What is the difference between a Femtocell and a signal booster?

Posted by on July 28, 2015

These products operate quite differently; However they are both used in situations where cellular reception is limited.

  • The Femtocell (micro-cell) is a cellular base station that creates a cell signal to cover a small area, using a broadband Internet connection.
  • The signal booster amplifies ambient cellular signal, making the amplified signal available to cellular devices.

Femtocell versus signal booster

Cell Phone Signal Boosters

There are three main components to a booster system:

  • The outside antenna (tower) that receives the signal from the tower;
  • The electronic signal amplifier that boosts signal strength; and
  • The inside antenna (device) to re-transmit the boosted signal inside the vehicle or building.

These are bi-directional systems. The above process is repeated in reverse order when your phone transmits back to the tower. Signal boosters are especially effective in weak signal areas and in buildings where cellular signals have difficulty penetrating.

  • Signal boosters operate quite independently of the Internet: the connection is maintained by the booster when the cell phone changes from receiving signal via the signal booster to receiving signal via the cell tower, and vice versa.
  • Cell phone signal boosters are a one-time purchase, with no monthly charges.
  • Signal boosters will amplify signals for multiple carriers and can boost both data and voice.
  • Wireless boosters will support simultaneous connections of multiple cellular devices on different carriers.
  • There are various models of signal boosters available for vehicle installation.
  • Signal boosters conserve the battery charge on your device.
  • Signal boosters can cover areas from a small single room right up to a large building, depending on the system configuration. However, a signal booster doesn’t create a cellular signal: for a booster to work there must be a detectable signal available.

Femtocells

The Femtocell is connected to the Internet to create a VoIP signal (voice over IP) to cover a small internal area. Sometimes a cellular service provider will offer these devices as a solution to assist users in poor signal areas.

Pros of Femtocells

  • In favour of these devices is the fact that they can provide cell signal indoors, even when there is no cellular signal outside.
  • They generally offer a faster connection for data than other cellular signals.
  • They can cover an area from a single room right up to a large building.

Cons of Femtocells

  • Femtocells do require a high-speed Internet connection.
  • A Femtocell is not able to pass a connection to a cell tower: for example, if you’re in your home speaking to someone using a Femtocell connection and you walk outside, your call will be dropped.
  • Femtocells can only support cellular devices for your own carrier.
  • Femtos require that cellular devices be paired, or synced, to the Femtocell before the femto’s connection can be used.
  • You may receive a monthly fee for using the equipment from your cellular service provider.
  • Some of your Internet connection’s bandwidth will be used by the femto to enable it to operate.

Please contact our Customer Support team if you have any further questions about which type of device would be the best fit for your situation.

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