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Wireless Networking

Cellphone Carriers Try To Control Signal Boosters 231

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the more-bars-please dept.
digitaldc writes "[Repeaters], which cost from $250 to $1,000, depending on how much they increase a signal, work by first capturing cell signals through an external antenna, ideally affixed to the roof of a dwelling. A coaxial cable then transmits the signal inside the house to an amplifier and internal antenna, which strengthen and retransmit it to cellphones... In March, CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents cellular service providers, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission demanding stricter regulation of signal boosters."
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Cellphone Carriers Try To Control Signal Boosters

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  • The obvious answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jgreco (1542031) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:01PM (#34268742)

    which is for carriers to improve their coverage, doesn't even occur to them, eh.

    Customers so desperate to be able to use a sucky service that they're willing to do the job a carrier ought to be doing... how many other businesses would *kill* to have that problem?

  • Tough call... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:01PM (#34268750)

    From TFA,
    "Supported by separate filings by AT&T and Verizon, the CTIA claims that boosters interfere with cellular networks and disrupt service to customers. As a result, CTIA has asked the F.C.C. to require that “the use of signal boosters be coordinated with and controlled by commission licensees and the sale and marketing of such devices be limited to authorized parties.” "

    In other words, "we want exclusive rights to sell them, and not because it will make us tons of money and save the cost of improving our networks in poorly covered areas, we are actually looking out for consumers".

    While I'm sure their motivations are at least somewhat greedy, I can't imagine the frustration of living next door to a guy who has a poorly configured or broken repeater that prevents me from making calls.

    tough call...

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:06PM (#34268842)
    If you read the article, the carriers have femtocells. So basically, the carriers want to have the entire financial pie to themselves. They can't do that if other parts of the commercial sector are competing with them, and with potentially better devices as well. So, instead of simply providing a better solution, they're approaching the government to regulate them into oblivion. After all, a government imposed oligopoly is just as good as one they generated themselves.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:08PM (#34268872) Homepage Journal

    I wanted to know "why" the cell companies don't like these boosters. What's wrong with wanting to give your cellphone better reception or transmission?

    They like the boosters, but want regulation that prevents competition, i.e. that you will have to buy the equipment from them, at a mark-up.

    It's even worse for the cell-over-internet boxes, where you buy internet access and route your home cell phone traffic over them. They want control, so they can continue to charge you air time, plus lease for the box, all for using your bandwidth instead of them paying to put up extra towers.

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:15PM (#34268990)
    Read the third paragraph from the bottom to see what's really happening. Carriers don't want boosters dead, they simply want to become the vendors rather than allow smaller companies a slice of the action.

    Furthermore, look at what femtocells, the type of boosters Verizon and AT&T want to sell you, actually do: they "push wireless signals onto the Internet" to improve signal.

    That's right, rather than upgrade networks that the iPhone and Droid will saturate to uselessness within the next year (I hear that in NYC AT&T is already almost worthless), they're pushing a device that works around their own incompetence by shoving your "wireless" signal back onto copper, fiber, or coax before it even leaves your house. They're not just avoiding the issue of under-developed networks, they've figured out how to charge you for it.

    Rather than trying to ban unregulated devices and trying to transform our cell phones into wireless landlines wherever they can manage it, how about they propose better specifications for the "boosters" that actually boost a wireless signal, or spend some money on their damn networks?
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:22PM (#34269110) Journal

    >>>want regulation that prevents competition

    And my libertarian friends wonder why I hate both government AND mega-corporations. We the people no longer matter. Although there is one thing in favor of the megacorps: They can't suck money direct from my wallet, send armed goons to invade my house, or force me to go die in Nam or Iraq or some other stupid war.

  • by swb (14022) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:55PM (#34269696)

    That's my biggest gripe with most libertarians I've met -- when they finally do concede that large corporations are as much of a threat to liberty as government, they blame government for creating them. Which might be true in some instances (eg, government granted monopoly) but in other instances (eg, Microsoft) it's not, or much less so (and depending on the libertarian philosophy, some are opposed to copyright & patent in any form, which may nullify that answer).

