Earlier this year, the ACMA consulted on remaking the mobile phone booster declaration. The existing Telecommunications (Prohibition of Mobile Phone Boosters) Declaration 2011 was due to sunset on 1 October 2021.
On 19 August 2021, the declaration was remade to preserve its ongoing effect. It is now called the Telecommunications (Prohibition of Mobile Phone Boosters) Declaration 2021 under the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The declaration prohibits the operation or supply, or the possession for the purpose of operation or supply of a mobile phone booster.
In Schedule 1 of the Declaration, the reasons for prohibition were stated as:
- The operation or supply of a mobile phone booster, and the possession of a mobile phone booster for the purpose of its operation or supply, are prohibited for the reasons set out below.
- The integrity of the telecommunications networks by means of which public mobile telecommunications services are supplied is at risk from the operation of mobile phone boosters because mobile phone boosters can substantially interfere with, disrupt or disturb public mobile telecommunication services by jeopardising the quality and coverage of carriage services. This can cause inconvenience to, or loss of business for, mobile phone users.
- The disruption caused to public mobile telecommunications services by mobile phone boosters can also impede access to emergency call services from mobile phones, which creates a risk to public health and safety.
Mobile networks are carefully engineered to finely balance coverage and interference. Mobile boosters and other devices that broadcast within a licensed mobile band will increase the noise floor reducing the signal to noise ratio, hence interfering with the services of other mobile users in the area.
I recall tracking down an interference source to a 3G network in Wellington NZ. While not a booster the effect was the same. The interference was particularly bad on a Sunday morning. My team triangulated the source of the interference to a church, where Sunday services were taking place. On examination of the wireless microphones used in the church the team found that the importer had placed fraudulent labels over the top of the real labels. The false labels showing that the microphones operated in unlicensed spectrum rather than the licensed spectrum they were actually broadcasting in. The NZ Commerce Commission tracked down all the illegal equipment sold in NZ, confiscated the equipment and fined the importer of the devices.
When Telstra implemented their CDMA network, they discovered many boosters impacting network integrity. Country mobile users had used boosters to amplify their AMPS mobile signal, and this wasn't so much a concern for this technology. However, when CDMA was introduced many users simply used these boosters to amplify their CDMA signal. The result was that they got a great service but to the detriment of everyone else in the cell, as the boosted signal swamped all other valid users.
This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 30 September 2021.