Signal Boosters vs AT&T T-Mobile Sprint & Verizon Extenders.

Posted by on March 07, 2017

Comparison between Cell Phone Signal Boosters versus AT&T Microcell, Sprint AirAve, T-Mobile Personal Cellspot, and Verizon Network Extenders. Let us compare these so you can make the best choice and get better cell phone signal in your home, or small business office.

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What is a Microcell, AirAve, Personal Cellspot, or Network Extender? How do they work? How do you set one up and do they actually work? We will also perform a comparison between above listed indoor signal expanders and cell phone signal boosters so you can make the best choice for your situation and get better cell phone signal in your home.

What is a Microcell, AirAve, Personal Cellspot, or Network Extender?

These're all basically indoor network extenders often called, "femtocells" or "network extenders", and all of them do the same thing: Improve mobile reception inside homes, offices, buildings, etc. They are available from every major cell service provider. However, they are carrier-specific. What that means is the Verizon Network Extender will only work for Verizon customers and AT&T Microcell will only work for AT&T customers.

How do Microcells, AirAves, Personal Cellspots, and Network Extenders work?

These devices create an area of wireless signal in your home, office, or building. They broadcast that signal as well as take the incoming signal from your phone and send that out allowing you to place calls or send texts more effectively. If you have no cell service in your home, it does this using your internet connection instead of your cell phone connecting to a cell tower. They act as a mini cell tower. These products capture the cell signal from your cellphone, convert it and then send that converted signal over Internet to a gateway which then disperses that signal out. Some cell network expanders or extenders work for 4G signal while others only amplify 3G. Consider your needs when choosing one.

Why would you need such network expanders?

If you live in an area with poor cell coverage or no cell coverage at all, that is where a network expanders are helpful. They create that area of cell coverage in your home and allow you to communicate. Even if you live in an area with cell coverage, buildings can often block the cellular signal from coming into your house. Your own building's walls as well as if a tall building or some sort of structure is between you and the cell tower - That will block the cell signal from coming in. If you have ever been on a call and walk into a building and you drop the call or it starts breaking up, then that is exactly what would have happened.

Two femtocells are examined in the video above: A Network Extender from Verizon Wireless and a MicroCell from AT&T. These are both 3G models, they come in 3G or 4G so you can choose which one is best for you. Let us set one up and see how it works.

Setting up the Verizon Network Extender.

Typically with the network extender, you will get a small device the size of a plate. You get the extender itself, a power supply, cable to connect it to the Internet and an extension cable for the GPS antenna. You can use the provided extension cable to connect antenna on one end and then connect it to the network extender. Then place it near a window. If you cannot put actual unit in a window, you can run the cable out to the window with antenna itself, and connect it or place it by the window and then have the extender placed elsewhere. You don't have to use the extension cable, you can put the whole unit right in the window if you would prefer.

Connecting the Microcell or Network Extender.

Simply connect all parts together as instructed in provided instructions. We connect our network cable to the microcell or extender, and then connect other end of the network cable to the router. If you're using a wireless router, make sure you keep the two units at least two feet apart. Plug it in and let it boot up. You will then see four lights: One for the power, then system, GPS, antenna and then your network. If any of the lights are blue, that is considered good. It means everything is working properly. If they are purple, that means they have failed, or if any of them are red, they will blink at different speeds. That means that there's an abnormal problem. If you encounter a problem, you need to do some troubleshooting to figure out what is going on and then test your phone to see how it is actually performing.

Installation troubleshooting tips.

First, give it plenty of time. In the manual, it says they can take up to an hour to connect to the satellite so make sure you give it lots of time. We have found that it took about 30 minutes before ours would actually work so it would blink all kinds of different light patterns, red and purple.

Our second tip is don't really pay attention to the light. Put it in the location in the window, make sure everything is connected, plug it in and then leave it for an hour. It was frustrating figuring out what was going on because the lights kept blinking red lights but finally we just left it and after about 30 minutes to 45 minutes, all the lights turned blue and it worked.

