Mobile

FCC OKs cell phone signal boosters & proposes Wi-Fi decongestant plan

Good news, everyone! Your frequently crappy cell phone signal should be getting much better thanks to new regulations approved by the Federal Communications Commission today.

The regulations are for the use of devices called boosters, which are able to amplify cellphone signals and should help people who live in rural areas or spots where their phone’s wireless covering is just spotty.

Previously, wireless carriers were against the use of booster devices due to concerns they would cause interference for each others’ customers. However under the new regulations, the boosters must operate on the same band of spectrum as the cellphone signal it’s trying to boost, thus minimizing the chance that cell signals will actually be worse for people. Carriers, consumer activist groups, and device manufacturers agreed on the regulations.

“Removing consumer and industry uncertainty regarding signal booster use and operation will promote further investment in and use of this promising technology. Signal boosters not only help consumers improve coverage where signal strength is weak, but they also aid public safety first responders by extending wireless access in hard-to-serve areas such as tunnels, subways, and garages,” the FCC said in a statement. “This Report and Order reflects a common sense, consensus-based technical solution that will help millions of consumers across the country.”

The new regulations go into effect March 1 and create two classifications of boosters for commercial and industrial use that must adhere to the new FCC-approved standards.

Stuffy spectrum: FCC’s Wi-Fi decongestant proposal

The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon

While cell phone boosters may fix one problem, they don’t really address the congestion of wireless spectrum within the country. The growing number of wireless networks and services available in public venues (hotels, airports, coffee shops, etc.) hinders people from connecting their devices.

The FCC also moved to ease some of that congestion today with a proposed plan to make a large chunk of spectrum — currently used by governmental and commercial organizations — available for unlicensed devices like Wi-Fi routers and gadgets using Bluetooth. This would mean fewer connectivity problems for those crowded public areas as well as faster data speeds for those using wireless devices at home. If approved, the proposal would also require that government and commercial groups/services receive consultation to ensure that there isn’t any interference with the new public usage.

“And in the words of The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: ‘Everything is better with Bluetooth,'” said FCC commissioner Ajit Pai in a statement (PDF).

The proposal, which does not indicate the creation of a nationwide public Wi-Fi network, identifies a portion of spectrum that was discussed earlier this month. The FCC wants to free up an additional 195 megahertz of spectrum to increase Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band by 35 percent.

“Today, the FCC takes a big step to ease congestion on traditional Wi-Fi networks, which will mean faster speeds and fewer headaches for U.S. consumers,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement.

Sheldon Cooper image courtesy of CBS


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