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Make illegal sale of signal boosters a cognizable offence, COAI

Telecom operators have asked the government to make illegal sale of signal boosters and repeaters on e-commerce platforms a cognizable offence with jail term and fine to check their unregulated use.

At a recent meeting with officials from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), telcos raised their concerns in this regard. According to the operators, boosters or repeaters that are allowed to be put up solely by telcos for improving signals in poor connectivity zones in urban areas are available for sale in the grey market and through some e-commerce platforms.

According to S.P. Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the sale of such illegal repeaters should be banned with immediate effect. Their use should be treated as a punishable offence with adequate jail terms or a fine, or both. He added that the illegal use of signal boosters/repeaters impairs customer experience as it leads to network issues such as call drops and low data speeds, especially in heavily populated localities. Such devices deplete the network strength of telcos providing coverage in the area. This prevents licensed operators from providing uninterrupted telecom services or in even launching new services.

The industry wants the DoT to file first information reports (FIRs) against individuals installing these illegal signal repeaters in buildings. According to COAI, in Delhi NCR alone, over 8,000 cells (or 30 per cent cell sites) face high interference from illegal repeaters across all bands and technologies, leading to an increase in call drops and blocked calls. The installation of such boosters pose high risk to people in the close vicinity of such boosters as they could malfunction since they used cheap and recycled components that have short life spans. Telcos added that the already debt-laden industry is facing huge financial losses due to this.

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