Mobile phone repeaters – what you need to know

12 April 2018

Today, regulations come into force that allow people to use certain types of mobile phone repeater without the need for a licence.

Mobile phone repeaters amplify signals between a mobile phone and a network operator’s base station and can enhance coverage in situations where the signal is weak.

Ofcom has legalised use of two types of mobile phone repeater.

Static indoor repeaters

The first are known as static mobile phone repeaters. These are for indoor use, and are designed to improve coverage inside peoples’ homes, offices and other buildings. They must not be used in other situations.  For example, while in motion, such as in a vehicle.

The ‘downlink’ from these repeaters (the part that connects the repeater to the mobile phone) must not be used outside or in semi-open locations. It must be used inside a building which has a ceiling or a roof.

The ‘uplink’ (the part that connects the repeaters to the mobile phone network) can be used either indoors or outdoors.

This type of repeater may not be helpful in all situations. However, they can help to boost indoor signals in situations where there is reasonable mobile coverage just outside the building, but indoor coverage is not good enough.

We have restricted these types of repeaters so they amplify the signal from only one mobile phone network at a time, although they may be re-configured to a different network.

Low gain in-vehicle repeaters

The second type of repeater, known as low gain mobile phone repeaters, are allowed to be used to help coverage inside’ cars and other road vehicles - but not in boats or static caravans.

They are designed to overcome the loss of signal that can occur between an external antenna on the outside of the vehicle to a cradle designed to hold the mobile phone inside it. They boost the signal inside the car to a similar level that a handset just outside the car would be able to receive.

If you are planning to use one of these devices in your vehicle, you should also make sure you follow existing laws regarding using your mobile phone while driving.

How can I get a repeater?

We expect mobile phone repeaters that meet our requirements to become available from some retailers almost immediately, and become more widely available over the coming months. Prices are likely to start at around £400 for the simpler models.

What should I look out for?

Watch out for repeaters that claim to be wideband, or those which amplify signals from more than one operator at a time. Repeaters that operate in this way do not comply with our requirements and using them continues to be unlawful.

You should only buy repeaters from reputable retailers and look for a ‘CE’ mark on the equipment.

Indoor repeaters that claim to be 4G and/or LTE only (or 800 MHz only) are also unlikely to meet our requirements. Legal indoor repeaters must boost a 2G or 3G signal at all times.