Cell Phone Booster's Short and Sweet Guide

Posted by on February 28, 2016

Cell phone booster boosting signal inside home:

Cell phone booster boosting signal inside home

Cell phone booster boosting signal inside car:

Cell phone booster boosting signal inside car

What is a cell phone booster?

A cell phone booster does exactly what you might think it does, based on its name. It strengthens voice and data signals so that the chances of dropped calls or lost connections are significantly lessened. Additionally, cell phone boosters also provide for faster data upload and download speeds. There are cell phone boosters for a variety of different settings such as for vehicles as well as for indoor areas such as your home or office area. Most signal boosters are made up of three main components and also include a coax cable that connects all of these components together. These three parts are the as follows:

Exterior antenna – An exterior antenna is usually mounted to the roof of a vehicle or building depending on the space for which the signal booster is being used. It can also be mounted indoors close to a window, etc, where reception indoors is best. Compared to common cell phones, an exterior signal antenna is able to pick up signals that are up to thirty times fainter than the faintest signals that regular phones are usually able to detect.

Booster unit – As with the name of this component, the booster unit is responsible for boosting and strengthening signal. It is also referred to, as an amplifier because it is what amplifies the external signal passed on to it by the exterior antenna.

Interior antenna – An interior antenna is installed inside (vehicle, home, office, or other space where the signal booster is being used), and it is responsible for delivering the strengthened signal to your cellular devices such as smart phones, tablets, or mobile hotspot connected laptops and even desktops.

What a cell phone booster is not:

• The signal booster is not actually a source of cell phone signal. What it does, is take existing signal and amplify it so that the quality of existing signal is drastically improved. In other words, in order for signal boosters to properly do their job, there must already be existing signal in the area.

• Internet connections are not required for signal boosters to work. As explained above, signal boosters work with already existing cell phone signals.

• Cell phone boosters are also not like Bluetooth devices so there's no need to "pair" or "sync" the booster with devices in order for it to work. Simply put, the booster strengthens signal and makes them available to any cellular device within the range of the booster.

Do cell phone boosters actually work?

Yes, cell phone boosters actually work. Their signals signals are carried by radio frequency (RF) waves. Think about the FM radio that appears in most vehicles. Those signals are collected by the antenna at the front of the car, amplified, and then retransmitted inside the vehicle so that you can enjoy all of your favorite radio programs.

Although cell phone signals use a different part of the RF spectrum, they use similar technology in order to deliver signal within your vehicle, home, or other space, thus allowing you to enjoy quality voice calls and data usage with the improved signal.

Signal boosters must first be certified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to be sold in the United States. In Canada, Industry Canada (IC) certifies the sales of signal boosters. These government certifications assure customers and consumers cell signal boosters work properly and that they do not cause any kind of harmful interference.

Before purchasing, make sure any booster you're considering is FCC or IC certified.

Different types of cell signal boosters:

Many cell phone signal boosters work internationally, and they generally work with all carriers and all cell phone services. Other boosters may only work for a specific carrier such as Verizon or work on specific frequency bands, thereby boosting all carriers that within that frequency range.

Additionally, boosters may also be identified by the kind of technology they support such as the 3G and 4G networks. A booster that is labeled as 3G will boost both 2G and 3G networks. Similarly, a booster that has the label 4G will work with 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE networks.

There are also other boosters that are hybrids. These can boost several data networks but are specific to a particular carrier. Before purchasing, make sure that the cell phone signal booster will work for the signals, network, and carrier that you are using. For more information, see the "Frequency Bands" section below.

No recurring fees:

Unless there is maintenance specifically purchased for the cell phone signal booster, there are no recurring fees with the cell phone booster. Unlike cell phone contracts, the purchase of a cell phone booster is a one time expense that will continue to benefit you as long as the signal booster functions.

Why do you have trouble getting a reliable cell signal?

There really are only two main reasons that might cause problems with cell phone reception, and those are distance and obstruction. Distance is simple to understand - If you're too far from a cell tower, then signal will be understandably weak or even lost.

Obstructions are a little more complicated. Below is a list of the most common obstructions that will cause problems with signal:

Terrain – Cell phone signal operates in what many like to call "line-of-sight". Simply put, if there are physical obstacles between you and the cell tower such as mountains, then signal will be blocked.

