FCC approves new rules for cell phone signal boosters & proposes Wi-Fi decongestant plan

February 21, 2013

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

The regulations are for the use of devices (called boosters) that are able to amplify cellphone signals, which 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 because of the risk that it would cause interference for each others customers. However under the news 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. The new regulations were agreed upon by the carriers, consumer activist groups, and device manufacturers.

“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 creates two classifications of boosters for commercial and industrial use that must adhere to the new FCC-approved standards.

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

Today the FCC also moved to ease some of that congestion under a proposed plan to make a large chunk of spectrum — which is currently used by governmental and commercial organizations — available for unlicensed devices like Wi-Fi routers and gadgets using Bluetooth. This would mean less 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 wasn’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 a statement (PDF).

The proposal, which does not indicate the creation of a nation-wide public Wi-Fi network, identifies the portion of spectrum that was previously 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

Copyright 2013, VentureBeat

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