This is How Malaysia, Nigeria, UK, and India are Curbing Illegal GSM Boosters

In recent years, Pakistan’s telecom industry has excelled by providing reliable and affordable services while expanding its outreach to nearly 178 million. Even though the teledensity stands at 83%, broadband penetration of only 44.6% indicates that the sector still has a long way to go in terms of digital inclusion.

The Pakistan Telecom Authority and the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecom have done a commendable job so far in regulating the industry in reaching the heights it is at today to introduce new policies and developing strategic plans to strengthen the communications and IT ecosystem in Pakistan.

However, when it comes to curbing illegal practices that hinder the spread of the benefits of the digital revolution to all corners of the country, some areas still require immediate attention by all concerned stakeholders. One such area is a menacing new practice gaining momentum – the use of illegal boosters to amplify cellular reception.

Mobile signal boosters are devices that expand the bandwidth of carrier frequency signals. These GSM boosters and amplifiers work by receiving and transmitting signals to cellular towers with greater power and sensitivity. By interfering with the existing airwaves, their heavy usage can lead to performance degradation, misinterpretation, or even loss of information.

GSM boosters gobble bandwidth, causing significant distortion to the spectrum. While improving wireless connectivity for a few, these sub-standard devices, when improperly designed or installed, cause interference with mobile networks’ frequency bands, deteriorating service quality for countless others.

Their extensive residential use significantly lowers the spectrum available at the national level, which causes wireless interface issues. In short, while they may be inexpensive, their cost to the community is fairly high.

They result in revenue loss because the spectrum, granted to the telecom companies at a hefty fee, is used for free through illegal equipment, which impedes communication services, including emergency calls. In addition, while lowering the quality of service, they also pose a risk to health and security due to high radiofrequency usage.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996 Section 31, Sub-section (2), “the unauthorized use of the radio frequency spectrum shall be punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to (three) years, or with fine which may extend to Rs10 million, or with both.”

Despite having laws in place, several merchants continue to sell these illegal devices on their marketplace, including at the biggest and most reputable e-commerce stores in Pakistan. While lawmakers, consumer advocates, and other businesses have raised concerns about online stores’ oversight of selling illegal devices, the situation continues to persist.

Even with the issuance of notices by the competent authority to these platforms, the sale of illegal equipment could not be curbed. The situation calls for innovative solutions to trace the importers, distributors, sellers, and users of GSM boosters to refrain from the import, distribution, sale, and use of these devices.

Furthermore, the regulator needs to work in tandem with security agencies to curb this menace. Apart from hefty fines on these devices’ users and sellers, there is a need for a public awareness campaign to address the situation.

Given the lack of any concrete action against the use of illegal boosters, mobile users can be seen using illegal GSM boosters in different cities. There are pictures circulating on social media, where one can see signal boosters installed by residents of F-11, Islamabad. A visit to this locality confirms the presence of a lot of these devices installed by store owners and apartment owners on their rooftops or balconies.

Something similar has been seen in Lahore as well. The following images have been captured from Brandrat Road, Lahore.

Around the globe, the use of GSM boosters and amplifiers is considered an unlawful practice just like in Pakistan, but almost every country takes strict measures to impose the rule of law.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom’s communications services regulator, Ofcom, has put together an investigation team called the Spectrum Assurance Team. This team of specialists works 24/7, monitoring and dealing with wireless interference problems.

During the COVID-19 lockdown period, when the use of connectivity services reached a peak, this team continued working to remove signal boosters, so the public could enjoy uninterrupted services.


In Malaysia, the use of boosters leads to a fine of up to RM 500,000, or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both. While users of illegal equipment are served with a Notice of Interference by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) after an RFI investigation is completed.

All illegal communications equipment is confiscated by the Royal Malaysian Police. During 2019 alone MCMC has imposed a penalty of RM432,000, which is almost 8x the total penalties issued in 2018.


In India, the installation, possession, or selling of an illegal repeater is a punishable offense and the Department of Telecom conducts raids in India’s urban centers to remove boosters along with the issuance of notices to websites to remove the listing of illegal repeaters. Heavy penalties on sellers and users of this illegal equipment are also imposed.


In Nigeria, anyone using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator faces arrest and prosecution. The Nigerian Communications Commission has also set up an anonymous helpline and encourages people to report any sightings of signal boosters.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it evident that reliable mobile phone coverage is crucial to remain functional in the new normal and stay connected.

Moving forward, if the country is to realize its Digital Pakistan vision, then such malpractices need to be dealt with so that the masses can avail and appreciate mobile communications’ full potential through an exceptional mobile and internet experience.

Note to readers: If you have seen any such devices being used in your neighborhood, send us a picture with relevant details at [email protected].

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