Illegal repeater numbers rise sharply

HALFWAY through a phone call, Banana Shire Council residents often lose the line. It could be during a conversation with friends, family, customers, or most seriously, emergency services. 

It's mostly due to a rise in the number of illegal repeaters ruining phone service, with just one six months ago to six today.

Locals say in the past few weeks service has been getting much worse.

Banana Shire Council mayor Ron Carige said it has caused havoc for emergency services in the area during times of crisis, especially in the flash flooding over the past couple of days.  

"The disruption really comes to the fore when you have a crisis like we've had the last few days with the rainfall. The emergency services people can't get calls, then there calls drop out," he said.

"It's just totally irresponsible."

Repeaters boost a mobile phone's signal, giving the user optimum service.

And while those purchased off a service provider are legal, Telstra has said those interfering with reception in the Banana shire area are illegal.

ACMA explain what's legal and illegal use of mobile phone repeaters

Telstra told Cr Carige of the increase recently.

"I was led to believe that six months ago we had one, then we had two, now Telstra are telling me we've got six," he said.

But Cr Carige said a "privacy agreement" between Telstra and its customers prevents the company disclosing the locations of the offending devices.

"All Telstra can do is contact them and say, 'please turn off your repeater'."

It follows a nationwide trend where the number of warning notices the chief communications regulatory body issued for the use of illegal repeaters nearly doubled from 120 in 2013-14 to 219 last year.

But the number of users held to account is still down, with just 17 issued with infringement notices last year, barely up from 11 the previous year.

But Cr Carige said it's an ongoing problem with a "general consensus" among residents that it's getting worse.

"For instance, I got an email from my real estate agent who needs his mobile phone. And he can't even phone out of his office --- he's got to go out to the footpath."

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