Cell Phone Repeater FAQ's

Posted by on August 03, 2015

Repeaters, or Wireless Signal Amplifiers, are a great solution for many mobile broadband and cell-phone users who experience signal strength problems. However, they are also the cause of a lot of confusion; more-so than any other product we sell. We hope this article will provide answers to some of the common questions that we receive every day, by email, chat, and phone. If you should have any questions about repeaters that are not answered in this post, please contact us and we will be more than happy to answer your questions.

What Does a Repeater Do?

A repeater system is an ideal way to improve signal strength for cellular devices that do not have an antenna port, or situations whereby signal needs to be boosted for multiple devices. It is a wireless amplifier system that does not require a direct connection to cellular devices, such as modems and phones. If you only want to boost signal to one device and it has an antenna port, and if the signal is very poor, your best choice is a directly connected antenna together with a direct connect amplifier.

Can You Describe the Basic Components of a Repeater Set-Up?

Yes, there are three basic components to a repeater system: an amplifier plus two antennas. One antenna (generally mounted outdoors) draws the signal in and connects to the amplifier, which boosts the signal. The second antenna is connected to the other side of amplifier allowing the boosted signal to be rebroadcast. It is possible for multiple cellular devices to simultaneously benefit from the boosted signal.

When Is a Repeater Used?

If you need to boost the signal to multiple cellular devices simultaneously, or if your cellular device does not have an antenna port, your best option for improving signal strength is a repeater.

Repeaters work best when there is an available signal to boost: A repeater cannot create signal out of no signal. Therefore, if you're in an area that has no signal at all, then a repeater cannot help you. We strongly recommend that you complete a Site Survey prior to purchasing any signal booster equipment. Especially if you're hoping to use a repeater to improve signal in a stationary location, such as an office or home. The Site Survey will confirm whether a better signal is available in your area, and that better performance results from improved signal.

Who Does Not Need a Repeater?

A repeater is not suitable for everyone, and it is probably not your best option if any of the following conditions apply to you:

  • You have no signal at all either inside or nearby the vehicle or building. A repeater cannot create signal out of none – There must be at least some signal available to boost.
  • You only want to boost signal to one device, and this device does have an antenna port. In this instance, a directly connected antenna together with a direct connect amplifier if the signal is very weak, would be your best choice.

What Factors Should I Consider Before Selecting a Repeater System?

Before selecting a repeater, we encourage our customers to consider the following questions:

  • What frequencies/networks are your air cards/phones operating on? Different equipment might be appropriate for 3G versus 4G for example.
  • How many devices do you want to boost signal to? If you only need to boost signal to one device, does it have an antenna port?
  • Do you need a stationary or in-vehicle solution - or both?
  • Are you willing/able to mount antenna to the exterior of your building/vehicle?
  • Do you require a directional-receiving or omni-directional antenna?
  • How large is the area you wish to boost signal to?
  • If this is a stationary application, has a Site Survey been completed to verify that better signal is available in your area, and also that better performance results from increased signal?
  • Do you have sufficient room to separate the transmitting and receiving antennas for the repeaters that require separation?

How Many Devices Can the Repeater Boost the Signal to, Simultaneously?

The number of air cards/phones that can benefit from a repeater depends entirely on the model. For example, a cradle signal booster is only capable of boosting signal to the device in the cradle. Generally, vehicle repeater kits are best for between one and three modems/phones, and large amplifiers have no maximum and are capable of boosting signal to as many devices as the signal permits. The weaker the "starting signal", the fewer devices can benefit.

Is a Repeater Capable of Simultaneously Boosting the Signal to Devices Operating on Different Networks?

Yes, it is; provided the carriers in question operate on frequencies supported by your repeater. Generally, amplifiers work for a variety of frequencies. However, you should check what frequencies your provider is using in your area. Remember that different carriers are probably broadcasting from different towers so it is possible that you will not see the same signal increase on devices from different carriers. For example, if you're trying to boost the signal to both a Verizon phone and a Sprint phone, the repeater may give a bigger boost to one because that carrier's tower is closer.

Are There Different Types of Repeaters?

Yes; there are different repeater systems available to accommodate the many different needs of different users. The amplifiers themselves vary a lot in regards to wattage (the power available to connect to the cell tower), power output, and gain (the range you will get from the repeater). Furthermore, there are a variety of options available for receiving and re-broadcasting antennas, directional versus omni-directional, etc. You will find the technical specifications for each amplifier and repeater kit sold by us within the product description.

