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FCC Adopts New Rules for Consumer, Industrial Signal Boosters (2/20/13)
The FCC adopted a report and order with new rules governing signal boosters, which amplify signals between wireless devices and wireless networks. The commission said the rules will substantially improve signal booster design by requiring manufacturers to include safeguards that protect wireless networks.

As a result of the rules, all four nationwide carriers, as well as many rural and regional carriers, consented to the use of boosters on their networks, as long as those boosters meet the technical specifications outlined in the order.

“Removing consumer and industry uncertainty regarding signal booster use and operation will promote further investment in and use of this promising technology,” an FCC statement said. “Signal boosters not only help consumers improve coverage where signal strength is weak, but they also aid public safety first responders by extending wireless access in hard-to serve areas such as tunnels, subways and garages.”

The order addresses two classes of signal boosters — consumer and industrial — with distinct regulatory requirements for each. Specifically, consumer signal boosters must meet stringent technical specifications and are authorized under provider licenses subject to provider consent, voluntarily provided in this case by most carriers. Consumers must register their signal booster with their provider prior to use. Labeling requirements ensure that consumers understand these terms of use.

Consumer boosters can be used on most mainstream wireless bands: cellular, PCS, AWS-1, 700 MHz and ESMR after 800 MHz rebanding. The use of consumer boosters may not cause interference to wireless networks even if a device meets the Network Protection Standard.

The order also details rules for industrial signal boosters designed to cover large areas such as stadiums, airports and tunnels. Industrial signal boosters will continue to fall under the existing authorization process, and must be installed and operated in coordination with licensees.

The commission said a diverse range of wireless providers support the new rules for boosters. In addition, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), which represents wireless manufacturers, voiced its support for the new rules.

“The use of signal boosters improves the reach of wireless networks for consumers, and we applaud the commission’s adoption today of its report and order,” TIA said in a statement. “The commission’s technical and operational rules will provide for enhanced coverage while guarding wireless networks from interference.”

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