Man-made objects – Going with what was just listed in terrain, any physical obstacle between you and your cell tower will cause issues. With urban settings, the presence of tall, densely packed buildings are often the main reasons why cell phone signals are blocked or weakened. The thing is, radio frequency signals cannot pass through metal or concrete easily so there may be areas within an urban area where signal is poor.

Vehicles – Even vehicles can block out radio frequency signals because of the materials used in enclosures, shells, or automotive body frame that covers cars, trucks, or other types of vehicles. The metal and safety glass on vehicles can prevent signal from being transmitted properly.

Vegetation – This sounds hard to believe, and I completely agree. However, trees, shrubs, and other kinds of foliage actually absorb signal.

How Cell Phone Boosters Work

Cell phones are pretty much two way radios. Basically, your cell phone operates like a radio behind a modern developed interface since it communicates with cell towers for signal by using radio frequency signals.

A cellular signal booster works by:

• Collecting and detecting extremely faint cell signals (much more than what your phone is capable of doing) in combination with an exterior antenna.

• Allowing those faint signals to get through various kinds of obstructions easily in combination with cables.

• Amplifying these faint signals so that they can be used in conversations or other cellular usage, in combination with the main amplifier unit.

• Strengthening and broadcasting these amplified signals to the space where interior antenna is placed, so they can be used directly by your cellular device.

When you are using your phone, the process works in reverse (this is how it is a two way radio) in order to send signals back to the cell tower in order to complete a communication loop. To learn more, read our blog post How Does a Cell Phone Booster Work?.

Compatibility with networks and devices

weBoost cell phone boosters serve to improve voice and data signal signals for all carrier networks and cellular enabled devices across North America including cell phones, electronic tablets, and even modems.

Additionally, 4G phones will work on any weBoost 4G cell signal booster as the name of the signal booster suggests. Similarly, 3G phones will work with any weBoost 3G booster, again with the signal boost limited to the available 3G signal.

Signal Strength

The strength of signal indoors first depends on the strength of signal detected by the signal booster outside. That is because if signal outside is already stronger before it is amplified by the signal booster, then the system will be able to cover more area (in square feet) indoors. Similarly, if the signal outside is weaker, the booster won't boost as much area indoors. Along the same line of thought, if there is no signal outside, the signal booster won't help at all. This limit of signal booster's capability to reach amounts of areas indoors applies to any signal booster.

Essentially, think of the booster system as a microphone. With a microphone, your voice becomes much louder. However, if you're whispering into the microphone, even the amplified whisper won’t necessarily be as loud as your regular indoor voice without a microphone. If you don’t say anything at all, no sound would be produced as expected.

Cell phone signal booster systems work the same way. The stronger a signal is prior to being amplified by the booster, the greater the indoor coverage area by the booster will be.

How Do I Know How Strong My Signal Is?

You can always look at the signal bars typically seen on your phone screen to see what the relative strength of your current mobile signal is. The key word to all of this is "relative". Honestly, there are no real standards for signal strength bars since every mobile phone manufacturer uses their own specific algorithms to calculate exactly what the bars mean in terms of signal strength.

Unfortunately, this means that it is nearly impossible to compare signal strength bars between different phones or even the same phones that are just using different carriers. In other words, three bars of signal on my phone may actually be more than what might look like four bars on your phone. In all, the bars really don't have much significance to how much signal you're actually getting.

Fortunately, there is a way to determine how strong signal actually is. In order to find that, you must take a strength reading in decibels (dBm). Since Decibels are the standard unit of measurement for sound, if you take a dBm reading, you will be able to accurately gauge the actual strength of your signal.

Typically, decibels are expressed as a negative number. However, the closer to zero that the reading is, then the stronger the signal for your cell phone is. For example, -72 dBm would be comparatively stronger than a reading of -92 dBm. The strongest signals will typically have a reading of around -50 dBm. If a signal is weaker than -100 dBm, then it is very weak. Any less than -100 dBm will likely mean that you don't have service anymore.

Basically every smart phone can take strength readings in decibels. We’ve posted on our blog How to Find a Signal Strength Reading, How to Find a Signal Strength Reading on an iPhone, and How to Find a Signal Strength Reading on an Android. Click through to the appropriate post to find out how to see your signal strength reading in dBm.

