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COAI asks DoT to halt sale of illegal signal boosters and repeaters online: Report

After its appeal to online retailers in March went unheeded, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has written to the Department of Telecom (DoT) asking it to halt the illegal sale of mobile signal boosters and repeaters on e-commerce platforms, reports BusinessLine. COAI, an industry body, said the sale of these items not only violated norms but also caused network interference and adversely affected service quality for mobile subscribers. MediaNama has repeatedly reached out to COAI for comment, and a copy of its letter to DoT, and will update this once they respond.

In March, COAI had written to Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal and asked them to stop sale of mobile signal boosters and repeaters, explaining that it was illegal to do so without a government license, per Mint. The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, says no person shall possess “wireless telegraphy apparatus” without a licence and COAI’s argument is that this part of the law applies to signal boosters and repeaters as well. The COAI’s move met with only partial success; Flipkart and Snapdeal removed the products from their websites but Amazon said it would continue to sell them, the paper reported, contending that it was merely an intermediary between buyers and sellers and should not be held responsible for complying with laws applicable to individual products. MediaNama found the following signal boosters being sold on Amazon, among others:

COAI mentioned Amazon’s stance on the matter in its letter to the DoT, and asked the department’s Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) Wing to put on record its own position that in the event of such a sale, responsibility lies not only with sellers and buyers but also with the e-commerce platform itself. COAI also suggested that the DoT inform the customs department so that it could halt the import of such products by unauthorised people and companies, the report said.

Use of signal boosters and repeaters in other countries

United States: It is legal to use signal boosters approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which says that they may only be operated with the permission of wireless providers. The providers must to provide a method for consumers to register them before they can be used.

United Kingdom: Telecom regulator OFCOM says it is a criminal offence to use boosters or repeaters that don’t meet their conditions or don’t have a licence. Using an unlicensed mobile repeaters is punishable with up to a year in jail and a fine of £5,000.

Australia: Signal boosters are banned devices and not allowed to be operated on any mobile network. The ACMA, the government authority for radio communications, prohibits users from operating or possessing a booster. It is also illegal to sell them.

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