UCC warns against the use of Network Boosters citing Signal Interference in Uganda

The Uganda Communication Communications (UCC) has today cautioned the general public against the use of Network boosters citing an increase in signal interference complaints by Network operators in Uganda. The commission sights a growing usage of network boosters and repeaters by unauthorized parties to boost network coverage in underserved areas.

Apparently, UCC has received complaints from National Telecommunications Operators like MTN, Airtel, Africell, Smile, and Lyca Mobile about interferences caused by the unauthorized use of repeater stations aimed at boosting mobile network signals in some areas around Uganda.

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By default, all Mobile network operators in Uganda use Network masts to provide network coverage to customers. Both Voice and Data signals are supported by Network repeaters mounted on these masts with core functionality on 2.4Ghz and 5GHz bands. Now, with the continued rise in Network booster usage by Individuals, signal conflicts have caused interferences since different repeaters may work with different bands.

When a Network Interference occurs, all users in a specific area may face network downtime, dropped calls, and slow data connection speeds. In the case of Network Boosters, Interference may occur for all other users due to dedicated bandwidth allocation to the booster/repeater direction. More so, depending on the operation band, receivers on a network mast may conflict with the booster’s bands attracting interference in a full region.

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According to UCC, unauthorized repeater stations amplify the radio signal noise environment causing signal interference to mobile networks of the duly licensed network operators operating in the same area, which affects the quality of service of the public network.

Section 21 of the 2013 Uganda Communications Act stipulates that;

A person shall not, without a license issued by the Commission—

(a) establish or use any radio station or provide radio communication services;

(b) sell, let, hire or otherwise dispose of any radio communications apparatus;

 (c) manufacture, possess, install, connect or operate any radio communications apparatus or interference-causing apparatus.

Based on Section 21 of the 2013 Communications Act, UCC has now raised a warning against the sale, purchase, installation, use, and operation of network booster devices except where provided by a licensed mobile network operator and configured with the operator’s preset defaults based on a coverage area.

Commonly authorized Network boosters in operation around Uganda include the Airtel broadband user kit which comes with a strong Outdoor Network Booster Unit (ODU) and a client indoor router. In a like fashion, other operators like Roke Telecom, Liquid Telecom, MTN Uganda all offer the same Network booster setups to offer a super-fast broadband connection experience to customers.

Now, with the commission’s new warning, it plans to take enforcement action against the sale, purchase, installation, and use of non-licensed network boosters effective 1st august 2021. However, it has not clarified on common interference locations where network repeaters are most used, but instead, with a complaint from network operators, these may be common in remote areas where network access is poor.

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