COAI Seeks Ban On Illegal Mobile Signal Boosters


The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has asked the Department of Telecommunications to ensure a complete ban on sale of illegal repeaters and boosters, offline or online, through e-commerce websites.

It has also asked the DoT to take up the issue with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to prohibit the import of such illegal boosters in the country with immediate effect.

The DoT has also been asked to request the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to issue appropriate directions to state DGPs/CPs/chief secretaries to take action under law against the sellers of illegal repeaters in the country.

The COAI has pointed out in a letter that the grey market outlets and online ecommerce stores are making illegal low cost repeaters available for anyone to buy and install illegally.

“The concern is that, such wide band devices draw in network signals to provide connectivity to a particular building or area in an unregulated manner, thereby depleting the network strength in other surrounding areas and results into call drops and depleted network quality,” the COAI said.

The telecom industry has voiced its concerns as to how these illegal repeaters have become a major nuisance and are one of the biggest causes for customers facing mobile network issues like call drops and low data speed, especially in densely populated localities.

“Available freely in electronics markets, these repeaters are installed by unauthorised agencies at homes, offices, hostels and guest houses to boost mobile signal strengths. Even landlords and home owners are illegally installing such devices in densely populated areas to attract the tenants, thereby adversely impacting mobile network availability in the entire given area, be it 2G, 3G or 4G networks,” the COAI said.

These boosters are causing spectrum interference to the telecom service providers’ network signals.

Boosters or repeaters, as they are commonly called, have been increasingly installed over the last few years. The equipment works by drawing in available mobile tower signals in low connectivity areas and amplifying and distributing them in small, concentrated locations, such as a building or a cluster of buildings.

In the past, boosters have been used by the operators in areas, where mobile towers cannot be installed easily.

As per established norms, telecom service providers install such repeaters after thorough inspections, only after a request is raised or there is a requirement.

The TSPs make sure that installing a repeater doesn’t hamper the network coverage for people outside the distribution area and does not interfere with other TSPs allotted spectrum frequency, the COAI said.

Since many e-commerce websites/platforms were selling these illegal equipment, the COAI had earlier written detailed letters to the e-commerce companies informing them that possession and sale of such equipment, without obtaining requisite permissions, constitutes violation of the provisions of the Telegraph Act.

Though some of the e-commerce companies have terminated sale of such equipment from their website/platform, some others continue to sell them.

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