Coverage area:

Cell phone signal boosters for vehicles will either provide boosted signals for just the driver (in-car cradle booster), or for the driver and passengers (wireless cell phone booster for car). Signal boosters for indoor spaces are usually described by their approximated signal coverage area measured in square feet.

There are two primary factors responsible for affecting the size of indoor coverage area that a booster is able to provide. First, the strength of the unboosted signal outside the structure, as previously described will affect the size of the indoor coverage area. Secondly, the actual boost supplied by the booster depending upon its power and capability will also affect this area.

The stronger the outside signal is to begin with before boosting, the larger the area the booster will be able to cover. Similarly, if the booster’s gains are more, the indoor coverage area will also be comparatively more.

For instance, with all other potential factors equal, a booster with a specified gain of 70 dBm will be able to cover a larger area than one that has a 60 dBm gain. In ideal situations, boosters with higher gains as well as signals that were originally stronger to begin with, will always increase indoor coverage areas.

Before purchasing a cell phone booster, it is always good to know how much space you would like the booster to cover.

Cell tower location

One of the easiest ways you can improve your cellular reception is to start by finding the actual location of your cell tower. Usually, if you know where your cell tower is, then you will know which direction your signal is coming from. Once you know that information, it will be easy to set up your antenna so that it is pointing towards the cell tower or take other appropriate step that will improve your cell reception.

Understanding the origin of your cell signal will help you understand why your signals might be worse than they could be, and provide with a way to improve on it.

One of my favorite resources is antennasearch.com. With this website, you can enter your street address, and the search engine will actually return a list of all towers within a 3-mile radius. Additionally, the site uses Google Maps to plot all the cell towers in range. For towers registered with a street address, those tower's addresses will be displayed. If there was no street address was entered at the time the tower was registered, you will have to use GPS coordinates to locate it.

Another very useful site is cellreception.com/towers/. With this site, simply enter your zip code and click "Go". The search results also use a Google Maps display to show all nearby towers. You can filter the plot display by carrier which is extremely beneficial.

To learn more about this topic, read our blog post How to Find Cell Tower Locations.

Tower Antenna

The tower antenna is sometimes referred to as the "outside antenna" because of its typical location on the roof or side of a vehicle or building. The tower antenna is extremely crucial to cell phone signal boosters because it directly communicates with the cell tower, which is the source of the signal.

Many signal boosters will have the tower antenna as a separate unit that is connected to the booster unit by the coax cable. However, some boosters have the tower antenna and booster as one signal unit which makes it more convenient.

There are two kinds of tower antennas: directional and omnidirectional tower antennas. The most common type of tower antenna is the directional antenna. The directional antenna receives signals from the direction that it is pointed in, as the name of this antenna suggests. For optimal performance, the antenna should be directly pointed at the signal source or cell tower.

On the other hand, the omnidirectional antenna as a 360-degree beam width that allows it to receive signals from all directions. With the omnidirectional antenna, there is no need to try to point it at the cell power. Both of these signal boosters are certified by American and Canadian regulations. There may be however exceptions with integrated antennas and boosters. Trying to substitute any other antenna in place of the one received may be a violation of FCC and IC regulations so using the original antenna is highly recommended.

Device Antenna

The device antenna is sometimes called the "inside antenna" because of its location within a vehicle or building. The device antenna is the part that transmits signals to cellular devices. Most signal boosters will have a device antenna by itself that is connected to the booster unit by the coax cable. However, some booster models may integrate the antenna and booster unit into a single unit such as our car cradle booster or indoor Eqo booster.

Similarly, most signal booster device antennas are certified by American and Canadian regulations. There may however be exceptions with integrated antennas and boosters. Trying to substitute any other antenna in place of the one received may be a violation of FCC and IC regulations so using the original antenna is highly recommended.

Power / Gain

Simply put, gain is the measure of a booster's signal output relative to its signal input. Usually, gain is measured in decibels (dB).

Practically speaking, gain represents the relative strength of a signal booster or antenna. With all other factors equal, a higher gain value will allow for a stronger signal and/or larger coverage than that of a lower gain value.

