US operators warned increased use of consumer signal boosters could cause harmful interference to their networks, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considered expanding use of the devices into new bands ahead of 5G launches.
As their name implies, signal boosters enhance wireless coverage in areas where signals are weak, such as indoors and rural regions. The FCC currently allows wireless subscribers to operate signal boosters for personal use in a number of low and mid-band frequencies used for 4G service, including 700MHz, 800MHz, and PCS and AWS spectrum.
But with 5G on the horizon, the FCC asked the industry for feedback on removing a personal use restriction and permitting operation in additional bands.
In a filing, signal booster provider SureCall noted the devices will become more important as operators turn to higher spectrum bands for 5G, which are notorious for their short range and high loss. The company asserted there is no technical or legal basis for continuing the personal use restriction and said the FCC should implement a blanket approval for operation on all commercial mobile radio bands going forward.
Operators, including AT&T, T-Mobile US and Verizon, acknowledged the benefits of signal boosters, but warned improper use of the devices could be detrimental to their networks.
Verizon, in its own filing, urged the FCC to consider operation in new bands on a case-by-case basis. The operator also pressed the commission to “ensure that wireless licensees maintain control of consumer signal boosters”.
“The proposals to encourage proliferation of embedded and wideband signal boosters may jeopardise the ability of licensees to exert the control necessary to protect and defend their networks from harmful interference,” it explained.
T-Mobile similarly said it supported expanded increased use of signal boosters, but only on the condition that “wireless carriers may withhold consent where there are legitimate concerns over the impact of the boosters”.
To help protect incumbent networks, Verizon asked the FCC to strengthen registration of wideband and embedded boosters so operators can more easily pinpoint the source of interference should it occur.