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Do Cell Signal Boosters Really Work?

Do Cell Signal Boosters Really Work?

Posted by Greg Knell on 15th Oct 2019

Quick Summary of How Do Cell Signal Boosters Work? (10 Questions Answered)

  • How Do Cell Signal Boosters Work?
  • Are Cell Signal Boosters Legal?
  • Do Cell Signal Boosters Work On My Network Carrier?
  • What Is A Single-Carrier Amplifier?
  • Does A Cell Signal Booster Need Internet To Work?
  • How Do Cell Signal Boosters Work Outside?
  • How Do Cell Signal Boosters Work While Hiking?
  • Can My Neighbor Leech Off My Cell Signal Booster?
  • Are Cell Signal Boosters 5G Compatible?
  • Are Cell Signal Boosters Waterproof?

  • Annoyed with weak cell signal? So are millions of others. Though mobile phone technology is more advanced than ever, it still has room to grow. Every cell provider wants to provide its customers with the best possible service, including great signal. I mean, that’s sort of the original point of having a cell phone, right? To be able to conveniently talk anywhere through a personal phone that you carry around with you? Well, as good as the cell signals are today, there are still areas and circumstances that aren’t so good. And few things are as frustrating as dropping calls and losing service when you feel it shouldn’t be happening.

    Well, that’s why cell phone signal boosters were created.

    You’ve heard of a cell phone signal booster. Maybe even know someone who has one. But you probably have no idea how it works. Do they actually work? This question is answered here, and so are lots of other related ones. Questions like are they really legal? (Yes, they definitely are. More on that further down.) Do they need internet to work? Can I take it camping? It’s likely we’ll address most, if not all of the basic questions you have about these helpful devices. Here we go.

    1. Do Cell Phone Boosters Really Work?

    Cell phone signal boosters are proven to enhance cellular reception significantly. They work by capturing existing weak signals using an outside antenna, amplifying these signals up to +60 dB, and then redistributing a stronger signal indoors via a panel or dome antenna. 

    This technology leads to improved call quality, faster internet speeds, and fewer dropped calls, making it highly effective in areas with poor signal coverage, including rural locations. These boosters are legal, FCC-certified, and compatible with all major network carriers.

    Without getting too in-depth (which we will in a second), this is what they do. Essentially, there are three steps to how it works. And each part represents, literally, a different part of the device. First, the device locates the weak signal of your mobile phone. Second, it enhances it. Third, it rebroadcasts it in the immediate area of the device. Voila! Stronger signal!

    Step 1: The Outside Antenna

    Now, here’s that same explanation, but more detailed. During Step 1, the existing cell phone signal is captured by what’s called the outside antenna. This is an independent part of the device that’s placed on the exterior of the home. It locates the signal that your phone is using. It doesn’t matter if the signal is 3G or 4G LTE. There are two different kinds of outside antennas depending on which booster model you get. One is called an omni-directional antenna and the other is called a uni-directional antenna.

    The difference between the two is that one has the ability to scan signals at a 360º angle (omni). The other can only scan at a 45º angle (uni) and is shaped like a triangle. However, that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. They’re simply used for different purposes. In fact, boosters with uni-capabilities can reach signals further away compared to omni ones. Homes that use boosters with uni-capabilities usually have only one carrier with a really weak signal. Households that have phones using multiple carriers with adequate-to-good signals usually use boosters with omni-capabilities.

    Step 2: The Amplifier

    Once the outside antenna grabs hold of the signal, it’s sent to the amplifier. And the amplifier…well…amplifies it. It’s a square or rectangular component situated inside the house, sometimes attached to a wall or inside a closet. Whatever you prefer depending on the layout of your home. Sometimes this part of the signal booster is called the cellular repeater. The strength of the amplifier depends on what kind you bought. They can cover a wide variety of distances. Some have ranges as low as 500 sq ft and others as much as 7,000 sq ft.

    No matter what kind of amplifier it is, they’re all measured the same way. By decibel (dB) output. You may remember learning about decibels in science class. What this means is that cell signals are really just operating within the radio spectrum, using radio waves. In fact, cellular frequencies are radio waves. Most people don’t know that.

    Amplifiers In The Home

     To get technical for just a moment, these are the cell phone signals that apply to you and your phone. When you have full bars of service, that’s -50 dB. When you have no service, that’s -120 dB. To give you a bit more perspective, a +60 dB gain is what a standard home amplifier should create. That means that it positively moves the decibels of your cell signal by 60. There are some amplifiers on the market that have a +70 dB gain. That’s about as powerful as they come at this point in time. As technology continues to advance, cell phone signal boosters are sure to get stronger.

    Amplifiers In The Car

    You can buy signal boosters that are meant to be used in the car while driving. These ones don’t have quite the capabilities of the home boosters, but they still work well. Standard ones create a +25 dB gain. High-end ones create a +50 dB gain.

    It’s also worth noting that how fast your cell signal will reach the advertised dB can vary. It depends on a handful of factors. For example, what materials is your home or building made out of? What do you have inside or directly outside your home that could cause signal interference? How far away are you from the nearest cell tower? All these things can affect the effectiveness of your cell phone signal booster. Before purchasing one, consider talking with someone who knows about these things. There are certified signal boost experts at SureCall that you can speak with. They’ll help you assess your dB reading and let you know what to expect from the booster in your home.