Cables

Coax cable is used in all cell signal boosters to connect the antenna(s) to the booster unit. Similarly, most signal booster cables are certified by American and Canadian regulations. Trying to substitute any other cable in place of the one received may be a violation of FCC and IC regulations so using the original cable is highly recommended.

Frequency Bands

As explained previously, cell phones use radio frequency ranges to function. Specific frequency bands (ranges) of the radio frequency spectrum are either assigned to specific carriers or specific data networks. See the "Different Types of Cell Signal Boosters" section above for more detailed information.

If a booster is capable of 3G networks, you can assume that it will be able to boost 3G voice and data but not 4G LTE. In order to boost 4G LTE service, you will need a booster that is capable of 4G LTE networks.

Installation

Generally, boosters for vehicles have easier installation that that of indoor boosters. For the weBoost Drive 4G-S booster, installation may take anywhere between five to ten minutes. In comparison, an installation of the Home 4G indoor booster will require more time (ten to fifteen minutes), and the Connect 4G booster will require even more time than that. However, if the building requires a more complex installation process such as pulling the coaxial cable through a small space in the building’s attic, then the job could take anywhere from two to three hours. To help you decide if you need a professional installation by a certified installer, please read our blog post that shows how easily you can get it installed quickly and how to schedule an install of your booster kit by a professional at a time that is convenient for you.

Cost

The cost of a cell phone signal booster will depend on your needs. If you only need one for your vehicle, a driver-only booster such as the weBoost Drive 3G-S costs around $100. The weBoost Drive 4G-x which allows multiple people to experience the benefits of boosted signal will generally cost under $500.

If you are looking for a booster that will be suitable for an indoor space such as your home or office, then the weBoost Home 3G indoor booster which costs around $250 that covers up to 1,200 square feet would be ideal. However, if you are looking for 4G LTE coverage for up to 7,500 square feet, then the weBoost Connect 4G-X would be ideal. This booster retails around $900.

Generally:

• 3G signal boosters are cheaper than 4G boosters for the same coverage area.

• Boosters designed to cover larger areas will be more expensive than boosters designed to cover smaller areas.

Cell service providers allow booster installation.

For American and Canadian cell phone carriers, they allow customers to install cell phone boosters as long the following conditions are met:

1. The booster is properly certified by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or Industry Canada (IC) for its respective location. All weBoost and WilsonPro cell phone signal boosters are FCC and IC certified, so if you purchase one of those, it will be properly certified.

2. The booster must be registered with the cell phone service provider. Most service providers have online pages where customers can register their boosters. For a comprehensive list of links to registration pages for some of the largest U.S. carriers, visit https://cellphonesignalbooster.us/register-cell-phone-signal-booster/.*

If you cannot find your service provider on that page, contact your service provider to find out how to properly register your booster.

*As of this writing, condition (2) above was not yet in force in Canada. However, it is anticipated that Canada will require registration of cell phone boosters beginning during calendar year 2016. If you are in Canada, please contact your cell service provider to find out about signal booster registration requirements.

How do I know a cell phone booster will work for me?

If you are not sure whether a signal booster would work for you, go outside of your building and try to make a call with your phone. If you're unable to complete the connection because of poor signal quality, then move to another location and try again until you find a place where you are able to make the call successfully.

When you find the place where you are able to make the call, then make note of it because that is where you should place the tower antenna for your signal booster. Generally speaking, if you have a signal strong enough to allow you to make a call, then placing the antenna there will allow the signal booster to amplify the signal and thus provide better coverage inside the building.

If you're unable to find a location where you can complete your call successfully, then the available signal may just be too weak for a signal booster to detect and amplify.

Did you like what you read? Was it helpful to you? Are there any other questions that you have anything from this article or on signal boosters in general? Please let us know by leaving a comment, and we'll get back to you. Thanks!

Questions? Call us for a FREE product recommendation. Need a cell phone booster installer? We offer installation services by a certified installing team that installs boosters nationwide across USA and Canada. Submit your details for a quote to have your amplifier kit installed by professionals.

© 2017 Cell Phone Signal Booster. | Retail Storefront Address: Accessory Fulfillment Center, LLC., 7800 Harwin Drive A-2, Houston TX 77036. | AFC LLC. is an authorized reseller of Wilson Electronics, LLC. brands weBoost & Wilson-Pro. |