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Cell Signal Boosters Prepare for Looming FCC Deadline UPDATE: DEADLINE EXTENTED

Manufacturers provide updates on how prepared their products are for a technical standards deadline that has been extended to April 30, 2014.

UPDATE: The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has extended the consumer signal booster sale deadline until April 30, 2014, a 60-day extension, due to unexpected
complexities in the rules, coupled with delays, in part, due to the government shutdown, in the finalization of comprehensive test procedures.

From the WTB:

“We find that a short extension of 60 days, until April 30, 2014, is warranted to allow for adequate review and testing of these devices and to allow others to complete testing of their devices and apply for certification.”

“The Commission staff is committed to working expeditiously with TCBs to review and process these applications and the Bureau expects that some manufacturers will have compliant products in the market well in advance of that date.”

The delay is a “good outcome” for manufacturers and for the cell signal booster industry, according to Robert Van Buskirk, president and CEO of Wilson Electronics

“We will continue to work to actively obtain our remaining required certifications and to provide to our customers FCC compliant product solutions as soon as practical.”

Also expressing that the extension is good news is Cellphone-Mate, makers of SureCall.

“This was a just and reasonable decision,” said Hongtao Zhan, Cellphone-Mate’s CEO. 

“As we pointed out in our comments supporting the extension request, since the delay was due to unforeseen delays in the government’s ability to meet its own deadline, it would not be fair to penalize both the manufacturers and consumers by holding fast to a date determined a year ago.”

These are tense times for manufacturers of solutions in the fast-growing cell signal booster category. The products, which enhance cell signals in commercial and residential environments, face a legal obstacle in the U.S.

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling early in 2013 set technical requirements for consumer and cell signal boosters, so it’s incumbent upon manufacturers to make sure their products meet the new standards by March 1, 2014 if their products are sold in the U.S.

Some manufacturers provide updates:

Cellphone-Mate: The Fremont, Calif.-based manufacturer says four of its new products have already passed all tests for pending FCC approval. It plans to ship its “multi-faceted” product in January 2014. >”We have now overcome all the technical barriers and are going through the final FCC paperwork for our products,” wrote Cellphone-Mate CEO Hongtao Zhan in a company statement.

Zhan is excited about “tremendous growth potential in 2014” for Cellphone-Mate’s SureCall solution “now that all the legal issues haunting the industry for years [are] behind us,” he said in an interview with CI.

Wilson Electronics: St. George, Utah-based Wilson “has been a leader in working with the FCC” and it has always had a handle on the standards, according to CEO Bob Van Buskirk.

“We are on track for a wide range of FCC product certifications in advance of the March 1st 2014 deadline.  We have been actively testing our new products to the NPS at third-party, FCC certified test laboratories for several months and expect to receive the full FCC certification for a range of new products early next year..”

Wilson Electronics says it’s introducing the first 4G booster that meets the new FCC standards at International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), January 7-10 in Las Vegas, adding that the DT4G booster is designed to be completely carrier and handset agnostic.

zBoost: Also launching at CES are the zBoost Reach line of signal booster. In a recent blog, zBoost stated that the entire line of boosters complies with the new FCC rules that are set to take effect March 1, 2014.

SmoothTalker: It’s proprietary “StealthTech Technology” puts SmoothTalker ahead of the curve, according to director of business development Kevin Carter. “Our technology already met and or exceeded the new FCC protocols for consumer signal boosters.  It has allowed us to use our time to focus on the task of testing procedures and the processing of our applications for FCC approval under the new Network Protection Standard (NPS). We are now waiting for the FCC to deal with the implementation of the new standards and processing the many FCC submissions under the NPS.”

Carter adds that SmoothTalker’s position is that the newly imposed, more stringent FCC standards are good for the product category. The company is “hopeful that it will help prevent poorly designed and poor functioning boosters from being sold into the market place. Those devices presently cause network interference and offer a poor user experience.”

SmoothTalker’s entire product lineup under the new rules will be ready to ship to market by the March 1,2014 deadline, Carter says.

In general, the ceiling is high for cell signal manufacturers as they enter 2014, according to Cellphone-Mate’s Zhan. “Especially taking into consideration [the] recent 4G deployment in the U.S by every single major carriers. Every single building in the U.S. will want to provide 4G service, yet the 4G signal booster installation base is almost most zero! It’s a very exciting opportunity for booster manufacturers and installers.”

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