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Ofcom UK Approve Indoor and In-Car Mobile Signal Boosters

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 (11:49 am) - Score 4,754
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The UK telecoms regulator has today announced their decision to licence exempt “mobile phone repeaters” for indoor use and in-vehicle (low gain) use from early 2018. The move means that previously unlawful amplifiers could now be used to boost 2G, 3G and 4G mobile signals, albeit only under strict conditions.

At present it’s still unlawful (unless approved by a Mobile Network Operator like Three UK, O2, Vodafone or EE) for consumers to use repeaters that boost and retransmit UK mobile signals, which can help to improve local mobile coverage but may also cause interference or other adverse effects for nearby customers if not correctly managed.

Ofcom’s new policy changes this and would of course come attach to some extra conditions, such as a requirement that the repeaters operate only over the frequency bands of any single licensed network operator at a given time. Related devices must also adjust their power to the minimum necessary to make a reliable connection and incorporate anti-oscillation measures.

Ofcom’s Statement

Having carefully considered the responses we received, our decision is that we should make the use of certain mobile phone repeaters lawful on a licence exempt basis. However, we have made several changes to the technical requirements to remove some ambiguity and to ensure that the operation of repeaters is not likely to involve undue interference or adversely affect the technical quality of service of mobile networks or other services. We will:

• make it clear that transmissions on downlink frequencies shall only be authorised indoors or in-vehicle as appropriate and remove the wording “intended for”;

• make the radiated limits explicit with a TRP2 limit for in-vehicle repeaters and an EIRP3 limit for indoor repeaters;

• limit mobile phone repeaters, when re-transmitting GSM uplink signals in the 900 MHz band to a maximum power of 2 Watts and in the 1800 MHz band to a maximum power of 1 Watt4;

• not include the 2.6 GHz band in the licence exemption for the time being pending further discussion with the MOD and the Civil Aviation Authority (“CAA”);

• specify the downlink power limit as 10 dBm / 5 MHz, capped at 17 dBm for wider bandwidth systems. This limit will facilitate the use of wider channels, such as 10 or 20 MHz LTE carriers;

• clarify that the 100 dB gain limit for indoor mobile phone repeaters is a maximum system gain limit; and

• include a maximum noise figure of 7 dB in our technical requirements.

Ofcom do not intend to prescribe the mobile phone technologies that can be used with these repeaters (although they do exclude 2.6GHz for now and that’s often used with 4G) and static wideband repeaters will remain unlawful.

Ofcom’s Technical Requirements (Mobile Repeaters)
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/../Repeaters-Statement-2017.pdf

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. RuralBroadbandAndMobileSucks

    What’s the catch?
    Has Ofcom decided to help the rural consumers?
    There must be some kind of hidden problem as this seems like something that could actually help me.
    This could fix my issue that I can’t currently get a mobile signal at home.
    No mobile signal means i can’t get mobile calls or texts.
    No SMS texts means I cannot use my credit card online as the banks insist on sending a verification text for every online purchase.

    • If you can’t get a mobile signal at home but you do have a 2-4Mbps or faster fixed broadband line then some of the main mobile operators do sell Femtocell routers, which use your fixed line data connection to help boost the indoor mobile signal (e.g. Vodafone SureSignal and Three UK’s Home Signal).

    • Gavin Davies

      As well some mobile operators support call and texts over WiFi, ether via a app or some new phones have it built in. Personally I would call your mobile network support and see what they can do. Some times threating to leave can help you bag a free booster ( supplied buy network, not off internet!)

    • Michael

      @RuralBroadbandAndMobileSucks.

      This may help…
      mobilesignalboosters.co.uk
      Of course you’d have to make sure you get a booster with the right frequency band for your Network Operator, some are single band only. If you Google about, the are other sites that sell some. It’s worth comparing prices. Hope that helps.

    • RuralBroadbandAndMobileSucks

      Thanks for all your help and advice, is there one that covers multiple providers as we have tried multiple providers and just left our phones on them as they work fine once we get closer to the nearest village/town.

  2. I am an engineer working for Stelladoradus. We manufacture and sell repeaters into mainland Europe. There are several reasons why this OFCOM specification will produce a repeater that is so uncompetitive to the existing cheap and nasty Chinese repeaters on the market that it will not displace them from the market.

    1). The specification requires the repeater to only work on one operators network at a time. What happens if there are 2 or more phones in the household on different networks? Our experience is that if one operator is weak in the building, it is likely that the other operators signals are also significantly reduced and the other phones would require a repeater also.

    2). The requirement that the repeater reads the power that the base station transmits at, and then measures the power it is receiving from that base station and then adjusts it’s gain automatically means that a new chip set has to be introduced into the repeater to do this. This chipset will be similar to that which is in mobile phones . This will add huge complexity and cost to the repeaters, for very little extra network protection, if any.

    3). OFCOM argues that the market experience is that good repeaters drive bad repeaters out of the market. This is what happened in the USA when the FCC legalised broadband repeaters. The USA based WeBoost company (formally known as Wilson electronics) produced a line of very cost competitive, high performance repeaters and completely dominated this market. They drove out almost all cheap and nasty Chinese competition in this area. They still dominate this market. The FCC regulations do not require the repeaters to only amplify a single operator, or to measure the base station power. They achieve the same network protection through other effective means. This means the price point of the WeBoost repeaters was kept low. The OFCOM standard will approximately double the product price point and will make these repeaters so unattractive to consumers that the large market in online sales of nasty repeaters will continue apace.

    4)It appears there is only one repeater manufacturer that can achieve the technical standards OFCOM require. Their repeaters have no outdoor antennas. It is a totally indoor solution,which sounds great for consumers, but our experience is that it often does not work well. The product ratings on Amazon also indicate this. The product is also very expensive and will never drive out the Chinese cheap repeaters.

  3. Maria

    Are devices in the U.S. reliable in the UK? I use SureCall and I love it. I don’t know if towers somehow work better with one device over another. https://www.signalbooster.com/collections/surecall

  4. Anon

    Good news and long overdue.

    Some of us have been forced to break the law for years, we have no mobile signal at ground level on any network, only a weak 2G signal from one operator at rooftop level.

    Add to this we have sub 2 Mbps broadband (on a day when we have any broadband that is) which won’t support a network supplied ‘boost box’ reliably.

    What else can we do except use an illegal cheap Chinese repeater, most of our near neighbours have them too..

  5. Peter

    Have any suppliers announced any approved products yet?

  6. Paul Hammond

    What can businesses (Hotels) do in the UK to improve signal strength across all network operators? Our guests want good signal strength across all networks.

    • Hi Paul
      Please contact me at dan.mayer@netcs.eu
      We specialise in providing multi-operator coverage legally into hotels, and other environments.
      We stock a range of Ofcom compliant repeaters which will be legal from 12th April – but we have a whole solutions range to suit every type of customer.
      Dan

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