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Wireless Networking

Cellphone Carriers Try To Control Signal Boosters 231

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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  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Glendale2x ( 210533 ) <slashdot&ninjamonkey,us> on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:09PM (#34268892) Homepage

    I have one from Sprint at the office. After arguing that I might as well cancel since it's not my problem and I don't want to pay for their coverage hole, they sent me one for free. It has its bugs, but it works more often than no signal at all.

  • by dhickman ( 958529 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:12PM (#34268944)
    An old ham radio saying is all an amplifier does is amplify crap.

    People get amps to make up with poor cell service, and/or the fact that their tiny little handset does not work in a rural area/congested area.

    Since the majority of people out there do not know how to properly install an antenna/transmitter, I am sure that the amps cause all kinds of headaches for the carriers.

    Personally I use in my truck a Motorola M900 ( a full power gsm bag phone) for its excellent hands free and for the high power when I need it.
    Otherwise I carry my N900 around for portablily and cool features, but I do not expect it to work 20 miles from the nearest tower.
  • Passive Boosters? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joe U ( 443617 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:12PM (#34268948) Homepage Journal

    Anyone ever try a passive booster?

    Overly simplified: it's basically an external antenna connected to an internal antenna.

  • T-Mobile 3G Booster (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vuke69 ( 450194 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:26PM (#34269176) []

    Option "I" it's the only repeater on the market that works with T-Mobile 3G in the US.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:27PM (#34269216)

    I think possible interference is a legitimate concern. I don't think requiring the device manufacturers to be FCC type accepted and requiring the repeaters to have variable output is not too much to ask. Hell just mandate the maximum amount of power that can be outputted by the device. I'm pretty sure most of these requirements already exist.

    However getting the FCC to only allow the devices to be sold by the carriers or authorized by the carriers make no sense except to create another legal monopoly in repeater sales.

  • Re:Passive Boosters? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dmgxmichael ( 1219692 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @12:33PM (#34269306) Homepage

    Yes, when I drove a truck. They are very popular with truck drivers and you can find them at any truck stop -- admittedly in a form well suited to being bolted to a truck. Most drivers put the thing on whatever mirror is not holding their CB ariel. I have seen a few suitable for use in a car there though, so look around.

  • by ( 1265320 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:07PM (#34269896) Homepage

    the wireless spectrum is only so large, and you can only multiplex so many people onto any one frequency. Even if you hop the around frequencies: they still only have so many total channels available. as much as one wants to think that the air will scale indefinitely: it doesn't. every time you add more time-slots to a frequency or frequencies to a conversation: it increases the latency and error rate.

    digital technology doesn't quite do the job one hopes it would, as it's still carrying digital representations of analog data. you can only deal with so much latency before it becomes unusable.

    Frequency hopping provides a great increase in the number of signals per band, but this comes at a cost to the surrounding frequencies and introduces an amount of CPU load on BTS's. this in turn leads to increased cost and increased complexity of the network. Frequency hopping is only implemented in dense locations, and not all carriers do it. (in fact, the majority of them don't, though this represents the minority of customers)

    at the end of the day we agree though: hardly-regulated repeaters that occupy the GSM frequency bands are not the best idea in the world.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:09PM (#34269916)

    This of course is great until you realize that ATT will not allow you to use their femtocell if you have a business account as the cell is limited to five devices which you have to explicitly enable. This means guests of your house won't receive any benefit whereas the repeater in this building helps everyone. This biggest issue I usually have with ATT isn't reception though, after installing the repeater I still get system busy and dropped calls all the time. Fortunately my personal cell is Sprint so when I'm really in a bind I'll just use that. Sometimes in the server room I'm on hold for a long time, sucks to have your call drop after waiting a half an hour.

    ATT also locks VOIP out of my phone even though its built into the OS so I can't use the built-in wifi to use my own PBX to make calls. Again, not an issue on Sprint. The owner of the company is almost fed up enough to change, I look forward to the day.

  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @01:10PM (#34269930)

    No, I'm a "dick" when people complain about shit they agreed to while being too lazy to understand what they were agreeing to.

