FCC Decision Nears On Cellular-Signal Boosters

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Washington - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide on April 7 whether to ban cellular signal boosters or regulate them to prevent cell-site interference.

Last year, the FCC launched an inquiry into the devices following requests by CTIA, booster maker Wilson Electronics and others.

Signal boosters extend a cellphone's range in the car or home in areas where cellular signal strength is weak.

Booster maker Wi-Ex said it is optimistic that boosters will remain legal. "Based on our numerous briefings, we are optimistic that the ruling will allow boosters that protect the carrier network to continue to be sold legally," a spokesperson said. 

The CTIA, however, contended in a filing last year that unauthorized or "inappropriately installed" signal boosters cause interference in cellular carriers' networks. CTIA asked the FCC to "clarify that the sale or use of signal boosters without appropriate CMRS [commercial mobile radio service] licensee consent is unlawful."

Taking an opposing view, PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association asked the FCC to "explore the best methods of resolving interference issues without resorting to regulations that unnecessarily inhibit the sale and installation of signal boosters, such as requiring prior licensee consent, or hinder market innovations."

For its part,

Wilson Electronics

of St. George, Utah, contended in a filing last year that "well-designed and -engineered signal boosters actually benefit not only wireless customers but the carriers as well." To ensure the boosters are well-designed, Wilson asked the FCC to adopt three standards for approving signal boosters during routine certification.

The FCC, Wilson said, should require all signal boosters to feature:

--effective self-oscillation (feedback) detection and automatic shutdown;

--effective cell tower proximity detection and automatic shutdown to prevent cell-site overloads; and

-bi-directional (tower-to-device and device-to-tower) signal amplification.

Feedback detection and automatic shutdown would prevent inaudible RF-noise-generating over-modulation that "can knock a tower down," the company said. Proximity detection would prevent ambient noise from being amplified when close to a cell site to such an extent that it drowns out other calls made through the site, reducing a cell site's capacity.

For best user satisfaction, two-way amplification should be required, the company added. Some signal boosters only amplify incoming signals, not outgoing transmission.

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