Increase in Illegal Boosters Threatens Mobile Signals in Rural Areas

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If you live in a rural area, you’re used to it. It’s difficult to get a mobile signal. Sometimes it’s near impossible. By not being near a tower, it’s just hard for your smartphone or other mobile device to reach that mobile signal.

What was once difficult is now becoming near impossible. Rural areas that already struggle to pick up a mobile signal are being threatened by an increase in illegal boosters. People who are just trying to increase their own signal are worsening the signal for everyone else.

Ireland’s Illegal Booster Problem

Out of desperation, some people living in rural areas are adding illegal rooftop aerials, mobile boosters, and other illegal equipment, Ireland’s Telecoms regulator ComReg reported a 66 percent rise in this equipment.

It can be worse than the mobile signal becoming weaker, as the illegal boosters can even threaten the success of emergency services. Certainly, it’s not what people are intending when they add an illegal booster.

Air traffic control, gardaí, and the Dublin Fire Brigade faced interference of two-way radio and telemetry systems leading to seven complaints in the last 12 months.

In figures released by ComReg, unlicensed mobile boosters, that are often an aerial perched on a rooftop, have threatened rural mobile networks and add to blackspots.

“Over 60pc of interference to mobile networks in the State is caused by these devices,” said ComReg. “Typically, there is greater use of these amplifiers in rural areas, and locating them often requires many hours of direction finding and travel to locate and remove them.”

News Rural Illegal Boosters Farmhouse

Adding to the problem are rigged external TV antennas. “It is not uncommon for an external TV antenna to be erected with some form of signal amplifier to ensure reception of a strong signal,” claims ComReg in its report.

“A single amplifier can interfere with multiple mobile base stations.”

While the intention is for the mobile phone spectrum to be controlled to guarantee delivery of a signal, in rural areas the amplifiers that are being used are interfering with the process.

It would seem like the system in place has become a Catch-22. With the difficulty in getting a signal in rural areas, people are adding illegal boosters, which only makes the availability of a signal even worse.

ComReg reported finding 283 illegal mobile phone boosters, Wi-Fi repeaters, GPS trackers, radar detectors, and signal jammers that were taken by customs authorities from postal centers over the past year, leading to a 66 percent increase year over.

The Fix

To help fix the problem, ComReg legalized mobile phone “repeaters” that have set frequencies and “intelligent” systems. While they can cost more than than the boosters and are less available, they operate similarly and are preferred, as they don’t interfere with other networks.

Do you live in a rural area? Do you depend on illegal boosters to enhance your mobile signal? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. Seven complaints in a population of more than five million inhabitants?
    Just another scheme to tax the airwaves?
    Look back to the days of illegal CB radios and check the numbers in the late seventies and early eighties!
    This is just another government department trying to justify its funding. :-(

    1. “Look back to the days of illegal CB radios and check the numbers in the late seventies and early eighties.”
      Many truckers are driving around with 1kiloWatt-2kiloWatt “foot warmers” (amplifiers) for their CBs.
      (For those unfamiliar with CB radio, the maximum transmit power allowed by FCC is 4.5 Watts)

  2. A properly installed TV antenna amplifier that feeds TVs by cable cannot interfere with any other services.

  3. You talk about harmfull radiation as if it can only be created by these boosters. You mention that they are illegal. You mention that even television preamps are causing problems. You say we can do better by buying an extremely high priced repeater that can repeat the corrupted signal we do receive. So far your answer is for we the consumer to spend more money on our end when it is our glorious government that gave away our ability to watch television without having to have boosters and preamps. The only thing that matters are the rat nest cities and the money . The FCC is by far one of the most useless dunsel organizations in government. They literally sold us out for the money. Digital television signals are weaker than bluetooth. People who do use boosters do not have to worry about the legality of the boosters as the government FCC hasn’t done their jobs in 20 years. My local airport pumps more harmfull radiation into the airwaves than all the boosters in the state combined. You literally cannot get a signal from 7 am until 10 pm dailey. You can set your watch by it. So in reality this is a government caused problem. GREED first, its the American way. Good thing we get such wonderful representation from our politicians. Just my thoughts on the “Illegal booster” comment.

  4. My input….we live out in the stix in deepest Northumberland (UK) – our choice, yes. Can’t get standard broadband/internet via phone-line and have to use satellite (currently our only choice). UK govt. makes a big broo-ha about ‘enabling 99% of UK for super-fast fibre’ blah, blah. We approached BT OpenReach ( who apparently provide rural Comms) and guess the quote we got…wait for it…¬£101,000 (!?!?) – really. I’m therefore not surprised folk are turning to DIY………

  5. Hmm, how about building more base stations? People are doing what they can, and expensive signal boosters are not an option.

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