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Cellphone Carriers Try To Control Signal Boosters

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the more-bars-please dept.

Wireless Networking 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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Paywalled (5, Informative)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268646)

I clicked through Google news to get it "free"... http://news.google.com/news/search?q=stricter+regulation+of+signal+boosters [google.com]

Re:Paywalled (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268686)

I'd mod that up if I could. The smarter portion of the world thanks you.

Re:Paywalled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269012)

I don't get it, why does it work that way?

Re:Paywalled (4, Informative)

CityZen (464761) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269254)

Because news sites *want* search engines like Google to see their content, so that people searching for stuff will be directed to them. And they want the people following links from Google to come back. So they try follow the drug dealer's model: we'll give you a bit for free, so that you'll come back and pay for more later. Of course, smart people figure out how to not pay ever, but that's only a small percentage of viewers.

Re:Paywalled (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269728)

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:Paywalled (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269514)

I don't get it, why does it work that way?

Why? They want Google to get through so their site gets indexed. Then people search for this information, click the search result, and receive the sales pitch for the paywall.

This is the link from news.google.com that does NOT show a paywall:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/technology/personaltech/18basics.html?_r=1&src=me [nytimes.com]

This is the link from the Slashdot summary that DOES show a paywall:

http://www10.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/technology/personaltech/18basics.html?_r=5&ref=technology [nytimes.com]

So apparently it's all determined by the tail end of the URL.

Opinionated rant: I can understand a paywall for specialized niche publications but for news? That I can obtain from many different sources? Really? This business model is defective and needs to go the way of the dinosaur. The sooner it does that, the better.

Re:Paywalled (0, Troll)

goingToSay (1192935) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269638)

Google news needs stricter regulation. Nothing should ever be free.

first pot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34268664)

first post

Re:first pot (2, Funny)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268822)

Your repeater is not reliable enough?

Re:first pot (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269104)

Mod parent "repeater"

Why? (1)

mattwrock (1630159) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268700)

Are the carriers planning on having a crappy network and charging us for signal boosters? My house is over a hundred years old, and I bet it has some special materials in it, because it is where signals go to die. If I could get solid reception without have to leave my house for a signal for $250, I would seriously consider it.

Re:Why? (1)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268748)

It's already happening. Both AT&T and Verizon sell them.

I asked about one from AT&T, and either it cost $150 to improve the signal in my home, or I could rent one from them for something like $10 a month.

(Hey, how about you just deliver the service you are charging me for instead?)

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268892)

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.

Re:Why? (1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269100)

(Hey, how about you just deliver the service you are charging me for instead?)

Did you even bother to read the contract you signed? There isn't a wireless company in the United States (and quite probably the World for that matter) that guarantees service indoors. There are too many variables in building construction and material for them to make any sort of promise about indoor reception.

If you aren't happy with your indoor wireless service there are other options available to you. One has been around for over a hundred years, perhaps you've heard of it? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269452)

You really are a dick when people complain about the status quo, aren't you? I mean, your basic answer to every complaint is "shut up, peasant." I kind of picture you worshiping before a hand-made altar to fascism, praying that if you suck up to and defend the powerful enough, they will let you in the club.

Re:Why? (-1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269600)

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

Re:Why? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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? (0, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34270024)

They want people who are smart enough to understand the multi-page small-print legalese

This is not "legalese":

Wireless devices use radio transmissions, so unfortunately you can't get Service if your device isn't in range of a transmission signal. And please be aware that even within your Coverage Area, many things can affect the availability and quality of your Service, including network capacity, your device, terrain, buildings, foliage and weather.

I lifted that straight out of Verizon's customer agreement [verizonwireless.com] . If you need a lawyer to decipher what that paragraph says then your teachers failed you and you should request a refund of the monies that were spent on your education.

Re:Why? (0, Flamebait)

trum4n (982031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269760)

All republicans find an excuse. Oh it doesn't work? TOO BAD. That's the republican attitude. Change is not allowed.

Re:Why? (0, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269968)

I'm not a Republican and if you think it's that easy why don't you get some venture capital and roll out a wireless product that promises service indoors? You can start by hiring an RF engineer and asking him what it will take to deploy a product that is guaranteed to penetrate all known building materials without any appreciable signal degradation. When he gets done laughing at you maybe he'll explain the reality of radio transmission and the signal attenuation caused by physical obstructions.

