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, gardaĆ­, 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.

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