Summary of Signal Boosters On Amazon (Be Wary Of Illegal & Unlicensed Devices):
- How Do I Tell The Difference Between Certified and Uncertified Boosters?
- Doesn’t Amazon Regulate This Kind Of Thing?
- Why Are These Noncompliant Boosters So Unsafe?
- Is There A List Of These Shoddy Brands So I Know Who To Avoid?
- What Is The Best Course Of Action To Take When Purchasing A Signal Booster?
There’s a right way and wrong way to buy a cell phone signal booster. Choose the wrong way, even accidentally, and you could be setting yourself up for all kinds of trouble. Amazon.com has made shopping for virtually anything unimaginably convenient. But shopping on the e-commerce giant doesn’t come without risk, particularly when it comes to cell phone signal boosters on the site. To their credit, Amazon has been policing it very well as of late, but the challenge still exists thanks to some very shady marketing practices by some companies.
Signal boosters are designed with very precise and very powerful technology. Amplifying cellular frequencies is a serious business. The companies who manufacture these devices – SureCall included – are required by law to adhere to certain regulations when designing them. But just because there are regulations in place doesn’t mean that every manufacturer follows them.
As of 6 years ago, the FCC tightly regulates the signal booster industry. There are strict standards that all signal boosters marketed and sold in the U.S. must follow. This is because boosters that are poorly manufactured or misconfigured – in other words, unauthorized – have the potential to disrupt entire networks in their vicinity. They can knock out cell service for everyone nearby.
And the internet is the easiest way to get your hands on one of these noncompliant devices if you’re not careful.
1. How Do I Tell The Difference Between Certified and Uncertified Boosters?
If you’ve ever purchased a signal booster before, you know that they aren’t the most inexpensive item out there. Some cost upwards of $400, even $500. So naturally, when people notice that there are signal boosters on Amazon for half that price, they get excited. But here’s a good rule of thumb when searching for a signal booster online:
Don’t even consider buying a booster without first checking if the device is FCC-certified. If it isn’t, move on.
If the FCC certification is there, that doesn’t just mean it works properly. It means it’s safe. Safe to you, to your neighbors, and to the cell towers near your home. Unfortunately, Amazon is laden with unauthorized, uncertified signal boosters. The majority of them are at significantly lower price points than certified devices. What’s worse, a lot of them are top sellers. Some are even labeled Amazon’s Choice.
Many people who’ve purchased these fraudulent devices say that inside the box there is in fact paperwork that declares certification. But upon closer inspection, you discover that the “certification” is for a totally different product.
Caught During Registration
When you purchase a signal booster, many carriers require that you register your device with them. As you would expect, when a person tries to register an unauthorized booster without realizing it’s unauthorized, the carrier knows immediately. Carriers do not permit customers to use uncertified boosters in their homes. And if a person decides to forego the registration process and use an uncertified booster anyway, not only are they risking causing problems for their local cell tower, they’re also accepting the likelihood that a representative from the FCC or from their carrier will eventually show up at their house and mandate the device be shut off.
If you look at the Amazon reviews of these products, you likely notice something fishy. Many of the reviews are appropriated. To appropriate means to take something and use it without the owner’s permission. The reviews in question have obviously been copied and pasted from another product, attempting to pass as an original review. This is an underhanded technique designed to trick the Amazon algorithm into thinking a product is popular.
We saw a review on a signal booster’s product page that was clearly for curtains, not a signal booster. Another one we saw was for a suitcase, yet it was included in the list of reviews for the signal booster.
2. Doesn’t Amazon Regulate This Kind Of Thing?
Amazon “does their best” to remove listings on their site that shouldn’t be there. But it often doesn’t happen right away, again, most of which is the fault of the companies listing products as they find shady or false ways to make their products look approved.
Less than a year ago, popular site and magazine Wired took a deep dive into the world of unregulated signal boosters on Amazon. They did this in conjunction with a few major voices in the industry, including SureCall. They notified Amazon of the problem, even spelling out the specific brands and products that were being sold illegally. Thankfully, overtime Amazon has done a much better job policing this problem.
During their research, Wired cross-referenced every brand and manufacturer they could find on Amazon with the FCC’s database. This process uncovered many dubious third party vendors. And what’s more interesting is that over 90% of these tawdry signal boosters on Amazon had trademarks linked to China.
Amazon isn’t the only website that sells uncertified boosters. But they’re certainly the largest one. A big part of Amazon’s successful business model is the huge number (millions) of independent merchants that use the site to sell products. Regulating this unfathomable number of merchants is undoubtedly a massive undertaking. However, many critics say the incredible number of counterfeit items across countless industries being sold on Amazon is an unacceptable oversight.
3. Why Are These Noncompliant Boosters So Unsafe?
A booster that is sold without the FCC stamp of approval is much more likely to disrupt service and interfere with mobile networks. When this happens, you and people living in your area may not be able to make emergency calls if needed.
One customer reported that a representative from AT&T showed up at his house one day. The rep told him that they had pinpointed a bootleg signal booster originating from his address that was causing three different cell towers in the area to malfunction.
We heard of another person who received a visit by a rep from his carrier saying that if he didn’t turn the booster off right away, the FCC would contact him.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a person could be fined. Technically, according to FCC guidelines, a person operating a booster that is not consumer certified can receive “penalties in excess of $100,000”. And a person selling such devices are most definitely breaking the law.
How Does This Interference Happen?
In an attempt not to get too technical, this is what usually happens. Because many of these devices are not constructed properly, the customer is unable to achieve the right distance between the booster kit components (amplifier, outside antenna, inside antenna) during self-installation. This results in a feedback loop of sorts, called oscillation, causing the device to malfunction. Sort of like when a speaker and a microphone are too close.
When an uncertified signal booster operates under these conditions, one of two things usually happens. (A) The proper connection cannot be made between the booster and the tower, rendering the booster ineffective. Or (B) The connection between booster and tower is made but the connection is misaligned, so to speak, which causes tremendous interference. This results in dropped calls and other forms of cellular interference for people in the area.
In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. But the simplified explanation gives you a basic idea.
Rotten Apples Give Legitimate Manufacturers A Bad Name
With certainty, we can say that every major signal booster manufacturer has taken its own measures to try and get these frauds off of Amazon. When unsuspecting customers get duped, it reflects badly on the industry as a whole. Not to mention that it takes sales away from the companies striving for honesty and professionalism. At SureCall, we go to great lengths to protect the integrity of not just our own products, but the industry as a whole.
4. Is There A List Of These Shoddy Brands So I Know Who To Avoid?
Yes, there is. Here are the brands that we know of selling uncertified cell phone signal boosters on Amazon:
This list is a few years old, so it’s very likely that there are new questionable players that have entered the game since the list was compiled.
5. What Is The Best Course Of Action To Take When Purchasing A Signal Booster?
When doing your research on different signal boosters, begin on the actual websites of major manufacturers. SureCall.com, for example. On each individual product page, we have all the links to where on the internet you can purchase that device, including the actual link to the product on Amazon. Only use these official links found on the verified websites of the manufacturers. We recommend not going to Amazon first and trying to find the product you’re looking for. Use the links we provide for you to lead you to the right product page.
With the information learned in this article, it’s not hard to make sure you’re purchasing certified signal boosters on Amazon. If you have any other questions about anything we’ve discussed here, call or email us. We’ll point you in the right direction and make sure you get the very best cell phone signal booster for your needs.