Radio is known as the transmission and reception of electromagnetic waves of radio frequency, traditionally understood to be used for carrying sound.

The traditional idea of radio has evolved as technology has changed, and now also includes concepts such as radio spectrum, boosters and mp3 transmitters. Mobile telephones also utilise radio waves and frequencies.

Legal Requirements

Any radio transmitting device in the UK is required to be licensed unless exempted in terms of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (WTA).

Boosters

Mobile phone operators have begun using boosters to amplify phone signals and reception for customers. These work by increasing the signal between a mobile phone and a base station, and can be useful in areas where there are limited base stations.

Although used for mobile phones, these devices are regulated as radio devices under the WTA, and can only be utilised under a license granted by the Office of Communications (OFCOM).

Private Boosters

A booster within your home for private use, or use of a booster within a vehicle, (for example in the form of an MP3 radio transmitter), does not require a license, provided that certain technical conditions are met for the device. Generally, equipment freely available to the public has been assessed for compliance, and it is unlikely that a consumer could unknowingly purchase a booster which does not comply.

Types of Licenses

Different forms of radio services and devices will require specific types of licenses. Examples of radio devices which require licenses include:

  • Amateur radio (even if just used as a hobby)
  • Business radio
  • Ships’ radio (all private and personal ships need radios and will require licenses)
  • Mobile and wireless broadband (spectrum radio for mobile phones)
  • Radar
  • Aeronautical (all aircraft need radios to communicate with ground staff, and will, therefore, require licenses)

Sanctions

Utilising the equipment above without a license, or in breach of the terms of a license, can result in heavy penalties from OFCOM. For example, the use of a booster device without a license, or in breach of a license, can result in a fine of up to £5000, as well as a year in prison.

It is therefore vital that it be determined whether a license is required and that the terms of such a license are upheld.