Re:Why? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269706)

Maybe it's not part of the contract, but that doesn't solve the issue. Dial-up isn't a workable solution for most people, and if they're in an area where cable or DSL internet service isn't available (I recently spent a month trying to get AT&T DSL service after signing up for it and being told it was available -- eventually I gave up and cancelled). Satellite still requires a modem, and most people don't live in WiMAX range. So wireless is pretty much all there is.

I live in a very large metropolitan area and coverage is spotty with Sprint (my aircard vendor). Literally less than 2 miles east I get max bars, but outside the unit I'm in I get 0 to 2 bars, and download speed is 1/4 of what I get at the other site.

Unfortunately there aren't many choices if you need to be connected. Fortunately in my case I was able to get connected with the local cable provider, as bad as they are.

Re:Why? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269900)

So wireless is pretty much all there is.

I don't dispute that but you still have to abide by the contract you signed when you got such service. There is no way that any wireless service (be it cellular voice, cellular data, wi-fi, digital OTA television, CB radios, etc.) can be guaranteed indoors. There are too many variables in building construction and materials for any wireless provider to make such a guarantee. If they did promise indoor service they would eventually be sued by someone who would not receive such service.

It's nice when wireless services work indoors. I've been cellular only for the last eight years. I've even got a set of rabbit ears on the top of my TV that pick up OTA HD for free most of the time (it flakes out in bad weather). Neither of those services are guaranteed to work in the manner that I'm using them and I have no one to complain to when they stop working.

Here's the relevant part of Verizon's contract, do you think this is really unreasonable?:

Wireless devices use radio transmissions, so unfortunately you can't get Service if your device isn't in range of a transmission signal. And please be aware that even within your Coverage Area, many things can affect the availability and quality of your Service, including network capacity, your device, terrain, buildings, foliage and weather.

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

Enry (630) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269218)

AT&T and Verizon don't sell boosters, they're femtocells [wikimedia.org] . Same result (better signal), different way to get there (femtocells rely on your existing Internet connection).

Re:Why? (1)

dickens (31040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269496)

The Verizon box works well, too. I have two of them deployed, one in an office above an industrial plant. The whole plant downstairs gets good service. The bandwidth used is small, but you do want to reserve some otherwise when your internet is flat-out your cellphone calls will stutter. Also it has to be able to see a window for GPS/E911 (they give you a long cord for the GPS antenna)

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Aren't those microcells? (2, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269922)

As far as I know, what AT&T and Verizon are selling are 'microcells', basically miniature cell towers that convert your phone's signal to VOIP to get to their network; it uses your home's internet connection.

These are a bit distinct from cell phone boosters, which still has you using your phone company's towers by taking your phone's (likely) .25 watt max power signal and amplifying it to the maximum legal power of 2-4 watts*, often using a directional antenna mounted somewhere outside - like the roof.

This would be fine and dandy at my old place which was like 30 miles from the closest tower. Not so good at my parents, who are in some sort of 'signal depression' such that they have even less signal inside, but lots on the roof, the antenna is only about a mile away. Still, most have automatic gain control, so while one on my house might use the full strength(it's got a lot of distance to cover), even with a directional antenna to give me 4-5 bars, my parents might 'whisper', only needing to avoid the interference that the house adds combined with a better line of sight with the added height of the roof.

I did quite a bit of research on boosters because, well, I had lousy signal in my old(rural) place, but balked at the $500 to do a proper job of it, and it was before microcells started becoming available. Then I found out my job was moving me, and it became academic.

*Actual level dependent upon frequency, country, and other factors.

Re:Why? (1)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268768)

Its called lead paint dude. I had the same problem with an old rental place I used to live in. Party at your place when the Nukes start flying!

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269146)

Old plaster walls often use wire mesh as a support material. Some reinforced concrete does also.

Look at the bright side: it keeps your wifi secure from your neighbors! (Or: it encourages you to use a fast, reliable wired network instead of a slower, flakier wireless one.)

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269476)

Your house is built with a special alloy of Zirconium and Iridium, and designed by an architect who was a deacon in the church of worshippers of Goser, the traveler. Your place not only kills electromagnetic radiation, it is also spook central.

