When Will a Cell Signal Booster Not Work?

Ken Perkins | September 28, 2017



We’ve posted before about how you can know for sure that cell phone boosters really work to enhance your mobile phone signal. Here’s a link to that post: Do cell phone boosters actually work?

We’ve also previously posted about why some people may mistakenly think that cell boosters are a scam. Read that post here: Five myths about cell phone signal boosters.

While cell signal boosters work well in most poor-signal situations, there are three specific circumstances in which a booster may not, or absolutely won’t, work.

When you cannot install an antenna outside your home or office.

When your carrier’s more distant weak cell signal is overpowered by strong cell signal from another carrier’s closer cell tower.

When your carrier has a very weak signal, or no detectable cell signal to amplify in your location.


We discuss these situations in more detail below. We also offer a couple of suggestions for solutions to solve these cell signal problems.


When you cannot install an antenna outside

Most of the time a cell signal booster requires an outside (or tower) antenna in order to enhance cell signal. You can read about how boosters work here: How Cell Phone Boosters Work. As part of the booster’s operation the outside antenna collects the signal from the cell tower, and passes it along a coaxial cable to the amplifier which boosts the signal.

However there are some situations in which you may not be able to install an antenna outside your home or office building. For example, your HOA agreement may prohibit exterior antennas on homes. Or your office lease may not allow any additions or changes to the outside of your building.

In those kinds of circumstances, is it possible to have a cell signal booster provide better phone reception in your home or office?

Well, maybe.

If a sufficient level of cell signal penetrates into your home or other building, then it may be possible to install a cell booster system and have it work effectively without a tower antenna outside the building. A tower antenna is still required, but the booster system may work with the tower antenna installed inside next to a window.

You would also have to make sure there is sufficient separation distance between the tower antenna and the inside (device) antenna. The booster’s user manual can help with this.

To test whether you have sufficient indoor signal for this installation method, answer this question.

“If I stand inside next to the window where cell signal is strongest, do I have a strong enough signal to place a call?” If the answer is “yes,” then a booster system with tower antenna placed inside will probably work to enhance your indoor cell reception and provide a larger coverage area. If the answer is “no,” then this installation method is probably not viable for your location.

The eqo 4G booster for example includes a tower antenna that is NOT mounted outside the home. Rather, the eqo 4G tower antenna is placed between a window and its screen, and connected to the booster with flat coax cable that fits under the window when it’s closed.


An overpower situation

If it’s difficult to get a reliable cell signal from your carrier’s tower, a cell booster system can usually help enhance cell reception in your home or office. But if another carrier’s cell tower (not your carrier) is located in between your home or office and your carrier’s tower, a signal overload may prevent a booster system from working effectively for you.

In this situation, the signal booster would collect and amplify cell signals from both carriers’ towers. The other carrier’s stronger signal from its closer tower would cause the booster to operate at less than full amplification. This happens because all cell boosters are required by FCC regulations to detect the level of available signals and automatically adjust amplification to compensate for the strength of the strongest incoming signal.

The stronger incoming signal from the other carrier’s closer tower prevents the booster from sufficiently amplifying the weaker signal from your carrier’s more distant tower. The result is the signal booster is prevented from amplifying your carrier’s signal to a level that will enhance your cell reception.

That’s how an overload, or overpower, situation will prevent a booster from enhancing cell signal.


When there is no detectable cell signal or very weak signal

A cell booster works by detecting and amplifying signals. If there is no detectable signal in a location, a booster won’t work. You can read more about that in this post: Will a signal booster work when there is no cell service?

To help you judge whether you have a strong enough cell signal for a booster to work in your home or office, ask your self a similar question to the one above.

“When I stand outside my home or office, can I get a cell signal strong enough to place a call and keep the connection without dropping?” If the answer is “yes,” then a booster system should work to bring that available cell signal inside the building to enhance your indoor cell reception. If the answer is “no,” then a booster system probably won’t work in your location.


Possible Solutions

If cell booster won’t work in your poor-signal situation, but you have access to a Wifi network, then try Wifi calling as a solution. Wifi calling can sometimes substitute for the cell network in weak-signal situations. You can read this post to see if Wifi calling might work for you: How to turn on Wifi calling on your cell phone.

Another possible solution when a cell booster won’t work is a microcell or femtocell. If you have a broadband Internet connection but weak or no cell signal, a microcell might be the answer. Read this post to see if a microcell is a potential solution for your situation: Does a Microcell work to boost cell phone signal?


To learn more about cell boosters, how they work and if they can help your poor-cell-reception problems, check out our Ultimate Consumer Guide to Cell Phone Signal Boosters


To see cell boosters for home, vehicles and office, click below.