You’ve probably heard about cell phone boosters before, and now that you’ve once again dropped a call in the same dead spot, you’re probably wondering: do cell phone signal boosters work?
How Do Signal Boosters Work?
Cell phone boosters (also referred to as signal boosters, amplifiers, or repeaters) give you more bars by receiving the weak signal, strengthening it, sending it to your cell phone, and then rebroadcasting it to the nearest tower.
What Components Make Up a Signal Booster?
Most signal boosters are made up of three key components:
- An outdoor antenna to capture existing signal
- An amplifier (or booster) to boost the signal
- An indoor antenna to broadcast the signal
Also important, and included with each purchase, is a cable and connectors to run them all together. These can present as separate pieces, attached together, or with several outdoor or indoor antennas depending on the power of the booster and scale of the building. Regardless, these are the bare minimum components to have a signal booster system function, and current regulations mean they must be sold together, as a complete kit.
This not only provides better signal to your phone, but better connection to your cell tower and clearer reception all around.
1. The Best Way to Measure Signal Strength
Cellular signals are actually radio waves, with strength measured in decibels (dB). Decibels are also used for measuring sound. A signal of -50 dB is considered exceptional strength, while -120 dB is almost non-existent. How do signal boosters work? They add gain, which can make the signal more powerful and therefore useable; for example, if your cell phone booster has a gain of +50 dB, it can take a weak -120 dB to -70 dB, which is quite strong.
2. Your Outdoor Antenna Brings Existing Signal Inside
A donor antenna is placed outside in an unobtrusive area with the strongest signal; it usually makes sense to attach to a wall or roof. There are basically two types of antennas: omnidirectional or unidirectional, also referred to as yagi.
As the name suggests, an omnidirectional antenna can capture a signal from 360 degrees, while a unidirectional can only get it from a 45-degree angle. Omnidirectional antennas are good for boosting multiple carriers in an area with lots of towers, while unidirectional are better for remote areas and single carriers as they can catch a weaker signal that is farther away. (Cell phone boosters for your car use an omnidirectional antenna since they are designed to work when moving.)
3. The Amplifier Brings the Signal to Your Indoor Antenna
Once the weak signal has been captured, it needs some power. An imperfect (but fun) analogy is like an electric guitar being plugged into a Marshall stack: the signal goes through the cord to the amplifier, making it louder/stronger. Crank it up!
4. The Inside Antenna Beams the Cell Signal to Your Phone
Now that the weak signal has been caught and amplified, it needs to be broadcast to the devices in your home, office, or car. That’s the second antenna’s job. Depending on the area you’re trying to cover, you want either a panel or dome antenna.
The panel sends the signal in a narrow beam; the dome on the other hand is usually mounted on the ceiling and sends out a wider signal to a larger area. Generally speaking, domes are good for open office areas with low ceilings where you want an overall boost in coverage.
Panels are for spaces with lots of obstructions like walls, windows, hallways, etc. which can greatly reduce the interior signal. The panel sends a 45 to 70-degree radio beam , which can be used to enhance specific dead spots.
5. Two Booster Types: Single and Multi-Carrier
Cell phone signal boosters operate over a range of frequencies. These frequencies represent different carriers, and there are a variety of carriers within each band. There are, essentially, two types of signal boosters: wideband, which cover all cellular frequencies simultaneously, and single-carrier, which cover only those bands used by an individual carrier.
These each have their pluses and minuses. As the power of consumer boosters is capped, wideband boosters tend to have lower gain across the entire cellular spectrum, but it does allow for use no matter which carrier you or any of your co-workers/family members have. If everyone in your family uses, say, Rogers, you might consider a single-carrier booster. You’ll receive more gain, as the same amount of power is focused squarely on Rogers bands.
When is a Cell Phone Signal Booster Useful?
Even though cell phone signal boosters do work (and, yes, with proper approval they ARE legal), they’re not always going to be useful. First and foremost, they cannot be used outdoors for hiking or camping. Additionally, if there is simply no signal at all, you cannot boost what is not there. There are also factors such as the building’s construction materials, the amount of gain in your amplifier, and the size of the area you are trying to boost.
We hope we’ve answered the question “do cell phone signal boosters really work?”. You now have enough information to make an educated purchase. Please visit our online store to find the model that best suits your needs.