    But it strikes me as too easy to *just* blame the government without questioning corporate power at all.

  • Re:Paywalled (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:57PM (#34269728) Journal

    Yeah it seems rather foolish for New York Times to share its article for free, if their goal is to make money.
    If it were owned by George Soros he'd probably block google, just as he's been ripping FOX News videos off youtube.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mysidia (191772) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:58PM (#34269748)

    It's fine as long as you buy the carriers' respective rip-off box products [techcrunch.com], microcells that utilize your internet connection, and relieve their towers of actually having to provide you the wireless service you paid for.

    All while still billing you the same rate for "wireless" air time and cell phone data, even though your own wired internet connection has to be used to feed the backhaul for these microsite devices.

    So you pay up front for the privilege of running a microsite, to make up for the carriers' crappy networks, and you don't get any discount against cell phone costs for using your own cell tower

    Now... if you are the carrier in this very lucrative situation, why the hell would you want to improve your network, or let people run boosters?

    It will cut into your bottom line... that is, unless the competition is perceived as improving and having a much better network.

    The "competition" factor is easily excluded by making exclusive deals with cell phone manufacturers and offering features people will drool over. People will tolerate your network if it seems to work at all, just to get those fancy devices that you have locked into your network exclusively, through deals with third parties.

    Just more evidence that consumers have become sheep.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:24PM (#34270228)

    Did you even bother to read the contract you signed?

    You make it sound like reading through a contract is trivial, and what is written is reasonable because it is written. The things are ubiquitous and intentionally incomprehensible. Every time I've tried to read such service contracts, what I've come away with is "We reserve the right to do whatever we want, and by buying a cell phone you agree to this."

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:48PM (#34270624) Homepage

    The problem with "boosters" is that they're just amplifiers. They're not players in the cell phone RF protocol system.

    Everything that talks in the cell phone bands is supposed to be part of a system that has RF power level control and talks to the cell phone control station. That's what keeps the transmitters from jamming each other. Adding a dumb transmitter isn't helpful. The right answer would be a "femtocell" unit which connects to an external antenna and connected to the cellular network, and is itself a proper player in the RF protocol.

    It would be OK to have a booster if the problem was that you're in a remote location and just need some antenna height to get out. (I'm in such a situation; I'm in a semi-rural area and there's a hill between my house and the nearest cell tower.) What's not OK is installing a booster in Manhattan, where you can't get through because the bands are cluttered, not empty. More RF signal strength just raises the noise floor and cuts system bandwidth. In a crowded area, what's needed is another wired path into the network, not more RF power.

    A cell phone that could seamlessly transition from a cell phone network to VoIP over WiFi would be consistent with the system design. There ought to be an Android app for that.

  • Boo Hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheWoozle (984500) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:55PM (#34270756)

    The answer should be obvious: if they want this, they need to support the ability of the FCC to enforce Net Neutrality.

    What?! What does this have to do with Net Neutrality? It's simple:

    Customer: We want Net Neutrality regulations to ensure a true free market!
    Telco: No! You cannot tell us how to manage traffic on our networks! Regulation is BAD!

    but suddenly the shoe is on the other foot...

    Telco: We need regulation to protect the network! Regulation is GOOD!
    Customer: You need to manage your network better! You shouldn't make this a less free market to solve technical issues!

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gknoy (899301) <gknoy&anasazisystems,com> on Thursday November 18, 2010 @02:03PM (#34270894)

    Pretty much.

    We can't force the cell phone company to give us good service indoors at our work, but you're always free to threaten to go to their competitor. Would they rather lose a $150/month customer on a multi-year contract, or send you a repeater which likely costs not a lot more than that but keeps you as a satisfied customer?

  • Sounds good to me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArhcAngel (247594) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @02:12PM (#34271030)

    Let them get the law but have it regulate all femtocels such that third parties can provide them to end users and carriers cannot charge extra for their use.

  • by s122604 (1018036) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#34271950)
    Not the football game, I'm talking about 27.025Mhz

    How long till we have the tragedy of the commons effect seen on 27MHZ CB...

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