Re:Why? (2, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269800)

I, for one, welcome the impending delivery of marshmallows in the form of my new tasty s'moverlord.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Can't read article. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268708)

Fail. 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? It used to be commonplace (cars driving around with them on their roofs).

Re:Can't read article. (0)

BC_R3 (1942996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268846)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/technology/personaltech/18basics.html?src=tptw [nytimes.com] Cell service providers are opposed to these because they don't have control over them. Because they are no made by the service providers, cell companies can't make money off of them but are still liable for the security risks they create.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269036)

What security risks???

Next I suppose the megacorps will tell me I can't use a room-mount antenna with my TV or FM radio. Or Comcast will say I can't use any box but theirs.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269746)

Comcast has already done this in many areas. Recently I received a letter stating that without their new digital boxes I would receive channels 2-22 and 97-99 only. They had already removed the TV Guide channel. Good thing I qualified for 1 "real" box and 2 DTA's for free -- my association dues pay for cable and I wasn't about to start paying for it twice.

Re:Can't read article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269958)

Someone else's phone connecting to your (custom, modified or poorly protected) booster that is recording their calls/data?

Someone setting the equipment up in a populated area could potentially snag a lot of data before being discovered, in a similar fashion to the fake wifi points you still see crop up at airports. Presumably, they want people to buy 'black box' devices that can't be modified without destroying them in the process.

Your TV and FM radio only receive broadcast data, they don't have devices connecting to them as a relay for private communications.

Re:Can't read article. (3, Interesting)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Can't read article. (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268848)

I'd guess it's wrong because that doesn't make the carriers any money? Although, it probably does in the long run if you consider customer experience an important factor.

Re:Can't read article. (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268872)

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.

Re:Can't read article. (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269110)

>>>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.

Re:Can't read article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269278)

....Yet.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269324)

or force me to go die in Nam or Iraq or some other stupid war.

Who was "forced" to go die in Iraq? Did we bring back the draft while I wasn't looking or something?

Re:Can't read article. (0, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269552)

Just because they didn't use the draft this time, doesn't mean Government has lost its power to force people to go die. The draft was used in the Civil War, WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and can certainly be used in the future.

BTW ww1 was a complete waste of american lives.

Americans opposed it, democrat candidate Wilson ran on a "keep us out" election, and then went to war a month later, PLUS arrested anyone who dared say american participation was a bad idea (in violation of the 1st amendment). There was no more reason for us to interfere in that European War then in the earlier Napoleonic Wars. It was an internal affair.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269742)

Just because they didn't use the draft this time

So you lied. Thank you, we accept your apology.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269998)

You've gone mad.

The honerable slashdotter commodore64_love only mentioned that corporations could not force him to war in Iraq. There is no mention anywhere that anyone was forced by any organisation to go to war in Iraq.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34270032)

AFAIK, the duty length was modified twice, retroactively. I.e. people were forced to serve in Iraq for a longer time than they initially signed up for. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269362)

And my libertarian friends wonder why I hate both government AND mega-corporations.

That's a non-sequitor, libertarians aren't in favor of government-created monstrosities of any form.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269524)

Libertarian politicians are government-created monstrosities ^_^

Re:Can't read article. (3, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Can't read article. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269200)

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.

Imagine that, they want control over the equipment that's broadcasting a signal on the spectrum that they paid billions of dollars to license. Next you'll tell me that your local FM radio station had the nerve to get pissed when you started repeating a signal on their channel.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269528)

technically, the issue would be fine if it were just that. No FM that I know about would have an issue with this based on how FM works.

the issue here would be more like you repeating an FM station between two towns that BOTH have stations using the same frequency, because you want to hear one of the two stations.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 3 years ago | (#34270018)

Was that sarcasm? I know lots of radio stations that love people for repeating their signal for them. It's win-win! If you were sending another signal on the same frequency it would be something else entirely but that's not what a repeater does.

