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Illegal signal boosters dot Delhi, interfere with mobile network, telecom dept cracks down

The telecom dept carried out an inspection last week, issuing around 40 notices to immediately take down such illegal third-party equipment.

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New Delhi: An inspection by the telecom department in several areas of Delhi has uncovered as many as 33 illegal signal boosters being used by people to improve their mobile network connectivity.

The inspection was carried out by the Wireless Monitoring Organisation unit of the telecom department and aided by mobile operators and other relevant authorities, according to a press note issued by the telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Friday.

Signal boosters and repeaters help amplify the signal between a mobile phone and a network operator. However, third-party signal boosting equipment is often not installed properly and ends up interfering with the network signal in the area.

The inspection was conducted in Ashok Vihar, Sant Nagar, East of Kailash and South Extension, and covered both residential and commercial buildings.

During the inspection, 33 such signal repeaters were found and removed while 40 notices were issued to remove the illegal equipment immediately.

“Our drive against illegal mobile signal boosters is an ongoing campaign … in this year alone, we have removed more than 400 such devices from different parts of Delhi, and our drive will continue in coming days as well. We advise people not to use any illegal repeaters as it is causing huge interference in the mobile network,” said G.K. Reddy, engineer in chief, Wireless Monitoring Organisation, according to the COAI statement.

Also read: 2020 has been a forgettable year for most, but not for Mukesh Ambani and Reliance Jio

Signal boosters a constant nuisance

The number of unauthorised signal boosters detected so far is just a fraction of what is in use, say experts.

Telecom consultant Mahesh Uppal said there are probably many more unauthorised mobile signal boosters set up. One indication of this is the number of listings for the equipment that show up in a simple search on e-commerce sites.

Reddy from the telecom department said online platforms were notified to remove product listings for illegal signal boosting equipment, and the companies “have responded positively”.

In 2019, the telecom department informed e-commerce companies that the sale of mobile signal boosters is illegal and should be stopped. The department has notified e-commerce firms of the same in the previous years too.

However, a search on platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart still throws up many product listings.

ThePrint asked Amazon and Flipkart if these listings would be removed, but did not receive a response till the publishing of this report.

Telecom companies themselves often use signal boosting equipment to amplify the signal of their networks for customers, but it is illegal for end consumers to use such devices in India.

Such third-party equipment is not licensed and uses spectrum that is otherwise auctioned by the government to licensed network operators.

“Illegal mobile signal repeaters have become a major nuisance and are one of the biggest reasons for customers facing network issues like call drops and low data speeds. These illegal repeaters are installed by individuals/establishments at homes/offices/PG/Guest houses to boost mobile signals,” the COAI press note said.

“These illegal equipment interfere with all mobile networks, impacts signal quality and degrades network experience in the entire area. Mobile operator invests heavily in acquisition of spectrum & network rollout to enhance customer experience, however the illegal booster cause interference with the mobile network. Authorities were called to crack down on these installations and take strict action,” the statement further said.

According to the telecom department, possession, use and dealing in unauthorised signal boosting equipment is a punishable offence.

Also read: How VSNL launched internet services in India in 1995 when even China hadn’t


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