushing forward these important industry standards,” Zahn told Connected. “Canada just adopted similar regulation on broadband boosters, and we believe the U.K. is following that direction too. Whether this is being brought to a vote in preparation for the 5G future, which has shown to have issues delivering signals inside of buildings, we can’t say. This does show the signal booster industry is winning the acceptance by government, industry, business, and consumers and that indicates a very bright future for SureCall and others in our industry.”
Connected Real Estate