Yes you have to register your cell booster. At least for now.

It’s a sticker on every cell booster box. You’ll find it in the description of nearly every product. It’s the law. And you probably didn’t do it. I’m talking about registering your cell booster, which is right up there with running red lights at 2am and eating grapes at the supermarket. Everyone says these are victimless crimes, but are they? Let’s not worry about the grapes for a second. Let’s talk about the cell boosters.

The great compromise of ’14

Yeah, it sounds like something you’d read about in history books. I’m talking about FCC regulations covering cellular signal boosters that took effect in 2014, though. While they are long and confusing, for most people it boils down to these basics:

  • Major cell carriers agreed to stop spreading lies about how cell boosters break networks.
  • Cell booster makers agreed to include chips that would make sure that boosters wouldn’t break networks.
  • They also agreed to sell every booster with all the parts you need.
  • Finally, every consumer cell booster must be registered with at least one cell carrier when it’s sold.

The top three weren’t so hard to get done. Booster manufacturers already had kits in place. Carriers were eager to accept new rules. But the business of registering has proven to be a little difficult to get done.

The carriers don’t exactly tell you how to do it, but thanks to a little work with Google, here’s a list of the links you’ll need:

AT&T
https://securec45.securewebsession.com/attsignalbooster.com/

Verizon
http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/register-signal-booster.html

Sprint
http://www.sprint.com/legal/fcc_boosters.html

T-Mobile
https://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-9827

US Cellular
http://www.uscellular.com/uscellular/support/fcc-booster-registration.jsp/

The rules almost make you want to break them.

First of all you don’t have to register your booster with the cell company you actually use. You just have to register with one of them. I’ve found that Verizon’s web form is the easiest to fill out. Even if you’re a pure 100% AT&T household you might just choose to use it.

Second, there’s no penalty, no tracking, nothing. Despite the fact that these boosters could be tracked as they leave the store or even auto-registered when you buy them, there’s none of that. You just sort of agree that you’re going to do it.

Let’s face facts, the honor system doesn’t work real well. Just ask the guy in your office who always takes two donuts. (I’m watching you, Buckler.) 

But, you really ought to.

I know, I just told you that you could probably get by your entire life operating an unregisted cell booster. I’ve read statistics that about 85% of cell boosters are unregistered. I am categorically certain that the government has better things to do than go around neighborhood by neighborhood sniffing for unexpectedly good cell signal. But honestly, there is a good reason for it.

Rarely — very rarely — there’s a problem.

There are absolutely cases where cell boosters cause issues. It’s not from overloading and taking down the whole system. It’s usually because installing a cell booster can put stress on a cell tower. Large systems direct all cell-boosted signals back to a single tower. In a city, your phone may have a choice of several towers, but with a cell booster, you’re pointing at one. This can put a lot of stress on that tower as hundreds of people compete for it.

By registering, the phone company can expect that there’s going to be a spike in usage. Believe it or not cell carriers are required to have a minimum level of service in areas they serve. So, if there’s a big jump in usage they have to put up a second tower. If that big jump is due to a cell tower that makes things more confusing.

If the cell company does improve service in your area, and you’re registered, they could have the option to tell you the booster isn’t needed anymore. Or, in the case of a city like I described, they can ask you to maybe point at the new tower instead of the old one.

Things might be changing, eventually.

Considering that in four years there have been very few problems despite the fact that practically no one registered their boosters, the registration requirement might go away. Eventually. Even when the FCC works well (and right now it doesn’t) it takes years for rules to change. There’s a very complex procedure to follow and we’re still at the early stages of it.

So…

shop for the best selection of cellular signal boosters at Solid Signal, and when you do get one, please register it. I know it’s a pain but it’s free and doesn’t take long.