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Installer Tips For Design & Installation of Basic Cell Booster System

Posted by on Oct 03, 2018

Back in 2011 only 35% of adults in the United States owned a smart phone. Today, that figure has reached 77%. It is predicted that by 2019 the number of mobile phone users worldwide will surpass the 5 billion mark. There's no doubt that today our phones have become indispensable. Smart phone manufacturers are continuously competing with each other. They try to launch even smarter features and built-in intelligence. Our devices have progressed to becoming an essential tool in the workplace. There is no doubt that our smart devices are helping redefine the future of how we work.

Smartphones today are no longer a luxury. They have become a necessity in our everyday lives, both personal and business. This means that achieving reliable cellular signal has become vitally important. Mobile phone users expect to be connected, regardless of the location or industry. Rightly or wrongly, employees, tenants and visitors to all types of buildings not only expect to be connected, they expect access to a reliable and strong signal. The reason for this is that today’s smartphone device users are doing a lot more than simply calling and texting on their smart phone.

However, reliable cellular signal is not always available. This happens in remote locations, or when environmental or building materials impede access to a strong cellular signal. Your cell phone’s lack of reception will probably be due to your location from the closest broadcaster or network power. Or it may be so because the signal is unable to penetrate the vehicle or building you’re located in. Regardless of the reason, you may be experiencing difficulty in sending and receiving texts and/or putting up with poor-quality or dropped calls on your cell phone.

Why Cell Phone Users May Need a Cell Phone Signal Booster.

A cell phone signal booster is a device specifically designed to amplify existing weak signals, thus ensuring that cell phone users always have access to a reliable connection. A cell phone signal booster captures weak signals from a cellular tower, amplifiers it, then transmits the amplified signal to a closed space such as your building, home, or vehicle.

Your job as an integrator and installer is to provide your customers with a well-executed plan that will provide a reliable and strong cellular signal where it is most needed. It is certainly true that it can be quite challenging planning a basic system design, so in this post we will take a closer look at some of the basic considerations and components that should not be overlooked when planning a basic system design.

Schedule a Site Survey.

A site survey is a vital step when planning to install a cellular signal amplifier. Your site survey will include using a special tool called a Signal Meter to determine an accurate outdoor signal reading. A signal meter is a professional handheld device designed specifically to detect and display the frequency, bandwidth, and strength of a signal with absolute accuracy. Importantly, there is no waiting for accurate signal readings because this handy tool updates in real time. It is true that you can use your phone in test mode to check signal strength, but this is not the most reliable method. A signal meter allows the integrator to observe the entire cellular spectrum for ALL carriers. The wireless architecture of the signal booster system is significantly influenced by outside signal strength. More hardware is required when the signal strength outside is low, because signal must be not only captured, it must also be boosted within the building.

Start with a Plan of the Space Concerned.

Request a floor plan or blueprint of the space concerned. This will help because as part of the site survey, you will need to conduct a thorough walk-through of the site. Walk the building’s perimeter and take observations both inside and out in order to determine the most effective places to install interior and exterior antennas. At the same time, you can work out where the signal amplifier for boosting the signal should be installed, and where the cable will be run from the roof into the building. With this information at hand, you can create a simple layout or flowchart detailing all the necessary components. This chart can also be used as a parts list. Now calculate the square footage of the building to help determine the most effective installation plan and to ensure that no design components have been overlooked. The most important details you require from your site survey are as follows:

  • External signal strength for each channel or block.
  • Exterior size; and location for mounting donor antennas.
  • Penetration points for cable.
  • Materials for interior wall.
  • Determining ideal cell amplifier locations, where cable will be run, and the accessibility of those areas.
  • Determining the location for mounting broadcast antenna.
  • Any other relevant building details that may affect the design requirements.
  • Identifying potential obstacles.

To complete a system design you will ideally use some sort of layout software which will help determine what you require. Applications like Publisher, Microsoft Visio, Paint, and iBwave are all good applications. However, iBwave contains an in-built Wilson Pro signal amplifier component to assist in running your mathematical equations. Great for working out your cable requirements!

Once you have gathered the information you need via the site survey, you can then start determining how certain factors may affect the design system. Factors you need to consider include the following.

Potential Obstacles.

Now that you have the signal readings, you need to locate and measure internal obstacles like concrete beams, drywall, energy-efficient windows, multiple levels, and so on. All of these can adversely affect signal and signal boosting. Each and every factor must be considered because, although one antenna is capable of covering a large internal area if the signal is strong enough, the effectiveness of the antenna can be adversely affected by each one of these components. When calculating signal loss within the building it is imperative that all these factors are taken into consideration and that they are accounted for in your final system design. Let us say for example you have an open-space 4000 ft.² facility, like an empty warehouse. That entire building could be covered by one antenna in the center. On the other hand, if that same building has interior walls and other factors, you will start experiencing loss. In this instance when additional antennas should be added into your design.

Determining How Many Antennas Will Be Required.