Difference between a "Building Class Repeater" and "Vehicle Class Repeater"

To start with, under FCC regulations for cellular amplifiers, it is illegal to use a building-class repeater/ amplifier in a vehicle/ mobile application. By design, a vehicle-class repeater requires very little antenna separation, so it is capable of boosting signal to a smaller area. On the other hand, building-class repeaters require more antenna separation and have higher gain ratings relating to how much indoor coverage area/ range they will provide. If you're looking for something for a permanent office/ home location, a vehicle-class repeater would not be your best choice anyway. However, some building-class repeaters can be used in specific in-vehicle applications, like a large RV with enough area to allow for antenna separation.

Does the FCC Have Other Regulations for Cellular Amplifiers?

Yes, there are other regulations:

  • Amplifiers which were manufactured prior to 1st May 2014 can no longer be sold.
  • Today, amplifiers must be sold in complete kits, including antennas and cabling.
  • Amplifiers must be manufactured and designed to limit interference and automatically shut down when required.
  • The packaging must include a consumers warning label.
  • Users are required to register their amplifiers with their cellular provider.
  • Previous versions of amplifiers were 3 watts, however today amplifiers can only be a maximum of one watt.

What Size Area Can a Repeater Boost the Signal to?

This is the hardest question to answer and it is also the most common question we're asked. It is difficult, because there are many factors that influence the size of an area that a repeater is capable of covering. It is impossible for anyone to guarantee exactly how large an area a repeater can provide boosted signal to, so see below and note some of the factors that affect the repeaters range:

Signal

The worse the un-amplified signal (donor signal) is at the location, the smaller the boosted area.

Gain

The higher the amplifier's gain rating (view this in the specs), the more area it is capable of covering. A 6 dB increase in gain will result in double the coverage area, meaning a 62 dB amp would cover twice the area covered by a 55 dB amp.

Power

The range is also affected by the power capabilities of the amplifier itself. Obviously, a low-power amplifier is not capable of pulling in a signal as strong as a higher-powered one.

Transmit Antenna

There are different types of interior transmit antennas, with some being more capable than others of covering larger areas.

Floorplan/ Layout

A repeater that is used in an open spacious room can boost the signal to a larger area than if it were used in a building such as an office building with walls between each room. In addition, different construction materials can impact the repeater's signal in different ways. There's a big difference between a wall made of metal and a drywall. You will see in the brief summary description section above each repeater's product description that there's an estimate of how much area the amplifier might cover. Of course these are just estimates, because due to the fact that so many factors come into play. It is not possible to guarantee coverage areas; but they will give you an approximate idea of what you can expect.

With Repeaters, Why Is Separation Required between the Two Antennas?

In order to prevent oscillation, most repeater systems have a required minimum for the distance between the inside and outside antennas. It is very important that you read the instruction manual or product details before purchasing a repeater, because the repeater will not work if there's not sufficient separation between antennas. Remember that if you do not have enough room in your application for the required separation, the amplifier is not going to work. Also remember that higher powered amplifiers generally require more separation between antennas: This separation can be either horizontal or vertical; meaning that if you mount the external antenna 20 feet outside, this should be enough separation for a repeater that requires 20 feet of separation between the two antennas.

Do Repeaters Interfere with Other Electronics, such as Routers and Cordless Phones?

No, they do not. A repeater will not cause any interference with other electronic devices.

Can You Explain What a Site Survey Is, and Why It is Recommended?

Completing a Site Survey means conducting a few simple tests and comparing your signal strength and performance. This means data speeds or call quality testing in a few different locations to determine the following:

  • Whether a better signal is available at your location.
  • Whether improving your signal will ultimately result in better performance.

We strongly suggest that, if you're considering purchasing signal boosting equipment, you take the time to perform a Site Survey. This is obviously not required for travellers because it wouldn't be possible to run tests at every location you will be travelling to!

Because not every location is the same, it is important to determine if there's enough usable signal available. If there's a very poor signal (worse than -108 dB RSSI), or a signal that is too strong (better than -80 dB RSSI), the repeater may not work well. It does not take much time or effort to perform a Site Survey. Completing this simple task can save you a lot of money, energy and time by helping you evaluate whether in fact our signal boosting equipment will improve your signal and performance, prior to making a purchase.

Buy Cell Phone Signal Booster Now

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.

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