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New FCC Rules for Cellular Signal Booster Use

What are signal boosters and why are they important?

Signal boosters are devices that can help cell phone users improve their coverage in areas where they do not get a good signal. For example, signal boosters can be placed in homes, small offices, or even in cars or commercial vehicles to provide increased signal strength for cell phones. As a result, the user may complete a call in areas or places where they previously could not. 

When these devices are properly installed, they can help consumers, businesses, wireless service providers, and Public Safety first-responders by extending cell phone coverage to areas that would otherwise have weak signals such as tunnels, subways, inside buildings, and in rural areas. 

Although signal boosters can improve cell phone coverage, malfunctioning, poorly designed, or improperly installed signal boosters can interfere with wireless networks and cause interference to a range of calls, including emergency and 911 calls. 

On February 20, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued Report and Order FCC 13-21 that stipulated new rules to improve wireless coverage through the use of signal boosters. 

These new rules go into effect on March 1, 2014 for Industrial and Part 90 signal boosters, and on April 30, 2014 for Consumer signal boosters, and require signal booster owners to:

  • Obtain wireless service provider consent to operate the device, and
  • Register the device with their serving wireless service provider prior to operation

These FAQs address the main questions regarding the new regulations. For up-to-date, accurate information regarding the guidance, visit the FCC's Website at www.fcc.gov/signal-boosters

Three Types of Signal Boosters: ConsumerIndustrial and Part 90

Consumer Signal Booster

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1. What is a consumer signal booster?

Consumer signal boosters are external devices that amplify cellular signals. These boosters enable individuals to improve wireless coverage within a limited area such as a home, car, boat or RV. These devices are designed to be installed and used "out of the box," that is, without the operator having particular technical expertise or certification, and may be operated only with approved accessories as specified by the original signal booster manufacturer. (FCC 13-21, Paragraphs 13, 21, 46)

2. How do I know if I have a signal booster that complies with the new standards?

All FCC-approved signal boosters will have appropriate labeling.

Refer towww.fcc.gov/signal-boosters for an example.

3. How do I know which wireless service providers have agreed to the new standards?

The leading wireless services providers (Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T Mobility), and many rural cellular carriers that are members of the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) have committed to provide blanket approval for signal boosters that meet the new protection standards. (FCC 13-21, Paragraph 25) 

4. I have anexistingconsumer signal booster that does not comply with the new standards. What must I do?

In the strictest sense, operators of all consumer signal boosters, whether new or existing, fixed or mobile, must obtain consent, and register with, their serving wireless service provider.

However, until a registration process is implemented by wireless service providers, existing signal booster operators can obtain consent from their serving wireless service provider in a variety of ways such as by phone or email.

Upon being notified of the availability of the registration process, the operator must register their signal booster with their serving wireless service provider within 90 days. (FCC 13-21, Paragraphs 127-129) 

Note that there is no requirement to replace existing signal boosters unless directed by the serving wireless service provider. In this instance, if a signal booster is found to be creating interference at a cell site, the operator may be directed by its serving wireless service provider or the FCC, to turn off their signal booster and leave it off. 

5. I have a newconsumer signal booster with appropriate labels that complies with the newstandards. What do I need to do?

Operators of all consumer signal boosters that comply with the new performance specifications, and are appropriately labeled, need only to register with their serving wireless service provider.

6. Do I need to replace my existing consumer signal booster with one that has been approved for use under the new regulations?

No, there is no requirement to replace existing signal boosters with ones that have been approved under the new regulations. 

However, the FCC has determined that the public interest will be best served by permitting consumers to operate existing signal boosters provided they (1) have the consent of their serving wireless service provider, and (2) register their booster with that provider. (FCC 13-21, Paragraphs 127-129) 

7. How do I register a consumer signal booster?

Wireless service providers are required to establish a free registration process by March 1, 2014, in accordance with FCC 13-21, Paragraphs 104-106. 
Wireless service providers will communicate registration requirements to consumers at least 90 days before registration is required. 

At a minimum, the operator will need to provide the following information:

  • Name of the consumer signal booster owner and/or operator, if different
  • Make, model, and serial number of the device
  • Location of the device
  • Date of initial operation

It is possible that the warning label looks different than the sample label below. However, the warning label must include the same information, (FCC 13-21, Paragraphs 115, 123), as follows:

Industrial Signal Booster

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1. What is an industrial signal booster?
Industrial signal boosters include a wide variety of devices that are designed for installation by FCC licensees or professional installers. These devices are typically designed to serve multiple users simultaneously and cover larger areas such as stadiums, airports, office buildings, hospitals, tunnels, and educational campuses.

2. Are there any additional regulatory requirements on industrial signal boosters as a result of these new regulations?

The new regulation is the proper labeling on the equipment. It is possible that the warning label looks different than the sample label below. However, the warning label must include the same information (FCC 13-21, Paragraphs 115, 123), as follows:

3. I had an industrial signal booster installed in my building prior to this change and did not receive consent from the FCC licensee. What do I do?

Contact the FCC licensee to obtain written consent.

Note that a FCC licensee is not obligated to consent to the use of an existing signal booster on its network.

4. Who is a qualified installer?

There are no specific installer certification requirements addressed in the FCC rules. The FCC leaves it up to members of the wireless industry to develop standards for certification programs as needed as they are in the best position to determine appropriate qualifications for technical personnel. (FCC 13-21, Paragraph 116). Many manufacturers have certifications on their products.

Part 90 Signal Booster

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