The ACMA has prohibited the operation, supply and possession of mobile phone boosters, which are claimed to enhance the performance and coverage of mobile phones.
Why boosters have been prohibited
Mobile phone boosters supplied for sale and operation in Australia have been prohibited because they can cause significant interference to mobile telecommunications networks, affecting coverage and therefore consumer access to mobile networks. In the worst case, the use of mobile phone boosters has the potential to restrict access to the emergency call service.
A mobile phone booster is a powered radiofrequency amplifier that is physically connected to the handset of a mobile station and amplifies the transmitted and received signals, consequently enhancing its ability to communicate with the mobile base station. While a booster may aid in reception of remote mobile base station signals, it tends to be a relatively crude device that suffers from a number of problems. This includes significant signal reduction to noise difficulties.
Mobile carriers have expressed concerns about the use of boosters on their networks due to the devices’ general inability to dynamically adjust their power within allowable thresholds. When a booster is used, increased power levels swamp nearby base stations to the point where they become 'blinded' to other calls. Coverage is reduced to a small percentage of the original area, and as more boosters are used, the coverage degradation worsens.
Because access to the network by other service users may be severely restricted, calls to emergency services may be disrupted. Lives could be put at risk should people trying to call emergency services have access restricted because of boosters being used by other customers.
The Telecommunications (Prohibition of Mobile Phone Boosters) Declaration 2011 (the Declaration) prohibits the operation or supply, or the possession for the purpose of operation or supply, of mobile phone boosters which are designed or intended to be used in connection with the supply of public mobile telecommunication services (PMTS).
The Declaration does not apply to boosters that are manufactured in Australia solely for the purpose of being exported.
Under the Declaration, anyone found in possession of a booster may face a fine of up to $220,000.
How can I get the best possible reception from my mobile phone?
For the best possible reception from mobile phones, especially in rural areas, carriers recommend the use of a mobile phone hands-free car kit with an external vehicle-mounted high gain antenna.
If you are installing a mobile phone in a vehicle, the performance and coverage can be maximised by:
- buying a phone with provision for connecting an external antenna
- installing a hands-free car kit with an external antenna
- powering the phone from your car instead of the built-in battery
- directly connecting the cable from the car kit to the antenna (avoid glass mounted antennas) for maximum transmit and receive power
- getting the highest gain antenna available (the gain of the antenna indicates the antenna's capability to send and receive signals and
- installing the antenna high up on the roof of your vehicle (this will provide maximum elevation and prevent any shielding of the signal by the body of the vehicle).
For more information on mobile network coverage, contact your mobile provider.
For more information
The ACMA has fact sheets on a range of topics.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.