    This happens because companies try to do it both ways. They want people who are smart enough to understand the multi-page small-print legalese agreement, that way they can be held to that agreement. They also want people who are dumb enough and readily believe everything they hear and read enough, that way their marketing has maximum effect.

    Good example: ISPs that marketed "unlimited Internet" with absolutely no qualifiers, and then tried to impose caps, saying "we can do that, see look, it's right there on Page 81 of your ToS agreement..." That didn't turn out so well for the ISPs and it didn't deserve to.

    Do you have any understanding of RF engineering at all? Do you have any understanding of how building materials can interact with and degrade RF signals? No? Then STFU.

    Straw man. It's a marketing issue. It's not a matter of RF engineering. RF engineering is the carrier's problem. It's a matter of "did they tell me, Joe RF-Ignorant Consumer, that I would have great coverage in this area". They're the ones with the engineers, after all.

    The fact that one carrier works well in a given home while another carrier has no signal at all negates any concerns about "building materials" or "signal degradation". I mean, I presume both carriers are using RF within the frequencies allocated for mobile phones. No, it's a matter of whether the coverage is as good as what the marketing promised.

    Your disdain of people who don't understand what they agree to is matched by my disdain for marketers who promise mountains when they can barely deliver molehills.

    -- A different AC.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nabsltd ( 1313397 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @02:08PM (#34270984)

    This is not "legalese"

    Correct, it is technically "weasel words" that basically allow the cell phone company to write off any and all problems with service as something out of their control, thus increasing their profit.

  • by Dee Ann_1 ( 1731324 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @03:33PM (#34272358)


    I was a Centennial Wireless customer for years. They had towers all over and everywhere I went, I had 5 bars of signal.
    Inside any and all buildings, anywhere. My cell phone worked perfectly inside my house which has a steel roof, inside stores, inside METAL buildings.

    AT&T bought up Centennial and they turned off all the Centennial towers. There is ONE AT&T cell tower now to cover the entire area where I live and the signal strength is POOR.
    I get "no signal" inside buildings, inside stores, and especially inside metal buildings. Inside my house, service was usually "no signal" or if I was lucky, ONE BAR.
    I would miss calls, and there were constant dropped calls. I was PISSED. However I have an iPhone and moving to Verizon isn't an option.
    Even when I put my SIM back in my old Nokia the service was still PISS POOR.

    What I did find out through the FCC website, AT&T has turned all the old Centennial towers into ROAMING TOWERS so when I can't get a decent AT&T signal, which is frequently, it jumps me to an old Centennial tower and gives me 5 bars of signal but it says ROAMING here in my home town and I'm charged roaming fees.

    I bought one of those zBoost yx510 boosters. I had an antenna put up on my roof, 22 feet up in the air and I had the inside unit mounted to the ceiling in the center of my house. Now when I'm in my house I get 5 bars of signal, like I used to get on Centennial, before AT&T screwed things up. This booster, and I'm sure others, are great but they only help you in your home, they do no good when you're in a store and have no service there.

    BTW, the cell thinging that AT&T sells, is CRAP. You have to have DSL service and it routes your phone calls through the DSL service and they then charge you data rates for doing so. It's not a cell repeater, it converts your cell phone into a wifi phone more or less. And if you walk out of your house or into your house with the AT&T "repeater" it drops the call, it won't do hand offs. The zBoost does do hand offs flawlessly, I can walk in and out of my personal cell bubble inside/outside and there is no glitch, no drop.

    AT&T is a bunch of inept thieves. They are crooks and thieves and criminals and they rip people off with the WORST service on earth, period.
    I despise AT&T with every fiber of my soul and being.

    I had to spend $400 on this booster to get back service that I once had. I loved Centennial, they were 100% reliable no matter where I went, no matter where I traveled. I never missed calls, never had dropped calls, I was never over charged, I had GREAT terms of 200 minutes a month outgoing and unlimited 24/7 incoming minutes. I would call people and tell them "hey, call me back" and talk for free for as long as I wanted.

    AT&T is garbage. AT&T sucks. Worst company on earth run by criminals that needs to be disbanded and torn down. Capitalism at it's worst.

    By the way, check out this site, []
    They are also on facebook if you look them up. You can report deadzones in your area.

User hostile.