The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued a stern warning on its website against selling or using mobile phone repeaters that are not licensed by a carrier.
Many individuals are using unlicensed devices. They are designed to regenerate or replicate a mobile signal to extend the coverage and improve mobile phone reception where the signal is weak due to local conditions, such as the underground floors of a building parking area. Many people use them in their homes.
They are risking a hefty fine, or even a jail sentence. Mobile phone repeaters operate within radio frequency bands licensed to mobile phone carriers. Repeaters are regularly used by those mobile carriers as part of their ordinary network management, which is authorised under the carriers’ licence.
But for an individual or other organisation like a body corporate in an apartment block to use a repeater, they 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,” says ACMA.
The cheap eBay units sell for around $100, unlicensed. Kogan sells a repeater from Cel-Fi, which it says is ‘the only legal repeater in Australia’, but it cost $749.
ACMA’s warning comes after changes to the Radiocommunications Regulations Act came into effect on 9 August. The first change specifies cellular mobile repeaters as a class of radiocommunications devices defined as ‘eligible radiocommunications devices’.
The second change is more stringent record-keeping requirements for suppliers of repeaters, intended to help ACMA investigate interference complaints by being able to access detailed information about devices purchased. This includes licence numbers, device details such as serial numbers, date of supply and ID of purchaser. It is now illegal to sell these on eBay, or anywhere else, without conforming with these regulations.
“It is an offence under the Act to operate or even possess 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.”