Cell phone boosters are handy and economical way to enhance the performance of pretty much any smartphone. The basic way cell phone boosters work is by using the mobile reception that is outside of your home or business, and amplifying it indoors.
This amplified signal is then used to provide strong cellular transmission, to an area that would otherwise have little or no cellphone reception. What this means is that by using a cellular amplifier kit, your home or office will no longer have dead spots. Therefore, no more dropped calls due to weak reception strength.
An antenna boosting kit setup is fairly simple. It consists of an amplifier, an external antenna, and an internal antenna. Cables are used to connect all of these components together electrically. Such an installation boosts reception in enclosed areas such as inside houses and warehouses.
In some models, internal and external antennas are combined into a single antenna. However, in most instances, a cell phone booster will come with separate antennas for internal and external placement.
Now let us take a closer look at the details of the components, that make up your cellphone signal booster. We will also find out what each of them will do for you.
As mentioned above, the purpose of reception enhancers is to amplify existing cellular transmissions, to an area with little or no cellular reception. It is important to note that your reception enhancer does not create its own signal; It amplifies an existing one.
However, it will not work if you do not put an external antenna in a location that already has an existing stable reception. It does not have to be an incredibly strong reception, but there must be something for the booster to amplify and transmit to your area of need.
Boosting Strength Details
It only takes a small amount of stable cellular transmission strength, for your reception enhancer to work its magic. However, the strength of the reception outside is very important. This is because it will be directly proportional to how much area in your home, office, or vehicle will be covered by the amplified wireless transmission.
If the reception outside is strong, that will be ideal. A strong outside wireless reception will allow you to experience the best coverage your amplifier is capable of providing. On other hand, a weak reception from the source will lead to your coverage area being less than advertised. This degradation of reception inside will be greater as proportional to the weaker reception outside. It is important that you understand this, and do not just assume the published square footage coverage is what you will necessarily experience.
The published coverage for an amplifier typically considers ideal conditions (i.e. optimal outside reception).
This begs the question: How can you determine how strong the reception outside your establishment is?
As you might have guessed, one of the best ways to determine the cellular strength your amplifier will have access to, is to use your cell-phone. All you have to do is stand in the location you plan to place your external antenna. Then make note of how many reception bars are being displayed on your cellular phone.
There's no official standard for the strength of reception, that is represented by each antenna display bar on a wireless phone. Nevertheless, a general rule you can use is that each bar of antenna strength displayed on your mobile phone, represents approximately 5 to 10 times the strength of the previous bar.
It is important to remember that you can place your external antenna in a location with less than ideal source transmission strength. Just keep in mind that it will be a good idea to pair weaker signal strengths, with stronger cell phone signal boosters. This ensures that your coverage area is adequate for your needs.
To gauge the source tower transmission strength of a particular location, simply put your phone in field test mode. Once in field test mode, your phone will display the decibel reading of the strongest signal available in your exact location.
Cell phone field test mode guide will help you to put your iPhone or Android phone into field test mode. Checking that will help determine mobile transmission strength at any specific location.
When shopping for a cellular signal booster, you will notice that they are generally priced in proportion to the square footage of coverage they are able to provide. As mentioned earlier, remember that the published coverage of the booster will be under ideal conditions with a strong reception outside.
The ideal scenario is to have very strong reception strength outside, where the external antenna is located. Furthermore, it would be ideal if an area of unobstructed location for the internal antenna is available. Lastly, it would be best if there are no major obstacles that would prevent the wireless transmission from being degraded.
Most situations are not ideal, unfortunately. This is why it is usually better to err on the side of caution. Therefore, get a mobile signal booster that is at least a level above your perceived needs, in terms of coverage.
If you have questions regarding the right booster kit for your application, please contact us and we will help you make sure you get the solution that is right for you.
Outside (External) Antennas
When purchasing a wireless signal booster, there are two different types of external antennas you're likely to come across. One is called an omni-directional antenna, and another is called a yagi antenna.
Let us now look at features of each of these antennas individually.
As their name implies, omni-directional antennas are designed so that they can receive cellular transmissions from all directions. This allows them to reach multiple cell towers, within a given radius.
Omni-directional antennas are suited more for locations where a moderate to strong reception is present outside. They have a relatively limited radius of reception, but can receive mobile transmissions from all directions.
Click here to read more about omni-directional antennas on Wikipedia.com.
Yagi antennas are also known as directional antennas. Yagi antennas are designed to only receive signals, coming from a very specific direction. They can cover a much greater distance than omni-directional antennas. However, they must be pointed in the general direction of the source signal in order to pick it up.
Yagi antennas are better suited for applications in which the external antenna will be in a location deemed to have weak reception. Secondly, they are preferred where there is only one cell provider. In other words, yagi antennas help you do more with less, in terms of source signal strength.
Click here to read more about yagi (directional) antennas on Wikipedia.com.
Inside (Internal) Antennae
As far as internal antennas are concerned, you have two options. You have the choice of a dome antenna, or a panel antenna. Let us quickly look at the differences between these two options.
Like external yagi antennas, panel antennas are designed to receive their signal from one specific direction. As such, they are best suited for long rectangular areas in which the signal must span a large distance in one direction.
