What is a mobile phone repeater?
A mobile phone repeater is a fixed radiocommunications device that is designed to wirelessly regenerate or replicate a mobile signal. These devices are used to extend the coverage and improve mobile phone reception into areas where coverage may not exist or where the signal is too low in power to use due to local conditions (such as the underground floors of a building parking area).
A mobile phone repeater operates within apparatus- or spectrum-licensed radiofrequency bands licensed to mobile phone carriers. Repeaters are regularly used by mobile carriers as part of their ordinary network management. This use is authorised under the carrier's licence.
For an individual to use a repeater, he or she will need to obtain permission from the relevant mobile carrier under a third-party arrangement. When operated without carrier permission, mobile phone repeaters can cause harmful interference to other radiocommunications and trigger significant mobile network disruptions. This can occur because the device is not coordinated with other devices in the mobile network.
Changes to the Radiocommunications Regulations 1993
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has amended the Radiocommunications Regulations 1993 to incorporate a regulation to restrict the supply of mobile phone repeaters. The amended regulation came into effect on 9 August 2013.
There are two main elements to the changes to the Regulations to ensure the supply of repeaters is subject to the restrictions under section 301 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992. The first element is to specify cellular mobile repeaters as a class of radiocommunications devices for the definition of an ‘eligible radiocommunications device’ in subsection 301(4) of the Act. The second element of the changes to the Regulations is to include new administrative (record-keeping) requirements for suppliers of repeaters.
Definition of cellular mobile repeaters
The Regulations define a cellular mobile repeater as follows:
'cellular mobile repeater means a radiocommunications device that draws power from a power source and that, operating as a single radiocommunications device or as part of a system of radiocommunications devices, is able to:
(a) receive a radio emission from a base station and retransmit the radio emission (or transmit a replica of the radio emission) to:
(i) another base station; or
(ii) a mobile station; or
(b) receive a radio emission from a mobile station and retransmit the radio emission (or transmit a replica of the radio emission) to:
(i) another mobile station; or
(ii) a base station.'
The definition is intended to include legacy repeaters (often operated by mobile network operators as part of their legitimate network infrastructure), in addition to smart repeaters and other possible technologies that could enhance consumer access to mobile services and that have the potential to cause interference with existing networks if not regulated.
Record-keeping requirements for suppliers
The new record-keeping requirements for suppliers of repeaters will assist the ACMA in its investigation of interference complaints by being able to access detailed information about devices purchased.
The amendment to the Regulations, set out in full, can be accessed here. Regulation 38B specifies the ‘particulars’ which the supplier is required to record under paragraph 301(1)(b) of the Act. In summary, the ‘particulars’ include:
- licence holder or authorisation agreement details (for example the licence number, date of issue and expiry, full name of the licensee or a duplicate of the licence)
- repeater device details (for example the device’s serial or model number)
- and information concerning the actual transaction (for example, the date of supply, particulars regarding the identity of the recipient, such as photo identification).
It is an offence under the Act to operate an unlicensed radiocommunications device, or possess this device for the purpose of operation. A person found guilty of this offence may be imprisoned for two years for each offence. A body corporate may receive a penalty of up to $255,000 (1,500 penalty units) per offence (sections 46 and 47 of the Act). Other penalties may apply, such as the interference offence provisions at Part 4.2 of the Act.
For further information on the regulation for mobile phone repeaters, contact the ACMA’s Technical Regulation Development Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.