It is your responsibility as a trained installer to maximize system performance. The cell phone signal booster system’s performance will depend a great deal on correct installation practices. An enhanced cell phone signal can very quickly be mitigated by inefficient cable runs and poorly placed antennas. By following best practices and protocol you will not only provide your clients with an enhanced cell phone signal, you will also save money and time by reducing the possibility of a system malfunction.

Therefore, with the blueprint and site survey in front of you, you can start plotting how many antennas will be required for each section of the building. Don’t forget to take into consideration the maximum antenna recommendations for each amplifier. Take the Pro 70, 1000, and 1050 series, for example, where a maximum of four antennas is recommended. If you believe even more antennas will be required, either add additional amplifiers or install an amplifier that is scalable to cover larger areas, like the Pro 4000. The required area of coverage will determine the antenna to be used. Keep in mind that adding antennas does not equate to added square footage. However, in order to avoid attenuation obstructions such as beams, walls, shelving, and so on, additional antennas can be added.

Determine the Number and Type of Amplifiers to Be Used.

Once you have determined how many antennas will be required, you can then work out the number and type of amplifiers needed. The key determining factor here will be the outdoor signal strength. Fewer antennas would be added to the amplifier output in a weak signal environment. When choosing an amplifier, -45 dBm is a perfect number for an outdoor reading. Should the incoming signal be -45 dBm or more on any frequency band, the Pro 70 series amplifiers could well shut down those bands.

The WilsonPro 1000 and 4000 Series.

Special features of both the Wilson Pro 1000 and 4000 series is AGC (automatic gain control) and XDR (extended dynamic range). Both of these features are built into the amplifier's software. The signal is attenuated to an acceptable range that not only meets FCC requirements, it won’t force the shutdown of bands.

Determining Signal Gain and Loss in Your Design.

Signal gain is the measure of an antenna’s or booster’s signal output relative to its signal input. Let us say for example, a booster provides a maximum 50 dB gain. This means the boosted signal from the unit is up to 50 dB stronger than the original un-boosted signal. Essentially, "gain" represents the level of signal boost that an antenna and/or booster is capable of providing. Therefore, a booster with a higher gain value should provide a larger coverage area and/or stronger signal than a booster with a lower gain value.

Now that you have decided on the parts and equipment you need, it is time to determine the amount of system gain and loss in your proposed design. A number of things will contribute to signal loss, such as the number of splitters, the amount of cabling required, obstructions, building materials, and so on. Therefore, you should ensure that your cabling, whilst maintaining coverage, is a short as possible.

As you know, signal gain is achieved from the internal and external antennas, and from the amplifier. Together, these two equations will give you your total system gain and your loss budget. Ideally, your external donor antenna will be placed in a centralized location and as close to the amplifier as possible.

The Importance of Outside Signal Readings.

In our opinion, one of the most important aspects of designing an efficient cell signal booster system is outside signal readings. In order to achieve an accurate outside reading, subtract the loss of your co-coaxial cable length from the outside antenna to the amplifier. This should assist in accurately determining gain and loss from the coaxial cable to the antennas. Don’t forget to allow for any added splitters and the loss value of each one.

Keep in mind that, when working with decibel measurements, it is a basic addition and subtraction equation. When trying to determine the value you can add or subtract, then simply convert dBm to a percentage of power output, or gain, depending on what you’re looking for. Let us say for example you have an output at your antenna of -20 dBm. This means you should be able to cover approximately 4500 ft.² of open space.

Integrators can go to the "browse using map" tab at the FCC Spectrum dashboard website (http://reboot.fcc.gov/reform/systems/spectrum-dashboard), and select the state and county of their project, and receive a printout of all spectrum readings used for cellular and other frequencies, in addition to those that are regulated and licensed by the FCC.

Communicate with Your Customer.

Now that you have completed your assessment of the space involved and the signal available, you must speak to your customer about their expectations. You do this by pointing out to your customer that any improvement to the indoor signal is entirely dependent upon the strength of the existing outdoor signal.

Now it is time to determine the type of amplifier best suited to your project, and this matter should also be discussed with your customer. Depending on the size of the building, there are several different Wilson Pro options available, ranging from the Pro 70 to the Pro 4000. Explain to your customer that, regardless of the outdoor signal, it is the amplifier you decide to use that will determine the maximum signal output. Let us say, for example, your system design recommends using the Pro 1000: you should then achieve a maximum output of 15 dBm.

It is true that, to some degree, designing a booster system can be a subjective process because there’s no right or wrong configuration. It always comes down to the availability of the outside signal. As you can see, there are a number of components involved in designing and implementing a basic cell phone signal booster system, from the necessary site survey right through to the final design, and being sure to set your customer’s expectations. Don’t misrepresent your capabilities, and certainly never over-promise: over-delivering is always better.

Keep in mind that there can only be an improvement in signal if there is an available outdoor signal to amplify, so your job as a system integrator is to improve the existing external signal and provide indoor access to the improved signal.

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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