Ofcom plans to relax mobile repeater rules

Ofcom wants to make it easier for consumers to legally improve their indoor mobile signal by amending regulations governing the use of mobile repeaters.

Mobile phone repeaters amplify the signal between a mobile phone and an operator’s base station and are commonly used by the networks themselves. However the personal use of such technology was illegal until 2018 because of the risk of interference with other wireless equipment.

Indeed, some emit a signal strong enough to take coverage away from mobile masts, causing widespread coverage issues.

Mobile repeaters

However Ofcom recognised that the use of these repeaters would be useful for consumers in rural areas and relaxed the rules to allow static indoor repeaters and low-gain repeaters for the use in a vehicle, provided they adhered to certain technical standards.

Now the regulator wants to alter the rules to increase the range of devices available for purchases, increasing choice and lowering costs for consumers. It is thought that mobile repeaters could further enhance rural connectivity and that an expanded framework will reduce the risk of illegal repeaters harming mobile coverage for everyone.

Specifically, repeaters that use the frequencies of more than one mobile operator could be made licence exempt provided they meet the technical requirements.

There are also plans to make these requirements easier to understand so consumers can have confidence that a repeater is legal, with a list published on Ofcom’s website. This list will include repeaters that have been tested and classified as ‘licence exempt’.

The rules are subject to a consultation that closes at the end of July.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.