Panel antennas can be mounted on the wall, facing in the direction of your external antenna. If you need your signal to travel between multiple floors of a building, you can also mount your panel antenna facing downward.
Dome antennas are designed to cover a smaller area of coverage, but can receive signals from all directions. Dome antennas are great for large square areas, where broadcasting and receiving signals in all directions is desirable. Dome antennas should never be used for multiple floors of coverage.
The Reception Amplifier
All the pieces of your cell phone signal booster setup are essential, but the amplifier is where the magic happens. An amplifier is what takes an external signal, and boosts its strength so that it can be broadcast through your internal antenna and to all of your areas of need.
Amplifiers are rated in decibels (dB). The greater the decibel rating of your amplifier, the greater the signal boost it will provide.
Remember that decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. What this means is that the amplifier doubles in boost strength, with every rating increase of 3 dB.
The main thing you want to keep in mind is that if your outside reception is not exceptionally strong, you will want to make sure you get an amplifier with a relatively high decibel rating to compensate for it. This would ensure that your reception needs are covered.
Amplifier Connector Cable Types
In case you're curious, the cables that come with your cell phone booster kit are used to connect your amplifier to your external and internal antennas. In other words, they are the conduit through which the signal travels from point A (external antenna) to point B (internal antenna).
No cable is 100% efficient, because no conductor material is 100% efficient. Therefore, your signal will be degraded by a certain degree as it travels from the external antenna, through the amplifier, and to your internal antenna.
The magnitude of mobile transmission loss will vary depending on the type of cable, quality of cable, and length of cable. Ultra Low Loss cable loses around 2dB of signal strength over a 50-foot length. For comparison purposes, standard RG6 coax cable (like what is used with cable television transmissions) loses approximately 5dB of wireless transmission strength per 50-foot length of cable.
So you can see that the type of cable you're using can certainly make a difference, in the strength of cell reception you ultimately receive.
To mitigate the losses in mobile transmission strength caused by your cables, it is best to use the highest quality cables possible. Simultaneously, using the shortest length of cable possible will further reduce reception loss. As a general rule, you want to use a length of cable that is as close to the exact length you need as possible.
We have not talked much about the original source of the signal, that your cell phone booster will receive. It amplifies that signal to meet your cellular reception needs.
Cell phones communicate with cell towers that use radio waves, to transmit information. These radio waves operate on specific frequencies, that are specific to the carrier who owns and operates the cell tower.
Unfortunately, this means that reception enhancers usually come in a one-size-fits-all solution. However, most of our boosting products work on all Carriers in Canada and USA except Nextel. You will need to make sure that you get one, that is specifically designed to operate on the specific radio frequency you need. For example, if your phone and your carrier's wireless network is capable of supporting 4G or 4G LTE data transfer speeds, we would recommend purchasing signal booster kits that are capable of boosting 4G LTE wireless transmissions. For simplicity sake, they contain the term, "4G" in their name.
If you don't, you won't be able to realize the fast data transfer speeds that your smartphone and Carrier's network is capable of producing for your benefit.
This is why it is important that you know what frequencies your cell phone uses, so you can get a signal booster that matches it (3G or 4G?). Most major carriers use one of two frequencies for their 2G and 3G networks.
Actually, these two frequencies of 850 MHz (cellular) and 1900 MHz (PCs) are very common. Therefore, most of our amplifiers are dual-band and fully capable of boosting signals from either of these two frequencies.
To help you select the right amplifier for your needs, here's a quick reference of the frequencies used by today's major carriers:
AT&T's 2G, 3G, and HSPA+ 4G networks all operate on the standard dual-band frequencies referenced above, so any dual-band amplifier will work.
Nextel uses a technology called iDEN for their network, which is incompatible with all other networks. It requires a special signal booster and antennas. For Nextel users, we encourage you to contact us before purchasing a cell phone signal booster for home. We will walk you through the process of making sure you select one that will work with your provider.
T-Mobile's 2G service operates on the standard dual-band frequencies, so any dual-band amplifier will work. Their 3G and 4G HSPA+ service currently runs on the AWS frequencies (1700/2100 MHz). It requires an AWS booster, for which most of our newer amplifiers have full capability.
MetroPCS runs some 3G over 1900 MHz so a dual-band amplifier would help in that situation. They also use the AWS frequencies (1700/2100 MHz) for some 3G and for their 4G LTE network. If you're not sure which frequency your phone is on, try calling their customer service and asking for clarification.
Sprint's 2G and 3G services operate on the standard dual-band frequencies, so any dual-band amplifier will work. Sprint's 4G service is a mix of WiMax and LTE, which uses different frequencies. Therefore, if you need 4G support, you will need to figure out which service you're using. That specifies which frequency it runs on. The best way to receive this information is by calling Sprint's technical support, to find out which technology you're using and what frequency it runs on.
Verizon's 2G and 3G networks all operate on the standard dual-band frequencies. Therefore, any dual-band amplifier will work. Verizon's 4G LTE network operates on the 700 MHZ frequency on Band 13. Therefore, if you need Verizon LTE data support, look for a 4G LTE specific booster.
Hopefully, this guide has made clear exactly what a cell signal booster is, how it works, and how to select the right one for your needs and application.
If after reading through this guide, you still have questions you need answers on before purchasing a cell phone booster, please do not hesitate to contact us with your questions.
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