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Is a Microcell Worth it?

Posted on 2/8/2022 by Web Admin

Is a Microcell Worth it

Even in 2024, there are a lot of people who face weak or unreliable cellular signal on a daily basis. If you’re one of them, would it be worth getting a microcell to try and solve the problem? The short answer is, “it depends on your situation.”

If (a) your weak-cell-signal conditions are such that you would benefit from a microcell, and;

(b) your user requirements don’t run afoul of the technical limitations of a microcell; then yes, a getting a microcell (also known as a femtocell) would be worth it.

But if either (a) or (b) do not apply, then it clearly would NOT be worth it for you to get a microcell.

Clear as mud? Let’s get some clarity.

Analyzing your situation to evaluate your suitability for a microcell requires us to review how microcells work, including their technical limits.

How microcells work

A microcell is essentially a low-power cell signal source. When connected to a router, a consumer-level microcell for personal use works with a broadband Internet connection. It can deliver cell coverage typically between one and three rooms of your home. Some carriers even offer their own microcells, such as the AT&T Microcell.

While these low-power models aren’t designed to provide broad coverage, there are enterprise-level microcells that can provide cell signal to an entire building.

Cell traffic – voice and data – travels over your service provider’s network and is delivered to the microcell by an Internet gateway. The microcell then communicates directly with your phone, and signals from your phone are sent back to your provider’s network via the Internet gateway.

Consumer-level microcells have a typical signal range of about 50 feet. Most can handle up to four or five simultaneous phone connections. Enterprise microcell models often support 12 or more connections simultaneously.

Advantages & disadvantages of a microcell

A microcell’s big advantage over other cell-signal-boosting systems is its capability of creating an indoor cell signal, even in places where there is no detectable ambient cell signal anywhere nearby.

However, in order to create a cell signal like that, a microcell must be connected to high-speed Internet. If you don’t have a broadband Internet connection for a microcell to connect with, a microcell won’t work for you.

As you can imagine, with a microcell using your broadband Internet connection, any other devices that rely on the Internet may struggle to get enough bandwidth.

If your router, your Internet connection and the available network bandwidth aren’t up to the demands of your connected devices – including the microcell – you could find services like streaming video or music are interrupted. This could also cause your cell phone calls to have poor audio quality.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a microcell works for only one specific cell carrier – yours. If family members, roommates or visiting friends use a different carrier than you do, the microcell won’t do anything at all to boost their cell signal, even when they’re in range.

A microcell also requires all devices to be logged into the microcell in order to use the cell signal it produces. Any phones not sync’d with the microcell – even those on the supported cell carrier’s network – are not allowed to use the boosted signal.

Something else to remember – a microcell works indoors only. It can’t be used as a cell booster in a vehicle.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to using a microcell in your home or office is that if you happen to move out of microcell signal range, the device doesn’t always “pass-off” a connection to the cellular network seamlessly. Instead, it may just drop your call or video, or stop any message transmission in its tracks.

By contrast, your cell connection is passed seamlessly from tower to tower as you move, even if you’re in the middle of a call or data stream. With a microcell, you can’t be sure of that.

Say you’re at home in the morning about to leave for work. Your boss phones your cell for a quick briefing on a meeting you and she are scheduled to attend as soon as you arrive at the office.

Just then you hear a car horn and so you dash out to your carpool. As you go out the door, you leave microcell range. Here’s the critical question – will the cellular network now accept the hand-off of your connection from the microcell? Or will your boss’s call drop? There’s no way to know.

To keep you on the call, the microcell must pass the call over to the nearest cell tower. It may work just fine. Or the microcell and the tower may NOT work in concert, so the call drops.

So back to our title question, “Is a microcell worth it?”

Well, if your situation fits the circumstances we’ve described above, then a microcell is might be worth it for you. If not, then you should probably avoid it.


A microcell –

  • Requires a broadband Internet connection
  • Creates a cell signal indoors
  • Competes for bandwidth with other connected devices
  • Works for one specific cell carrier
  • Must be sync’d with a phone in order to boost signal
  • May not provide a smooth “hand-off” with the cell network

Wanna learn more about other cell boosters? Click below.

Is a microcell worth it

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