Re:Can't read article. (4, Informative)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269294)

No, they DON'T like boosters.

this is a fundamental issue in the way wireless communications works, when you stand in one spot in a city within range of three towers, your cell phone attempts to modulate itself onto a portion of the spectrum that will allow it to speak. This in turn means that all three towers now can hear you.
because all three towers can hear you, but only one is responsible for carrying your traffic the others make that channel unavailable to the people within range of the other two towers. the only thing the towers can do is reduce power to the quadrant the handset is in, allowing people closer to the tower to use it at the same time. even THIS however is limited: if the MobileStation can still reach the other two towers, they can't reduce power far enough to allow anybody else to use those channels.

once you install powered signal boosters, your cell phone now may be able to reach twenty towers. those towers each have a limited number of 'slots' available for users to use, (infact the number of GSM channels is currently around 32, though through timeframing of each channel there are 7-14frames per channel/second) meaning that you effectively are now multiplying your capacity based on how many towers you can hit.

the issue here is NOT with people that are in small towns/remote location, telco's are happy to let people put up their own repeaters to enlarge the telco's network at no cost to the telco. the issue they have is that people in downtown apartments with lead paint think that by hitting every tower in 15 square blocks just so they can repeat it indoors for one customer is a good thing.

by using the air to communicate: you have to learn to share it with others. we only have one global collection of air for which EMR can radiate.

Re:Can't read article. (5, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269448)

because all three towers can hear you, but only one is responsible for carrying your traffic the others make that channel unavailable to the people within range of the other two towers

This is a overly simplistic explanation. GSM uses frequency hopping for the uplink (i.e: phone to tower) channel to mitigate this sort of interference. The other towers don't perceive your phone as anything other than random background noise. CDMA uses a different mechanism (spread spectrum using a pseduo-random code) to achieve the same results, plus it has the added benefit of being able to do soft-handoffs [wikipedia.org] , i.e: your phone is literally talking to multiple towers at the same time.

The whole point of digital technology is to enable multiple users to share the same channel. Repeaters don't really defeat this. What they can do is increase noise along with signal, usually to the detriment of any phones within range of them. The carriers are rightfully peeved about them because they've spent billions of dollars to license the spectrum that they use and were supposed to have exclusive rights to deploy devices that transmit on that spectrum.

Re:Can't read article. (2, Interesting)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269896)

Whaaaaaaaaaat!

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:Can't read article. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269664)

>>>only one tower is responsible for carrying your traffic; the others make that channel unavailable to the people within range of the other two towers.

Bzzzz. That's how it worked under the old Analog frequency division multiplexing, but it's not how it works on modern Coded multiplexing which allows multiple users to use the same channel concurrently.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269804)

I'm not trolling, but are there really so many towers in large areas that you have many available? We don't seem to have a large number of towers in South Florida (many spots without coverage for both Sprint and AT&T).

Re:extra towers (1)

microcars (708223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269432)

while I agree with your comment that they want to regulate away the competition that they have no control over, it is just not that easy to "put up extra towers".
I have terrible service in my home and there is nowhere they can stick up another tower in my residential neighborhood.
I would let them stick a tower in my backyard but the neighbors won't allow it.
They all want great reception but they don't want the towers anywhere near their homes.
The only solution I can think of is to use existing above ground Utility poles for micro-cells or something.
Or buy a Femtocell (which is what I did and it pretty much solved all my problems). What incentive do they have to put up micro-cells on Utility poles when people like me will actually buy femtocells?
I'm not sitting around waiting for them to increase coverage "someday". I need coverage NOW. $150? fine, done.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269954)

Why they might like that, that's not the reason. They're a non regulated device broadcasting signal on a regulated spectrum. They want to be sure they comply; otherwise they may* interfere with the spectrum.

*If not regulated, I can guarantee you poor quality device with little or no controls will eventually saturate the market.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268898)

Sounded like they didn't want other companies selling boosters. They want to be the only ones capable of providing such devices. Or even eliminate the concept of the boosters entirely, and move towards funneling calls over the customers broadband connection.

That allows a business model like Verizon's, where they will be more than happy to charge you for the device to send their calls over your own internet connection.

Re:Can't read article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34268922)

A big problem is them actually making the signal worse through feedback interference. It's the same concept as putting a microphone in front of the speaker it feeds, a the sound goes right back ino the mic and causes a feedback look and an insanely loud noise. If you install signal boosters so that the indoor antenna can feed back to the outside, you actually make reception worse both inside and outside your house. You have to actually have some idea of what you're doing and how to test these things. Do carriers want to make money selling them instead of you getting them on the open market? Of course. But they also want to make sure you're using good equipment installed properly, because otherwise it interferes with the rest of their network.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

notgm (1069012) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269234)

rf engineers don't like these boosters because they extend signals in unpredictable/uncontrollable ways.

if a cell site is propagating signal incorrectly, it can be fixed via down-tilt, power-stepping, or a host of internal-to-the-system parameters.

however, if a cell site is propagating signal just fine, but some joe is extending its signal five miles beyond its expected range, and another joe is pulling from him another two miles away, it becomes nearly impossible to predict how adjustments will affect the rest of the network.

certainly, the corporations want to make money, and can, selling pre-configured in-house repeaters, but letting anybody extend a LICENSED signal on their own, without a license is just asking for trouble.

