For more than 10 years, technology vendors have been creating signal boosters to address the issue of poor indoor cellular coverage and dropped calls. Until recently however, carriers outlawed boosters due to network interference. But finally, the tide is changing and the market has come of age. The timing is ideal given the groundswell in the Internet of Things.
A key turning point for the booster market is the FCC regulation guiding the use of consumer boosters on licensed spectrum, which went into effect on April 30. The natural outcome of regulatory involvement in most markets is a significant shakeup among vendors, and the booster market is no different. We’re already seeing the early signs of that.
As the regulations take hold, smaller, less established players will either exit the market, or be acquired by stronger booster developers. This consolidation will leave mainstream incumbents fighting for market share, and in some cases battling it out on pricing at the cost of performance and features.
This is a natural evolution that will benefit enterprises and consumers. The booster market has long been highly fragmented and loosely regulated. Now that performance guidelines are being enforced, signal booster pricing levels may stabilize. We will also see innovation from vendors that have developed technology to maximize productivity and performance gains.
The FCC guidelines are a first for the often-ignored booster market. This regulatory acknowledgement is a strong endorsement that booster technology has a legitimate place in the cellular world. Carriers have finally recognized that despite massive capex investment in cellular infrastructure, booster technology has a valuable and important place in providing the signal strength needed in increasingly connected indoor environments where signal strength and coverage is integral to seamless operations.
Rather than working in the shadow areas where carrier signals could be compromised, boosters can now work in tandem with carrier networks and small cells to provision indoor signals at a far lower cost than new infrastructure deployments. There is a rapidly growing dispersion of sensors in industrial complexes, factories, warehouses and storage environments, all of which are challenged by coverage dead spots. In many cases, carriers and their customers have had to go to great lengths and expense to address them through the use of technologies such as picocells. But these approaches may require more dense distribution than carriers can afford.
With FCC (News - Alert) authorized boosters – coupled with the Small Cell Forum’s endorsement of smart signal boosters as a complement to small cell installations – the potential gains are clear. Rather than relying exclusively on capex-heavy picocells or other small cells to bring coverage relief, partnering these small cells with smart signal boosters offers a wiser, cheaper and more effective solution.
Carrier-specific smart signal boosters leverage edge network sensitivity and self-organizing network capabilities that can make determinations about interference, and can readily co-locate with enterprise-grade small cells to ensure clean signals. That can help spread a bubble of connectivity that will connect sensors throughout a designated area. That’s a critical distinction from wideband boosters for which a higher risk of interference could potentially wreak havoc with carrier signals.
Edited by Maurice Nagle