If you have poor cellphone reception, you may be able to improve the situation by investing in a cellular repeater. Depending on the scope of the project, a cellular repeater can be reasonably affordable and relatively straightforward.
Boosting a Cellphone Signal
At its most fundamental level, a cellphone signal repeater does exactly what it sounds like it does; it takes an existing cellphone signal and "repeats" it. This helps to improve coverage where reception may have been poor or even nonexistent. In some ways, it is similar to a range extender device that you might use with your home's Wi-Fi network, except it operates with the cellular signal from your wireless provider.
In general, commercially made signal repeaters will outperform homemade signal boosters in helping your mobile device stay connected to the wireless network. A big part of this has to do with how such repeaters are typically configured and installed.
Three Main Parts
While there may be some variations between manufacturers and models, typical cellphone repeaters consist of three common components.
- An outside antenna, commonly installed on rooftops or near windows, used to receive the initial signal from the cellular provider
- A signal amplifier that is designed to boost the strength of the incoming signal
- An inside antenna that rebroadcasts the boosted incoming signal to the area requiring improved coverage
The three components are typically connected with high-quality coaxial cable or something similar. The net result is that an area of your home, office or other building that previously had poor or no reception would then receive the boosted signal via the inside antenna.
Common Usage Scenarios
There are different types of signal repeaters for different usage cases.
Residential and Rural
A relatively smaller product, like the weBoost Connect 4G from Wilson Amplifiers, is geared toward residential applications. It can be effective in covering an area of up to 5,000 square feet, including support for both 3G and 4G networks from virtually all North American networks, like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, so it doesn't matter which wireless carrier you use.
This type of product is good in situations where you may have usable signal strength when you sit next to the window in your house, but perhaps you lose reception entirely as you walk toward the kitchen or into the basement. Similar solutions also exist for rural applications, helping to reach cellphone towers that are located farther away.
Larger, more powerful commercial cellphone signal repeaters also exist for applications like large office buildings, warehouses, and factories. These types of buildings may be prohibitively large or made with dense building materials that cellphone signals have difficulty penetrating. Commercial grade repeaters can cover up to 100,000 square feet.
Potential Pros and Cons
As with all technology products, signal repeaters have both perks and potential pitfalls.
If you want to stay connected in areas where reception is poor, cellphone repeaters can be very useful.
- Boost cellphone signal across a broad area, including the signal from multiple carriers
- Relatively straightforward to install
- Relatively inexpensive solution (residential repeaters are typically $100 to $500)
Disadvantages and Challenges
Understandably, these types of products aren't going to be ideal in all situations.
- Needs enough initial signal to amplify and repeat in the first place
- Limited to where the booster is installed
- Can require some expertise to configure properly
Can You Hear Me Now?
A mobile device, like a smartphone, that cannot reliably connect to a cellular network loses a great deal of its usefulness. Between dropped calls, missed text messages, slow or interrupted data transfers and more, the frustration associated with low to no bars of reception cannot be understated. A cellphone signal booster can be a viable solution in a number of scenarios when installed and configured for optimal performance.