Re:Can't read article. (1)

notgm (1069012) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269280)

a clarifying point - a passive antenna on a car or house is not a booster - the devices in question take the signal in, amplify it, and retransmit it.

The monster truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34268714)

We don't need more regulation, the market is working just fine. No need to put the monster truck in drive.

The obvious answer (5, Insightful)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:The obvious answer (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269086)

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?

Ah, but they want the customer to pay *them* (the carriers) for the privilege of solving the carriers problem, not some upstart little company who has started selling boosters on Amazon.

Surely, a new level of greed.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269130)

I concede the point. at&t already tried to sell me one of their femtocells. I told them to fix their damn coverage. They had actually turned off 3G on the local tower... but that's another story.

Re:The obvious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269554)

Hmmm. Turned off a 3G tower to save money. Charge consumer for femtocell to increase profit. Wow. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Exactly, and they really work. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269538)

Ah, but they want the customer to pay *them* (the carriers) for the privilege of solving the carriers problem, not some upstart little company who has started selling boosters on Amazon.

You're not kidding. I recently installed a Wilson [amazon.com] booster that I got from Amazon, and it's like a whole new world for me.

Usually I had about 5 minutes of signal coverage leaving work, which is only useful for short conversations. On my long Interstate drives I'd lose signal about every 15 minutes, which made drive-time talk unpredictable. And this is on Verizon - no other carriers have close to their signal here.

With the booster, I can have a meaningful conversation on my whole ride home. There are no dead zones on my Interstate drives, so I can whittle down my GTD calls list on the road.

One thing to be aware of is that these things require an earpiece. 2010 is a good year for them - I got a Motorola Bluetooth setup from NewEgg for about $40 and it's actually great. I have a small collection of them from previous years which all suck big time. The only downside is the Motorola unit comes in a monstrous piece of cast aluminum packaging. I guess it's to thwart retail-store theft, but via NewEgg it's environmentally reprehensible.

Anyway, the Wilson booster paid for itself the first week I had it. I have a second one at my office to install in the wife's car this weekend.

Now, if I could only get PagePlus to port our numbers I'd be really happy.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269704)

While I was working at Sprint a few years ago, they began talking about phones with wifi that would use a home users internet when network signal was low. I remember thinking the same thing "Way to offload your job onto the customer." They would also get to *pay* for this feature as another service charge.

Tough call... (5, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Tough call... (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269090)

Of course, they already have a ton of random devices all successfully sharing the airwaves. I can pop a SIM card in any random (unlocked, sigh) GSM phone that works on at&t frequencies and expect it to work. Why is it that it's just the cell repeaters that are a problem?

Re:Tough call... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269356)

Perhaps because a GSM phone conforms to the GSM mobile phone standard, whereas a signal booster is a device that retransmits all radio signals in a certain part of the spectrum?

Or to use the car analogy: there's a reason why Amtrak would get annoyed at you trying to drive your Honda Odyssey over its rails, despite the large number of different locomotives that work on it.

Re:Tough call... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269478)

I used to use a cellular repeater at my home because of poor AT&T coverage in my area and the inability of the carrier's weak signals to penetrate the structure of my house. It was fine for bringing minimal-to-decent outdoor signal into the house, but the repeater's output was very low (2-3 bars inside the house was typical). The signal was not strong enough to be picked up outside of the house (or even in the attached garage), which is by design (else the outside antenna would be pick up the inside transmitter and you would have a signal loop). The transmitter was so weak that when AT&T finally stood up another tower in my area and began providing good coverage, I had to turn off the repeater to keep my phones from choosing the weaker repeater signal over the solid carrier signal while inside the house. Outside, the phones always chose the tower signal.

TL;DR: the residential cell repeaters such as the $500 PowerMax unit I installed do not put out a strong enough signal to cause interference with other cellular users - at least not in a typical single-family housing, residential neighborhood. Maybe in a condo/apartment block it's a different story.

