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What Is a Cell Phone Booster?

Posted on 10/30/20 by Taylor Aramburu

Today, we depend on cell phones for day-to-day communication. Being able to communicate on the go is critical, but unfortunately, cell phone signal strength is not uniform across the whole country.

It’s not uncommon for people to take out a phone contract and have great signal at home only to find that reception in their office is poor. You might go on vacation and have plans to check in with work or family back home only to find that there’s no signal at the picturesque camp site.

Cell phone boosters solve that problem by amplifying mobile signals, allowing people to continue using their phones as normal in areas with poor coverage.

home cell phone booster on a white wall

What Is a Cell Phone Booster?

Cell phone boosters are devices that amplify the existing mobile phone signal, improving coverage within the range of the device. You can use a cell phone booster to get a better signal at home, in the office or in rural areas.

It’s important to note that cell phone boosters simply amplify the signal that is already available. If there’s no coverage at all for your network in a given area, the booster won’t work. However, these devices can amplify incredibly weak signals so if coverage is spotty or the signal is just weak, there is a high chance that installing a booster will give you a usable signal.

How Do Cell Phone Boosters Work?

Cell phones communicate with cell towers using Radiofrequency (or RF) waves. These RF waves are a form of energy that falls somewhere between FM radio waves and microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum.

In open air, these waves can travel a very long way. Unfortunately, they lose a lot of power when having to travel through walls, so it is common for cell phone signals to be weaker indoors or in areas where there are a lot of tall buildings.

Cell phone boosters work by using a donor antenna on the outside of a building, in an area with better reception. The donor antenna passes the signal to an amplifier, which sends the amplified signal to transmitters installed inside the building, allowing residents or office users to get good reception indoors.

Can Cell Phone Boosters Work for Calls and Data?

Cell phone boosters are useful for calls, SMS messages and data. They can amplify 3G, 4G and LTE signals, and modern devices can amplify 5G signals too, offering a good amount of future-proofing.

Some people who live in areas with very poor cell reception opt to turn on Wi-Fi calling so they can use their dedicated internet connection to make calls. While there are some benefits to Wi-Fi calling — notably that it means you’re not using up your cell phone plan’s minutes or spotty service— the calls can be laggy if your connection is slow, and there may be restrictions on international calls. Using a signal booster often means you’ll have better call quality and less lag.

How Can You Tell If Your Signal Booster Is Really Working?

It can be hard to tell whether a signal booster is really working. The signal bars shown in the status bar at the top of your phone screen aren’t standardized, so where one model of phone might show four bars of signal in a room, another model might show two or even one bar.

This has to do with how the reception is reported between cell phone brands and models and isn’t really because the quality of reception is different for each phone.

To tell if a cell phone signal booster is working, look in your phone’s settings for the signal strength information or use a third-party app. We explain more about how to do that in this video:

Can You Get Mobile Signal Boosters for the Home?

There are several at-home signal boosters on the market today. If you have poor signal in your house or even just in specific rooms, an at-home signal booster could be a good option for you.

At-home signal boosters rely on an outside antenna that should be positioned in whatever area receives the strongest signal. This antenna transmits the signal that it picks up to a booster inside your home, which can then feed the signal to your living room, office or other rooms where you experience poor signal. You can use multiple in-room transmitters with one antenna.

If you’re considering purchasing an in-home signal booster, make sure you choose the right one for your property and that the signal booster is both FCC- and carrier-approved.

While you’re waiting for a signal booster to be installed, there are a few things you can try to improve your signal at home. For example, try turning off LTE and using 3G instead. Making sure your phone’s battery is fully charged. Removing any cases or covers may also help.

Do Signal Boosters Work in Remote Areas?

Signal boosters can be helpful for people who live or work in remote areas. Many people get mobile signal boosters installed in their car, truck or RV to improve their cell phone signal while they are on the go.

Cell phone signal boosters work only if there is some signal to boost, so they are not 100% effective. There are parts of the country where certain carriers have no coverage at all, and in those areas, a signal booster would be of no benefit.

Many of our vehicle signal boosters come with very large antennas. This means they can pick up signals that are very weak. It’s possible for a mobile phone to show no bars, but for a large antenna to pick up a signal strong enough to be useful with a signal booster.

Are 4G/5G Signal Boosters Really Useful?

Mobile data on 4G and 5G networks is very fast, so fast many people get better upload and download speeds from a mobile data plan than they do from their static in-home connection.

This speed (combined with the knowledge that these technologies are “newer”) leads many to be skeptical about whether cell phone boosters will be necessary in the future.

The way 5G signals work means that signal boosters could become even more important. Signals that are part of the 4G infrastructure use frequencies below 6GHz. In contrast, 5G works using frequencies between 30GHz and 300GHz. There are a lot of benefits to 5G:

  • It supports more devices per meter
  • Latency is lower
  • Speeds are higher

Unfortunately, 5G’s higher frequency means it will be more susceptible to disruption. Thick walls, concrete, steel and other building materials could weaken a 5G signal more severely than a 4G signal.

Combine this with a phased roll out — which means that, in the near future at least, there will be fewer 5G towers than 4G towers — and it’s likely many people who want to make full use of 5G will need a signal booster.

Our Signal Booster Installation Services

If you’re interested in having a signal booster installed in your home, office or vehicle, take a look at our collection of products today. We have DIY signal boosters for smaller properties and a selection of larger boosters with professional installation included in the price.

Our team would be happy to advise you on which booster is most suited to your property and help you get the best possible cell phone signal in every room. Give us a call at 1-866-294-1660 to learn more.

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Education

Read our Consumer Guide to Cell Phone Signal Boosters.

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