We had to go deeper
August 16, 2012 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with using cell phone signal amplifiers?

We're looking at moving into a basement suite with maximum of two bars of coverage and usually between half a bar (flickering between 1 and 0) and a bar. The basement suite is awesome and the only thing we have found that suits everyone so far... except for the cell signal problem.

Assume that we cannot move into another location and that we must use a signal amplifier (or other device that I haven't heard of). Will such an amplifier work for multiple devices on multiple carriers (One Virgin mobile, two mobilicity, one Bell)? Is it feasible to do this? Are there specific models you can recommend?

posted by Slackermagee to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry I don't remember the model but I used a cell phone signal amplifier for an experiment where I had a usb broadband modem in the NJ Pinelands where the signal was really poor. It was 12V, to be plugged into a cigarette lighter and was on a car battery. It worked very well actually. I used it with my cell phone a few times since the signal was so poor there and it worked great. It actually didn't connect to the modem or phone in any way, there was a flat paddle antenna that just laid on the device and there was a little magnetic antenna I put up a tree a bit.
posted by JayNolan at 2:28 PM on August 16, 2012

I don't have any recommendations for signal boosters, I've never had any luck finding one that worked for me on Verizon Wireless. If you have decent wifi, you could always use Talkatone. This is what I do if I absolutely have to use my cell phone at home, where I get no cell service. The quality is definitely not as good, but it works.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:38 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of the Talkatone suggestion, I recently was in a similar situation and used a bluetooth headset with the 'call phone' feature on Google chat. Worked pretty well.
posted by jon1270 at 2:44 PM on August 16, 2012

I use google voice on my computer (with a G voice number that also forwards to my phone), works like a charm if you don't mind being tethered to your computer when you're on the phone. Works for both incoming and outgoing calls.
posted by HuronBob at 2:53 PM on August 16, 2012

My workplace has one installed about thirty feet from me . I *still* can't get a good T-Mobile signal. And I'm in an urban area.

So my experience is that the signal extender doesn't help much with T-Mobile. I don't know why.
posted by tacodave at 3:17 PM on August 16, 2012

I haven't bought one yet, but I was shopping on Amazon, and reading the reviews definitely helped. Different cell carriers use different bands, so you need to get a cell booster that is compatible with your provider. Since you are juggling three providers, it might be the case that you need one, two, or three boosters, depending on which models support which bands, and which bands the carriers use. It won't be hard to find out which is what, but expect that to be the main restriction on what you can buy.

Also, a 2G boosters seemed to be a lot cheaper than a 4G booster. Since 4G is only good for data, your wifi can handle that and you probably only need 2G so you can use voice and SMS.

Whatever you're looking at, read the amazon reviews and compare. It sounds to me like there are situations where the boosters don't help much, and situations in which they're great, so consider buying through an avenue where you can return the item if it doesn't work for you.
posted by anonymisc at 3:35 PM on August 16, 2012

I just moved to a new apartment without realizing ahead of time that our AT&T reception is terrible there. I'm considering buying a signal booster, but in the meantime, I've been using the Talkatone app with good results, once I turned of the audio compression. People I've asked say that they can hear me clearly, and I'm happy with the reception on my end.

The only thing that I'm trying to figure out is if there's any way that my Google account can be compromised through Talkatone, since it uses Google Voice, and, of course, my Google password. Also, after dropping my landline earlier this year, I'd really liked only having one phone number to give people.
posted by Kriesa at 3:49 PM on August 16, 2012

We live in the sticks and my only broadband connection is via a cell modem. Work picks up the tab for the service, but I'm required to use a carrier which has lousy coverage in the area. After struggling with it for a couple of years (switching devices, changing locations, swearing) I bought a Wilson signal booster kit.

It's not cheap at ~$370, but it works like a charm. There's an external directional antenna, a signal amplifier, an internal panel antenna and mounting hardware. The signal strength is markedly improved for multiple devices from multiple carriers. The cell modem has gone from -94 dBm to about -74 dBm, giving it a marked speed boost and far better reliability. Installation is straight-forward and the documentation is pretty good. I wish I'd picked one up earlier. The only issue I've had is related to the layout of our house. It's hard to get enough separation between the external and internal antennas to avoid feedback, so I've had to turn down the gain on the amp a bit.
posted by farmerd at 4:05 PM on August 16, 2012

If you want it to work for Wind and Bell and Rogers for 2G, 3G, and LTE, you'll need this. Presuming that Rogers and/or Bell use the same LTE bands as at&t and Verizon, anyway. Otherwise, you'll have to buy two.
posted by wierdo at 8:23 PM on August 16, 2012

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