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Signal Booster versus Fem to Cell or Micro Cell.

Posted by on Mar 17, 2017

An explanation of the differences between a signal booster and a fem-to-cell or Micro-Cell. Learn what each one is, and how they each operate.

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What is a Femtocell or Microcell?

There're couple of different ones. One is called "AT&T Microcell" works with AT&T Wireless and another is called "Verizon Network Extender" works with Verizon Wireless. These're different from cell phone signal boosters in the way they work. However, they all look pretty similar and they do essentially the same thing. They provide you with cell coverage in your home, but they do it in a very different way.

How does a cell phone signal booster work?

A cell phone booster works by taking the weak signal outside of your home, bringing into your home, amplifying it and then sending a strong signal throughout your home when you make a call. It then does the same process in reverse and sends a strong signal back to the cellular tower.

How does femtocell or microcell work?

A femtocell, on the other hand, works through your internet. Therefore, you need to connect it to Internet, and then it will create a small area of coverage in your home. When you make a call, it converts that cellular signal and sends it through Internet to a femtocell gateway which then sends it out. It is also called femto AccessPoint (AP) or femto-AP.

What are the basic differences between the two?

A signal booster uses an existing signal outside and boosts it. However, it does require some signal to be there. It can be the tiniest faint hint of signal and it will still work, but it cannot create something out of nothing. A fem-to-cell or micro-cell, on the other hand, requires an internet connection. It will slow your internet down. So, it is all about the details.


A fem to cell or micro cell will typically cover about a single room. Therefore, if you want to cover your entire house, you will have to set up multiple femtocells throughout it. A signal booster, on other hand, will cover anything from a single room all the way up to a warehouse. This is based on the signal booster that you choose. For example the plug and play Eqo booster will cover about 1,200 square feet.

Number of users.

A microcell or femtocell will usually allow four people to use it at the same time. You can have more people in standby mode but only four people can use it simultaneously. A signal booster doesn't have any sort of limit. You can have as many people use it at the same time as you would like. It will be just fine.


A microcell or femtocell is carrier specific and know by many different names that the respective carrier chooses to call it. The following are the names given to them by the four major carriers:

  • AT&T will only provide AT&T Microcell that will only work for AT&T network.
  • Verizon will only provide Verizon Network Extender that will work only for Verizon network.
  • Sprint will only provide Sprint AirAve that will only work for Sprint network.
  • T-Mobile will only provide T-Mobile Personal CellSpot that will work only for T-Mobile network.

What that means is that it will work for that carrier only. It will use the specific frequency ranges and bands that a particular mobile service provider uses. Therefore, if you have service from AT&T but your wife has service from T-mobile, it is not going to work for her. She's not going to be able to connect and she won't be able to make a call.

On other hand, a cellphone signal booster covers all frequency ranges in all bands. Therefore, no matter which carrier network you’re on or which cell-phone you use, it is going to work for you.

Syncing multiple units.

A femtocell requires you to sync or register your phone and then login to use it. Therefore, if you have multiple units throughout your house, you will have to sync and log in with each individual unit. The handoffs can also be somewhat touchy. For example, going from cellular inside and then handing off to the femtocell can create issues.

On other hand, once you set up a signal booster you're done. It just sends signal throughout your house, and that's all you need to do.

Is there any maintenance?

A femtocell can require a monthly fee. It just depends on the carrier. Please check with your carrier and see if that is something they require. Since it uses Internet, it will be using up that data. Therefore, if you're on any sort of plan that has an allowance or a cap on data measured in gigabytes, keep that in mind. A signal booster does not have any sort of allowances or monthly fees. Once you install it, you're good to go. All weBoost signal boosters are smart. They are constantly checking and updating themselves to make sure that they are running at peak performance.

weBoost boosters to use outside the home.

A femtocell will only work in your home. If you need something while you're on the go within your vehicle, weBoost makes a whole line of boosters for vehicles. It may be for a car, truck, RV, boat, etc.

Hopefully, above explanation of the differences between a signal booster and femtocell type devices has made the differences clear to you. We hope this gives you an idea of what each one is, and how they each operate. Hopefully, you’re a little more informed. View the video to learn more about the differences between a signal booster and a cell phone signal booster. Contact us for more details.

Questions? Call us for a FREE product recommendation or try our automated Cell Phone Signal Booster Selector Tool. Need a cell phone booster installer? We offer installation services by a certified installing team that installs boosters nationwide across USA and Canada. Submit location details for cell phone signal booster system design & installation quote to have your amplifier kit installed by professionals.

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