COAI urges DoT to crackdown on sale of illegal repeaters, boosters via e-commerce sites, outlets
COAI urges DoT to crackdown on sale of illegal repeaters, boosters via e-commerce sites, outlets

Industry body COAI on Friday urged the telecom department to take strict measures to ensure complete ban on sale of illegal repeaters and boosters, offline or online via e-commerce websites, as it sought the government's urgent intervention to "curb this menace".

COAI said that though some e-commerce companies have terminated sale of such equipment from their platforms after the association's detailed assertions on the issue, others continue to sell them.

The association -- whose members are telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea -- had previously too flagged the rampant sale of mobile signal boosters and repeaters on e-commerce sites, despite restrictions.

COAI, in a letter dated April 16 to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, voiced the telecom industry's concerns over how illegal repeaters had "become a major nuisance" and one of the biggest causes for customers facing mobile network issues like call drops and low data speeds.

The Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) has urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to crack down on the issue.

"...we request DoT to kindly intervene in the matter and take strict measures to...ensure complete ban on sale of these illegal repeaters and boosters, offline or online through e-commerce websites/platforms, through an appropriate notification to sellers of illegal repeaters in the country," said the letter seen by PTI.

This could be by way of continuation to DoT's earlier notification of 2019, it added.

The association also requested the telecom department to take up the issue with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry "to prohibit import of such illegal boosters/ repeaters in the country with immediate effect".

It said the issue needs to be taken up with appropriate ministries, including IT ministry, and DPIIT "to curb this menace".

The industry body has also urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to issue appropriate directions to state authorities to take action under law against the sellers of illegal repeaters in the country.

Since many e-commerce websites were selling these illegal equipment, COAI had earlier shot off detailed letters to the e-commerce companies informing them that possession and sale of such equipment, without obtaining requisite permissions, constituted violation of the Telegraph Act.

"Though some of the e-commerce companies have terminated sale of such equipment from their website/ platform, some other continue to sell them," COAI said.

Boosters or repeaters, as they are commonly called, are being increasingly installed over the last few years. The equipment works by drawing in available mobile tower signals in low connectivity areas and amplifying and distributing it in small, concentrated locations, such as a building or a cluster of buildings.

In the past, boosters have been used by the operators in areas where mobile towers cannot be installed easily.

"The telecom service providers (TSP) make sure that installing a repeater doesn't hamper the network coverage for people outside the distribution area and does not interfere with other TSPs allotted spectrum frequency," COAI said.

Highlighting the industry's pain point, COAI said grey market outlets and e-commerce stores are making illegal low-cost repeaters available for anyone to buy and install illegally.

The concern is that such wide band devices draw in network signals to provide connectivity to a particular building or area in an unregulated manner, thereby depleting the network strength in other surrounding areas and results in call drops and depleted network quality.

Available freely in electronics markets, these repeaters are installed by unauthorised agencies at homes, offices, hostels and guest houses to boost mobile signal strengths, COAI said.

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