The FCC finally moved yesterday on an issue near and dear to Wilson Electronics, a manufacturer of cell phone signal boosters.
The FCC has approved proposed rules that would prevent malfunctioning and poorly designed signal boosters from making it into the market. The devices, critical to improving coverage in rural areas and used by first responders, can cause major interference problems with wireless networks if they are not well-designed and properly used.
“The rules governing the use of boosters is unclear for fixed products and nonexistent for mobile products,” says Joe Banos, COO of Wilson Electronics. “Get the certification standards to where they need to be and the problems will go away.”
In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) adopted yesterday, the FCC plans to require cell phone signal boosters to comply with the network’s technical parameters; automatically shut down if problems arise; shut down when not needed, such as when approaching a base station; provide labeling on the legal use of the devices; and coordinate frequency selection and power levels with the relevant carriers.
The FCC also wants to require users of the boosters to immediately turn the devices off in the event they do cause interference.
The agency had planned to vote on the issue at its open meeting today, but conducted the vote on Wednesday afternoon, a day early.
Wilson Electronics has lobbied the FCC for years on the issue, pushing the agency to adopt standards for cell phone signal boosters in an effort to keep problematic devices off the market.
Some rural residents and public safety officials have taken Wilson’s side, but many in the wireless industry have asked the FCC for an outright ban on the boosters, citing the danger they pose to networks. Wilson’s own boosters have been implicated in some complaints.
“While we have yet to read the NPRM, we remain concerned that poorly manufactured or improperly installed boosters can do much more harm than good for both consumers and public safety officials,” CTIA regulatory affairs executive Brian Josef said in a statement.
Josef, citing boosters from Wilson Electronics that have allegedly caused interference, said CTIA hoped the FCC “keeps these actual, not theoretical, cases of harm in mind.”
The FCC’s decision to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking on standards for cell phone signal boosters could begin to put an end to a long, bitter fight between manufacturers of the devices and network operators. It will require operators to work with cell phone signal booster manufacturers to prevent network interference, opening a dialogue manufacturers say has been lacking in the past.
“Going forward, the FCC certification number on a booster product would be meaningful. Today it means nothing, and therein lies the root of the problem,” Banos says.