Booster recommendations? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268828)

Can anyone give recommendations to cell phone boosters that they have used? I'm with T-Mobile and typically get 1 bar in the house (if I am lucky). T-Mobiles solution is to allow calls via Wi-Fi but that only works if you have wi-fi enabled phone AND a contract - and I have neither. And I don't want to change carriers either.

Re:Booster recommendations? (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268998)

Wilson makes an absolutely fantastic booster for GSM, the 812201, which is a "direct connect" (wired) booster for a single device. I've used it with data cards and cell phones along zero-bar areas like Amtrak lines in Pennsylvania (suddenly had 3 bars and was the only person on the train with a working cell phone) and in Utah, which has sparse GSM coverage due to low population. This isn't a good house solution, but it'd make me willing to bet on their other products.

Re:Booster recommendations? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269056)

The zBoost repeaters work pretty well. I got an YX-500 from Ebay for $100, and it works nicely for T-mobile. (Be sure to check that the frequencies supported by a given model match the ones used by your service provider.) Proper setup is important: the antenna to the cell tower must get an adequate signal, and it must be a minimum distance away from the repeater. The zBoost is nice in that you can use regular TV coax cable to connect the external antenna to the repeater.

In the building where I am, the cement is reinforced with wire mesh, and thus I could only get a signal standing near a window. With the repeater, I don't have that problem anymore.

Re:Booster recommendations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269060)

Get a Nexus One and search the XDA forums for the wifi calling solution. I have no contract on Tmob and it works wonderfully.

Re:Booster recommendations? (1)

thynk (653762) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269386)

You might check out UMA or wifi-calling that Tmob has on some of their handsets. I use it on my G2 and it's beautiful for voice and SMS (Not MMS).

Does not supprise me. (3, Interesting)

dhickman (958529) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Does not supprise me. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269256)

An old ham radio saying is all an amplifier does is amplify crap.

My old WISP employer learned this lesson the hard way. "Sure, we have -100dBm of received power and a negative signal to noise ratio, but I'm sure this $20 amplifier that exceeds the allowable FCC power limits will enable it to work!"

Re:Does not supprise me. (5, Informative)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269264)

An old ham radio saying is all an amplifier does is amplify crap.

That may be true if the device is solely placed where the signal is poor, the tuner is inadequate, the antenna is bad, and the amplifier has nothing to work with, but the solutions that I've seen nullify many of these problems.

These devices have two parts. One part, located ideally outside, high up, talks to the cell company. the other part, located where the poorest signal is normally, talks to the cell phones. On top of that, these devices have much larger antennas than the phones do, and with more size they can also have better radio tuners. So, you're not amplifying crap, you're getting a better signal and forwarding it to another device that is in an area that can't get the original.

Re:Does not supprise me. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269994)

Not to mention, some repeaters are digital. The whole point of a digital repeater is that an amplifier can correct the shitty signal.

Also not to mention: Phones are TWO WAY. A nearby repeater greatly increases the disproportionate outgoing range of your cell phone.

If you've ever been able to hear someone on your cell, but they can not hear you, you probably could have benefited from an amplifier.

Re:Does not supprise me. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269810)

An old ham radio saying is all an amplifier does is amplify crap.

If a HAM operator has bad reception, they've got bad reception in pretty optimal receiving conditions: a good antenna in a sensible place. So the signal must be the limiting factor. Amplification is not going to help that. Cellphone users try to get reception on tiny antennas, next to their leg, in the middle of their house. The signal outside might be pretty decent. Repeating it indoors could rescue it.

Passive Boosters? (2, Interesting)

Joe U (443617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268948)

Anyone ever try a passive booster?

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

Re:Passive Boosters? (3, Interesting)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269306)

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.

Re:Passive Boosters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269328)

I made 1 for Metro PCS for use in my house where the reception was spotty.

It did improve the reception to where it stopped dropping calls but I did not notice an improvement in the number of bars displayed.

Re:Passive Boosters? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269686)

Fewer and fewer phones are coming with connectors for external antennas.