    Step 3: The Inside Antenna

    And finally, we come to the inside antenna. Once the amplifier has done its work, the signal is sent here. This is yet another independent component of your signal booster kit, making a total of three components. This is the part of the device that enhances and rebroadcasts the signal throughout your home. There are two kinds of inside antennas. One is called a panel antenna and the other is called a dome antenna. The difference between them concerns how they rebroadcast the signal. One is stronger the closer you are to it (panel) and the other distributes the signal equally (dome).

    The panel variety is usually mounted on the wall. Homes that use this kind typically want the signal to be strongest in a particular room or area. Maybe a bedroom, a living room, a home office, something like that. The cell signal will be the strongest in the immediate vicinity of the panel antenna. Even though the signal is still broadcast past the room it’s in, it’s strongest directly around it. The dome variety is usually mounted on the ceiling. People who use this kind want the signal to be evenly distributed throughout the house as much as possible. Rather than in one particular room.

    When shopping for cell phone signal boosters, you’ll find that certain manufacturers favor either panel or dome antennas. At SureCall, we prefer providing our customers with dome antennas. Our experience has shown that overall, it’s the best way to go.

    Now You Know How Signal Boosters Work

    Now that you know the three stages of how cell phone signal boosters work, you can make an educated decision. A decision on what kind of booster you want to buy. Remember all the great things it can do for you! No more bad reception, slow internet, lagging texts, bad call quality, and dropped calls. Oh yeah, there’s also no monthly fees or contacts associated with buying one. So that’s nice. Also, most of these products come with a long warranty. 2-3 years, usually.

    Remember, too, that depending on your location it’s possible that a standard model won’t do the trick for you. Pricier models are sometimes necessary for people who live in dead zones (areas of barely any or no signal). Do a bit of research or give us a call and we’ll direct you to the right model for you.

    One more thing. Some people mistakenly believe that these devices actually create their own cell signal. Sort of like a wifi hotspot. This is not how they work. They simply enhance and rebroadcast existing cell signals. And they don’t enhance the general wifi in your home that's coming from your router. They only improve the internet speed on your phone by way of boosting your cell signal.

    Now let’s answer some more questions you have.

     2. Are Cell Signal Boosters Legal?

    This question gets asked all the time. Yes, they are legal. Maybe the reason this always comes up is that signal boosters aren’t made and sold by cell carriers. So perhaps people feel like they’re enhancing their signal through some frowned-upon method. Signal boosters are perfectly legal, everyone. No need to worry. Since 2014, they’ve been certified by the FCC. It’s like buying a radar detector for your car. You’re just enhancing the capabilities of your device with a helpful product.

     3. Do Cell Signal Boosters Work On My Network Carrier?

    It doesn’t matter what cell phone company you're with. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, whatever. All signal boosters work with virtually every network carrier. The only known exception is that in some very local, rare markets, many boosters don’t work for Sprint users. But even if you’re with Sprint, the likelihood of you living in one of these areas is very low. Also, just so you know, it doesn’t matter what kind of phone you have. If your household has iPhones, Samsungs, and Google Pixels all under one roof, that’s fine. The booster will work for all of them.

    4. What Is A Single-Carrier Amplifier?

    When cell signal boosters first came on the scene, some were made to work specifically with particular networks. A Verizon-only signal booster, for example. Though some still exist, they have fallen out of favor as technology in the industry has advanced. They’re usually more difficult to install and setup compared to standard boosters. There isn’t much need for such a product when most boosters work with any carrier. And why would you want one, anyway? What if you switch providers? What if you go from Verizon to AT&T? Then you’d have to buy a whole new signal booster. There’s no need for that.

    5. Does A Cell Signal Booster Need Internet To Work?

    No. They work independently of any landline internet or WiFi connection.

    6. How Do Cell Signal Boosters Work Outside?

    Not great. In fact, usually they don’t work at all outside. They are designed to boost a cell signal in a designated area. 

    7. How Do Cell Signal Boosters Work While Hiking?

    Again, they don’t work outside. You can’t take your booster camping. It won’t work.

    However, if you live in a remote area, that's a different story. Here's what you need to know about cell signal boosters if you live in a remote area.

    And if you're traveling in an RV, that comes with its own unique recommendations.

    8. Can My Neighbor Leech Off My Cell Signal Booster?

    No, they cannot. Signal boosters are designed to prevent this from happening. The devices only work in the confined space where they’re installed. If your neighbor wants to benefit from your boosted cell signal, she’ll have to come over to your house.

    9. Are Cell Signal Boosters 5G Compatible?

    Until recently, we've always had to answer no to this question. Soon, that will no longer be the case. SureCall is excited to announce a new 5G option! Learn about the new 5G cell signal booster here!

    10. Are Cell Signal Boosters Waterproof?

    No, not really. We say not really because technically the outdoor antenna portion of your booster is waterproof. Rainfall won’t hurt it. But the amplifier and inside antenna are not waterproof. Don’t get them wet.

    Any More Questions?

    Contact a representative at SureCall for answers to anything else you're wondering about. We'd love to help you.