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Edit: Question has been edited due to confusion and details have been clarified on why they need a mobile signal.

I'm currently writing a short story and have the idea that someone that lives in a forest away from other cell phone masts with a cabin who does game streaming for a living and they will be using a phone to make calls. This is a primarily fantasy-based work, though modern technology is present. I understand that typically this kind of environment that would be a dead zone in terms of getting a signal normally, unless there is one already nearby. I was wondering about the legality of whether this was possible to have a repeater set up by their themselves legally and if so, what makes it legal.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding. It's your world, you decide the laws which the inhabitants have to observe. If you are seeking opinions about real world legislation, you might better try with law.SE $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Nov 11 '21 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Great question! I'm afraid that I don't have an answer for you. My one comment would be that in the real world, it is quite hard to get that isolated in the UK - it is simply too densely populated. Of course your world may have a lower population... $\endgroup$
    – ShellGhost
    Nov 11 '21 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ This question complies with the WB.SE rules. Questions that can be asked on other stacks are not automatically off-topic on the WB.SE. The OP also provides the worldbuilding context. This question asks about facts of our world that are necessary for building their world. The only difference between similar (real world) questions about astronomy, engineering, etc. is that this question deals with the field of law. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Nov 11 '21 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ Why would a person want a cell phone tower? It's overkill for a single user. There are ways to get reasonable internet service in remote areas in the US (I'm not sure anywhere in the UK counts as remote). Get that, and if you must use a highly inconvenient phone instead of a real computer, use WiFi. And of course if your cell phone tower is going to allow you to talk to the outside world, it needs a connection to the network. That's probably a fiber optic cable, so just use that as your internet connection :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 11 '21 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ There is Law for answering real world legal questions, although I'd suggest you leave out the fictional setting and make sure you tag it for the correct country on that site. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Nov 11 '21 at 16:49
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Allow me to change the wording a little. Instead of a "cell phone mast", I would use the words, "cell phone repeater on a tower". One is a major installation while the other can be done for an individual.

There are technical issues with doing anything like that. Certain cell protocols are limited as to how far from the "mast" you can get. For example, the original 2G GSM protocol was limited to 22 miles because of how it expected the phone to respond to a ping within a certain amount of time and the signal could not travel further than that and get back. (I was able to get signal on CDMA further than that.) 5G is limited to about 1500 feet.

Basic issue: the faster the data that you want to send, the closer you need to get to the tower. The faster cell protocols and frequencies used require closer connections.

But you don't have to rely on cell, you can have other connections such as a land connection which can be far faster. The best way to have someone far out in the forest and still have high speed data traffic is to have a wire / fiber line run to that house. Second best is to have a satellite link.

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Legal, not an issue in a fictional setting, but practically, no.

The entire concept of cell tower infrastructure technology is to be integrated into the entire cell network system. The cell tower has to be part of a network, backed up by a computer, such that the central network reads your smart phone location from several towers, decides which tower is the strongest signal, and switches to that tower. With only one tower, this switching is not functional, but you still need the central network computer to bridge the smart phone to the Internet.

Unless this cell tower was 'sponsored' by a major cell phone provider, a very major part of the technology infrastructure would be missing. The tower might be there, and fully functional, but there would be no connectivity with the rest of the needed infrastructure.

Unless, of course, the person had enough resources and money to set up their own entire cell network infrastructure, including central computer and interface with the Internet, but in that case there would be a lot of better alternatives available. It would be over-kill for only one tower and one phone.

With respect to the legality, cell towers use an EM (or radio) frequency, which is highly regulated in the UK. Only licence holders can use any portion of the EM spectrum. Periodically, the various EM bands are auctioned off as 'spectrum' to providers with very deep pockets, for their exclusive rights. Even citizens band radios are limited in power when used on public EM bands, unless the person has a licence. So at a minimum, in order to be legal the person would have to obtain a licence to access a particular frequency for the tower, and this would certainly conflict with the already-issued licences of the existing providers.

Even home WiFi wireless routers are restricted by law in their power output, and restricted to the frequencies approved for and licensed to the manufacturer.

TL:DR

It is not the cell tower per say that is the legal issue, it is the particular frequency that it uses that is highly regulated.

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Ignoring the various legal issues in setting this up, I think you might have a misunderstanding of the technologies involved.

When a telecom company sets up a cell tower some place, they are doing so to connect many users to service, and wirelessly. For instance, you couldn't plug your cable modem into your cell phone and go jogging with it, and you certainly couldn't plug that into the 200 or so people who end up using a cell tower simultaneously.

But for a single person, who is at a fixed location, you can use a hard-wired cable.

Which is exactly how a cell tower gets its own connectivity. In the US (and presumably in the UK), they often bring in a dedicated fiber optic cable to the cell tower. He'd have no need of erecting a cell tower, he'd just use the fiber cable.

So, about those. If you were modestly wealthy and obsessed with having fiber internet, you can pay to have a line put in. In rural areas, the cost to have that line constructed (one time fee) can be up to about \$50,000 per mile. And much higher in less rural areas, depending on details. Then, there will be a large monthly charge, likely \$1500+. Depending on how much he earned from this, it can be financially feasible.

Even if some aspect of the story requires wireless connectivity, such a person would use wifi instead.

I recommend researching dedicated fiber lines, as there's enough material out there available for you to get the details in your story right if that's important to you.

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    $\begingroup$ And if you want mobile connectivity around your house or property, you plug your end of that hard-wired cable (or your satellite internet box) into a WiFi router. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 12 '21 at 3:11
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Since cell phone repeaters are available online right now (just Google them), and are available in the UK, then, yes, they are possible and legal.

The main hurdle would be the matter of powering the repeater(s) in whatever position it/they would need to be in order for it/them to retransmit the signal from wherever it was strong enough to be received to where it is needed.

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  • $\begingroup$ The only repeaters I've seen are far too low powered to be of use--they're meant to bring a signal through a barrier, they don't have much range. $\endgroup$ Nov 15 '21 at 2:35
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Another approach: A microwave link. You can get considerable range out of them, you're going to need at least two links, one that goes from civilization to a high location (probably a mountain peak but a saddle might be workable) and a second that goes from that high point down to his cabin. That gives him internet access and he can use wifi calling for his phone.

Terrain might interfere (they have a pretty strict line of sight requirement), it might be necessary to have more than two links.

In the past there have been personal-range cell phone sites for where you have internet access but no cell service. I haven't heard anything about them for years, though, I suspect wifi calling has replaced them.

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