Simple solution for carriers. Do the right thing (1)

nevermindme (912672) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268964)

Simple solution for carriers. Do the right thing and provide PICOcell (to Broadband) or Repeaters at zero cost and control the equipment. Instead of litigation, spend some time to develeop a single chassie, E911 (dGPS), software radio, 30 day UPSed, solution and send a text invite to everyone who has a single bar at the same address they get their bill sent to. Now if they were real smart they could add WiMax and WiFi and make every one of these points where customers could opt in for additional services.

Carriers Prefer Charging for the Boosters (3, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Carriers Prefer Charging for the Boosters (3, Informative)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269542)

Mod parent up - boosters sold by others still use their towers, femtocells sold by the carriers use your internet connection. If they can outlaw the boosters, the carriers win twice.

Re:Carriers Prefer Charging for the Boosters (1)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269962)

I make a living writing embedded software for telecommunications equipment and am also a ham radio operator, so I have a hard time seeing why this isn't blindingly obvious to everyone, but if you want more wireless bandwidth and less congestion, each individual's signal must have the lowest power necessary for reliable communication.

For example, say you have 100 cell phones in active use at any given time in your neighborhood. If every cell phone signal in that neighborhood is boosted to be able to cover the entire neighborhood, each subscriber necessarily is limited to 1% of the available wireless bandwidth for that neighborhood. If you limit each signal to the walls of a person's home, every individual gets 100 times more bandwidth because they aren't competing with their neighbors. You can always lay more fiber to increase bandwidth. Increased wireless bandwidth is only possible by limited technological improvements. That's an over-simplification, but you get my point.

Boosting an individual's signal may be temporarily good for that individual, but bad for the system. There are alternatives that are good for both the individual and the system. Hence, the desire for regulation.

carriers: "We don't need not regulation" (1)

ndbecker (1943024) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269068)

Right now, the carriers are having their drones (congressman, esp Republicans) argue there is no need for regulation of the internet. Oh, but I guess we need it when it's in their interest.

Passive Repeaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269182)

Grab two big beefy high gain cell phone antennas, these should be at least a foot or two tall and well thought out. Also grab however much low loss coax you need, the pricier the better, and connectors to go on the end of the cable to plug it straight in to the antennas. Connect it all up and stick one antenna somewhere you know you have good service ("full bars") and the other end where you need service. I would suggest using a very high gain directional antenna of some sort for the "link to tower" side of the system. If you do a good job installing it, it will work fine. If you just throw the ends around and ignore grounding it won't work at all. There is nothing illegal about doing this, whereas active solutions are obviously in a bit of a grey area because they actively transmit on licensed frequencies.

The only time you should ever need an active solution is if you have a very large area to cover (like an entire multistory office building, not your house). A passive system works for smaller areas only because the phones are close enough to an endpoint to have overcome the losses in the system.

I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to realize how and why this works. The benefits should be obvious though.

UMA Over Wi-Fi Acomplishes the same thing (1)

bamwham (1211702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269188)

This is (one of) the reason(s) I started getting Wi-Fi capable phones. Plus I only have to have my wireless router configured. Seems like the better solution than a separate antenna system. Of course not every service supports UMA capability - or at least not on every phone that could have it.

Interesting tidbit FTA... (1)

InvisiBill (706958) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269262)

The article mentions that AT&T and Verizon are selling femtocells for $150 and $250 respectively, while T-Mobile has some "WiFi phones" that can use VoIP directly and Sprint gives out their femtocells for free to customers with proven signal issues.

Unlike AT&T and Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have not told the F.C.C. of any concerns about boosters.

While I do understand that a proliferation of random radio devices could very well lead to issues, it does seem a bit suspect that the carriers selling competing products are complaining about this, while the carriers that are not selling them have not mentioned this problem.

Who deserves the right to capitalize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34269320)

Assuming that the security and regulation of these devices is sorted out, the question in my mind is "Who deserves to capitalize on the boosters"? As land lines continue on a trend that leads to them being completely obsolete, the demand for these devices will become much greater. There are few things more frustrating then knowing that you can download a movie more seamlessly then make a phone call within your house. Some sort of device will be needed to allow for cell phone reception to be clear both indoors and outdoors. If it is decided that the service providers should have control to more adequately control the boosters, how will this affect consumers? Will it strengthen the strangle hold that the major providers have in the market? Maybe the best solution would be for the companies currently selling these products to make an agreement with the cell providers that allows for control. This agreement could involve payment to the service providers to use their network. There should be some advantage for the companies who first moved into the market.
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