Ina Fried

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FCC Approves New Rules for Cellphone Signal Boosting Devices

cell_tower2After years of long, sometimes tense negotiations, federal regulators today approved new rules for devices, known as boosters, that improve cellphone signals.

The rub is that the devices operate in the same band of spectrum licensed to the carriers whose signal they are trying to boost. While carriers don’t oppose the notion of their customers getting improved signals, they have been concerned about potential interference caused by the devices.

After years of talks, the carriers, consumer groups and device makers have agreed on a set of rules and technical specifications that will govern such products.

“The order is a product of years of work involving all the stakeholders — [carriers], consumer groups and the booster industry,” said John Leibovitz, deputy bureau chief of the FCC’s wireless bureau. “We’re happy different groups could come together. We think the time has come to create more certainty.”

Wilson Electronics, a leading manufacturer of boosters, was also glad to see a resolution. “Wilson Electronics applauds the adoption of FCC certification specifications for consumer cellphone signal boosters, which will eliminate poorly designed products that currently plague the market and have been a source of cell site interference,” said COO Joe Banos in a statement.

Under the new rules, signal boosters will have to meet an agreed-upon set of technical specifications. While not granted their own license to operate in the airwaves licensed to the carriers, all the major carriers and many smaller ones have agreed to allow the approved boosters to share their license.

There are separate rules for so-called industrial boosters, the kind used to improve signal in a large office building, stadium or subway.


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