The legal ways to boost your mobile phone reception
Paul Ockenden explains how to beat a mobile deadspot without breaking the law
What do you do when your home or office is situated in a mobile reception blank spot, or in a place where receiving a signal involves standing on the washing machine with one leg on the fridge and your head pressed against the ceiling?
Either situation is an impossible way to run your business life, and with the advent of mobile clients for social networks, such a lack of signal may adversely affect your social life too. Of course, you could simply change network, selecting the one that offers the best signal for your location, but for people with a company-supplied mobile phone that isn’t even an option, since you usually have to take what you’re given.
Perhaps you live or work in a location where there isn’t the faintest signal from any of the mobile networks: such places do exist, especially in remote coastal valleys. Changing networks wouldn’t make a jot of difference there, so what do you do in a situation like that?
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Actually, there’s a host of things you can try, but the one I urge you not to try is installing a cheap mobile phone booster or repeater. You’ll find several UK companies selling these on eBay or Google, but none of them mention that using such devices is totally illegal. It’s one of those peculiarly British law mess-ups that makes it legal to sell repeaters, legal to own them, but not legal to use them!
Ofcom says “Mobile repeaters are classed as radio apparatus and their use in the UK is regulated by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. It is unlawful to install or use this type of radio apparatus unless that is done under and in accordance with a specific wireless telegraphy licence granted by Ofcom; or Ofcom has made regulations exempting the installation or use from the requirement for a licence. Ofcom has not granted any licences for the installation or use of repeaters nor made any exemption regulations. The unlicensed installation and use of a repeater would put the user at risk of prosecution under the 2006 Act. If found guilty users can face a fine of up to £5,000 and up to a year in prison.”
Given this clear and unambiguous prohibition, I find it amazing that various forums are littered with people discussing their use of repeaters within their homes and small offices, some even posting photos of how they’ve installed the kit. They might as well post a picture of a £5,000 cheque made payable to HM Court Services.
Luckily, you have several legal options, the first being to use Voice over IP (VoIP) services to make and receive calls from your black spot, which of course involves having a wireless network, a smartphone or Wi-Fi connected device (a tablet or laptop would also do at a pinch), and some kind of VoIP app such as Skype, Truphone, Vonage, WePhone or Viber.
Where you once had to worry whether your phone had VoIP built in and properly integrated into its operating system, the proliferation of these services means that you can now take calls from pretty much any Wi-Fi connected device – as long as it has speakers and a microphone. If Wi-Fi coverage is an issue, simply shelling out for a Wi-Fi extender may be a relatively cheap remedy
As an alternative, forget VoIP and use one of the “find me” single-number providers that ring round a programmed sequence of numbers to locate you – mobile, office, home and so on. The problem is that unless you regularly update them to try your current location first, they give a shifty and, frankly, unprofessional impression to callers as they ring around all your different numbers. (Some VoIP providers offer a similar system.)
Luckily, not all black-spot remedies are clunky or illegal. Probably the most mature of these is UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) over Wi-Fi, and the only network that currently offers it in the UK is EE.