In case you did not know all mobile 3/4G boosters are illegal in Australia. Yet dodgy dealers and shonky online stores sell with abandon.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a mobile 3/4G booster is a device that regenerates (boosts) a mobile signal. Like any other RF (radio frequency) signal booster (TV, Wi-Fi etc.) these are highly illegal.
Let’s not get confused however with 3/4G repeaters. These take the available 3/4G signal and retransmit it over a limited area. In essence, they are not dissimilar to a Wi-Fi repeater (not a booster – they are illegal).
Catch 22 – you need written permission from a Telco to use one in any case. Why? They can interfere with mobile networks. Illegal use may lead to imprisonment for up to 2 years or fines of over $300,000.
When to consider a 3/4G repeater
You can get them for a vehicle, marine, caravan, business and home use. Typically, they start at $1500 although specialist antenna can cost a lot more.
The real trick is that they use an external antenna (tuned to the Carrier’s bands) that generally means it has a higher signal strength to start with. These antennas vary from Omni-directional medium gain (3-5dBi) to highly directional high gain (5-9dBi)
That signal goes over coaxial cable to a better-located repeater with a specific coverage area – usually less than 30m diameter circle. The result – not unlike Wi-Fi repeaters (extenders) – is better in-home coverage.
When not to consider a 3/4G repeater
When your performance expectation is too high, it won’t give you mobile coverage over a whole farm or industrial complex. That is when you call your Carrier, and they can explore mini-or-micro-cells at a far greater cost.
If you are in a weak reception area, you may be able to use your NBN home Wi-Fi network to make and receive calls and SMS
Many modern phones have Wi-Fi calling (or voice over VoWi-Fi). Contact your phone manufacturer or Carrier support to find it.
Approved 3/4G repeaters – we repeat Boosters are illegal
While there may be others, all Carriers recommend Cel-Fi Pro and Go. Prices start around $1500. You can rent a basic unit to try first.
If you are with Telstra (or one of its MVNOs), it locks on to Band 28 (700/1800MHz) or 3G (850Mhz).
The Optus version supports 4G (700/1800Mhz) and 3G (900Mhz).
Vodafone supports 3G (900/2100) and 4G (850/2100Mhz) and is considerably more expensive. It does not have regional coverage.
Before you buy ask to see the Carrier certification and if it supports Band 28 (Telstra and Optus) – don’t risk imprisonment or fines because you purchase a dodgy one.