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New FCC regulations came into force in May 2014, requiring that all consumer signal boosters be approved by and registered with your cell carrier.
The FCC regulates signal boosters because they operate on cellular frequencies. The concern is that malfunctioning or improperly designed or installed signal boosters could interfere with wireless networks and so cause interference to communication services. The FCC’s new regulations prevent this by laying out technical specifications for boosters, and by requiring consumer boosters to be registered and approved.
“Approval” is not a big deal for consumers. The leading wireless service providers (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T), and many rural cellular carriers that are members of the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) have committed to provide blanket approval for signal boosters that meet the FCC technical standards. Every consumer booster sold by Waveform meets these standards and so is pre-approved.
All that consumers need to do is register their device with their carrier. This is so that if interference should occur, carriers can identify and resolve it. For the most part, the regulations are working very well. We blogged about how Verizon has over 10,000 registered booster users, and “has experienced no significant booster-related interference issues” since the new regulations in 2014.
Registration is really straightforward for consumers. It takes about five minutes and can be done entirely online. Networks generally just ask for your name and address, the model of booster you are using, and your carrier phone number. T-Mobile asks for the number of users using the booster.
AT&T ask customers to fill out this form:
Verizon have a very comprehensive section of their website, again with a standard form to fill out.
Sprint’s page isn’t very detailed. They don't have a form to fill out; instead, they ask customers to send them an email outlining:
US Cellular asks subscribers to call 1-800-450-9857 to register their signal booster.
I have a mobile booster (for a car or RV), what address should I use?
Use your home/mailing address. Some carriers (AT&T) have a box to tick on their form if the device is a mobile booster.
I have more than one booster in my home, do I have to register each separately?
Yes, if you have more than one device (for example, one in your home and a mobile booster kit in your car), you will need to register each one separately.
My household uses different carriers, do I need to register with each one?
Yes. Most signal booster kits are now multi-band, meaning they boost signal across multiple networks. For example, if you are with AT&T and your spouse is with Verizon, you will need to register with both networks. And if your kids are on T-Mobile, you’ll need to register with them too!
What about guests?
The FCC says that visitors are considered “occasional, incidental use” and don’t need to be registered. If you have a visitor who uses Sprint, but nobody in your household does, you don’t need to register with them. You only need to register with a network if somebody in the home or office uses them on a “regular, sustained basis”.
What does the “E911” warning mean?
The E911 system automatically gives 911 dispatch your location when you call. Part of how they determine this involves cell tower triangulation. A signal booster might make it appear as though you are nearer to the cell tower than you actually are. For this reason, if you ever call 911 while using a signal booster, make sure you give them your accurate location.
Do I have to register? What happens if I don’t?
Yes, you are required by the FCC to register your device. It only takes 5 minutes and can be done entirely online. If you are contacted by a wireless network and told that your booster is causing interference, you are required to shut it off until the interference issue is resolved.
As we mentioned above, after two years of the new regulations, approved signal boosters are widespread, popular, and do not cause significant interference problems. Registering your device means that the network knows that you are there and your booster activity is normal.