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Ofcom UK Tweak Makes In-Car Mobile Signal Boosters More Useful UPDATE

Friday, July 12th, 2019 (11:08 am) - Score 3,278
ofcom uk telecoms regulator

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today proposed to make a “slight change” to the technical parameters allowed for licence exempt use of in-vehicle low gain mobile phone repeaters (aka – signal boosters / signal enhancers), which in theory could help to improve mobile reception inside vehicles.

Until a couple of years ago it was still considered unlawful (unless approved by a Mobile Network Operator like Three UK, O2, Vodafone or EE) for consumers to use 2G, 3G or 4G repeaters to boost and retransmit UK mobile signals, which can help to improve local mobile coverage but could also cause interference for others nearby, if not correctly managed.

Ofcom changed the rules in 2017 (here) to allow for licence exempt use of such devices, although they also imposed some strict conditions on power and frequency use in order to tackle concerns about interference. Today the regulator has proposed to relax some of those conditions in order to help make the devices more effective.

As before the regulator believes that these changes will help in-car focused boosters, albeit “without giving rise to undue interference or other adverse impacts on technical quality of service of mobile operators’ networks, other mobile users and other users of the radio spectrum.”

Ofcom Statement

Accessing the mobile network from a vehicle can be troublesome for some consumers, particularly where they are travelling at the edge of mobile network coverage. The signal penetration losses through the glass and bodywork of some modern vehicles can mean that, where the mobile phone signal is weak outdoors, it falls below a usable level once inside the vehicle. In-vehicle mobile phone repeaters, also known as signal boosters and signal enhancers, can help to mitigate the loss of the mobile signal through the car’s bodywork

The amendment has been requested by an equipment supplier of low gain mobile phone repeaters which are used in the manufacture of European cars. Having undertaken our own technical analysis, Ofcom considers it appropriate to consult on changes to increase the scope of the current exemption. The proposed changes would:

• Include the 2.6GHz Frequency-division duplex (FDD) band (2500-2570 MHz uplink, 2620-2690 MHz downlink) in the list of licence exempt frequency bands;

• Increase the maximum permitted gain:

a) to 36 dB in relevant frequency bands above 1 GHz from the existing 21 dB; and
b) to 30 dB in relevant frequency bands below 1 GHz from the existing 15 dB.

The changes also work to clarify the way we measure the maximum permitted gain by expressly including any external antenna gains.

NOTE: The current rules only allow for boosters to be used in the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands.

Ofcom also conducted a technical analysis of these changes, which showed that undue interference or other adverse impacts were “unlikely.” The related consultation is now expected to remain open for feedback until 6th September 2019.

UPDATE 5th November 2019

The regulator has completed their consultation and proposed to introduce these changes from 27th January 2020.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar sam

    Ofcom is much use as a chocolate fireguard .

  2. Avatar Yu

    Already see an abundance of people on mobiles whilst driving, this just makes it easier in areas where coverage is poor.

  3. Avatar 125us

    No, this will be used mostly to improve the systems connectivity of modern vehicles. New vehicles contact the emergency services when they determine that an accident has occurred. They also have satnav with live traffic and some share sensor data to allow the onboard safety system to ‘see’ further and in the future will negotiate routes with traffic management systems and find parking spaces and charge points over their network connections.

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