Tip number three is that if you're installing a 3G microcell, it is only going to boost your 3G but what you might not know is that your phone usually will show the 4G signal. Therefore, it might be showing a really bad signal and when you call, it won't actually be using the Microcell. You're going to have to turn 4G off if you're using just a 3G. Go to Cellular Data Options and then turn off your LTE. And then what you will see is it will changeover. Then it will show the "3G" in the antenna meter area of the phone in top left corner.

Testing the Microcell or Network Extender.

Put the phone in test mode. Our phone had a -82 dB signal reading. This is a more accurate way of reading your cell signal instead of the bars. Basically just so you know, a -82 dBm is kind of somewhere in the middle, maybe like two bars. Then plug your Microcell or Network extender in and see how it performs. Result: -73 dB. Therefore, as a result, we saw that the Microcell or network expander works and that it provides better signal in the house.

Our thoughts after doing an installation.

We thought it was pretty easy to install once we worked through all of the troubleshooting stuff so hopefully that saves you a lot of time and frustration when setting up yours. We spent probably two or three hours figuring stuff out, messing with cables and differentiating the length between them and all kinds of stuff only to find out that it was just a matter of time. The lights blink red which in the manual tells you that means that something is wrong. However, you just leave it as-is for 45 minutes and it works. Aside from that, it works well. It provides a pretty decent coverage area. It didn't cover the house, just covered the living room, kitchen and a bedroom. We noticed that anything beyond that it did not work. Therefore, if you want to build out an area larger than its coverage range, you can build out multiple units in the house. Therefore, the only way you can cover your whole house is to get multiple Microcells or Network Expanders.

Which other options are available?

This is where the cell phone signal booster comes in. We wanted to cover both so that you can see which option might work best for you. In some cases, maybe an AT&T Microcell, Sprint AirAve, T-Mobile Cellspot, or Verizon Network Extender is going to work best and in others a cell phone signal booster. The main difference between the two kinds of devices is how they function. A microcell type network extender device works by using Internet so you will need an Internet connection at your location when you install one of these. A cell signal boosters does not require Internet. How it works is that it takes a weak signal, boosts it and then sends that boosted and strong signal throughout the house. Then it does the same thing in reverse out to the cell tower. Therefore, you won't need an Internet connection there, but you will need a very faint hint of signal outside. It can't work off no signal outside.

Comparison of a microcell-type devices and signal boosters.

Coverage: A microcell type mni cell tower decive will broadcast about 40 feet from the base station or about 5,000 square feet. A signal booster will cover anywhere from 1,500 to about 7,500 square feet based on the model that you choose.

Setup: A microcell is very easy to set up. You just plug it in and let it perform its settings and adjustments automatically. That is if you know the troubleshooting tips like I mentioned earlier. Otherwise, it can be pretty frustrating trying to troubleshoot and figure it out. However, once you know those things, it gets set up on its own easily.

Installation: The cell phone booster ranges from easy install to complex based on your booster, so you want to choose one of those based on your skill set and the tools you have, and how comfortable you are doing those types of installations.

Number of simultaneous users.

A network extender type device can have a limit. Usually, about four people can use it simultaneously. You can use more in standby mode. However, a lot of times, it has got a capacity issue. Cell phone boosters don't have any capacity issues. You can use as many people as there are within the boosted range as needed. Microcell type devices are carrier-specific. Therefore, if you have got a Verizon Network Extender and your buddy comes over using AT&T cell phone, then it is not going to work for him because you do not have AT&T Microcell. A signal booster is not carrier specific so it will work for any carrier and anybody within its boosted range. Therefore, it will work fine for phones on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or any of the other carrier's mobile network.

Above listed are the main differences between these two technologies. Now, you can decide which one might work best for you. View the video provided above which will show you entire installation process for the Verizon Network Extender.

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