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An important message for Part 90 Class B signal-booster users

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Operators of Part 90 Class B signal boosters need to register the location of the devices by Nov. 1 or face the possibility of FCC enforcement action.

An FCC deadline is sneaking up on some licensees who may not even be aware that it exists. Any entity that is operating Part 90 Class B signal boosters must register such devices, including their location, by Nov. 1 of this year.

I spoke recently with several licensing experts about this requirement. Elizabeth Buckley, principal of FCC-FAA Licensing and a former telecommunications licensing manager at Keller and Heckman, explained that the requirement applies only to Class B signal boosters, referred to as “broadband bidirectional amplifiers,” which amplify all signals within the passband of the signal booster filter. In contrast, Class A boosters—known as “narrowband BDAs”—amplify only those discrete channels that are intended to be retransmitted, so they are exempt from this requirement.

The only requirement prior to the commission’s order was that the licensee needed to ensure that the signal booster complied with Part 90 rules. Now, however, the FCC “has made it clear” that any entity that misses this deadline will be subject to enforcement action, Buckley said. But she added that the registration process should be relatively easy and free of charge for most entities, though some may discover via the registration process that they actually are operating illegally.

“They might have to go through frequency coordination, so that’s where some time and cost would be incurred,” Buckley said.

Signal boosters abound in both the public-safety and business/industrial sectors, Buckley said. They’re used by hotels, hospitals, arenas, convention centers, retailers and more.

Petrochemical company Anadarko Petroleum was forced to install a signal booster after it experienced the law of unintended consequences after it built its new headquarters in the Texas woodlands, Buckley said. When Anadarko built the building, the builder installed glass that prevents RF signals from penetrating the building, because the company didn’t want people to use devices to listen in on what was going on inside.

“Petroleum companies take their security very seriously,” Buckley said. “But when they ended up getting licenses for UHF radios that their security personnel were going to use, the system repeater that they installed outside the building wasn’t working properly for obvious reasons. So, they installed a signal booster.”

Alan Tilles, who chairs the telecommunications practice at Shulman Rogers and authors UC’s “Legal Matters” column, offered a hypothetical example of why registering Part 90 Class B signal boosters is so important.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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