Should I get a cell phone signal repeater?
December 7, 2005 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth it to get a cell phone signal repeater in my house? How much should I expect to spend?

I live an area where my cell phone barely works inside my house, and only marginally outside; it's in a major metro area but there are a few hills that make the cell tower nearby ineffective for me. All the major providers have issues with my area, so it's not my carrier or my phone (yes, some phones work slightly better but none are reliable as of yet.)
posted by thewiseacre to Technology (9 answers total)
The only signal repeaters I've heard of are those passive glass-mount antennas that used to be necessary for car phones physically mounted in the car.

Can you link to what you're looking at, or provide more information? I'd imagine it would be somewhat complicated to make a reliable, cheap repeater. GSM phones, for example, use more than one frequency at once.
posted by odinsdream at 6:56 AM on December 7, 2005

I've investigated them as well, they seem to only offer a marginal improvement, unless you really set up a nice antenna outside, and even then you don't know how much of a performance increase you will get.
posted by corpse at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2005

They're definitely out there, but the ones I've seen are designed for office buildings that dampen the regular signal so much that it's impossible to get good reception inside. Those cost about US$500 apiece. They work, but I don't know if I'd spend that to put on my house.
posted by schustafa at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2005

Kevin Kelly has one listed in Cool Tools. He's pretty reliable.
posted by theora55 at 7:39 AM on December 7, 2005

The one on Cool Tools is not technically a repeater. It's really just a fancier external antenna.
posted by smackfu at 7:45 AM on December 7, 2005

I purchased one for a guy who lives in a "concrete pillbox." It cost around $500 (depends on which carrier you want to repeat, but from $450 to $525 or so, so basically $500). It definitely works. He went from 0 bars to 3 bars all over the house. It is a decently-sized 3bd one floor house.

It does have an external wired antenna, that needs to be installed on the home. I think for the first little while, they've just got it hooked up and snaking out onto the back porch. There is decent but not good reception outdoors in his neighborhood, so this setup works fine.

If you had marginal service outside your house as you say you do, it might not help a lot. Can't say for sure. I'd call to check.

I got the CAE-50 from Cellantenna.
posted by zpousman at 8:32 AM on December 7, 2005

Here's an article in Slate about one man's quest to get out of the dead zone. My apartment building was in a weak signal area for years and recently those bastards great guys at T-mobile put up a tower nearby. Now its 5 bars. Which is one more nail in the coffin for my POTS line.
posted by birdherder at 8:34 AM on December 7, 2005

What kind of phone do you have? And, more importantly, do any of your friends (who use a different provider) get better signals than you at your home?

I used to get zero bars in my place (in the middle of an otherwise well-covered area). My friends could either get decent or no signals depending on carrier. I switched to a Nokia phone (better signal strength than the previous Motorola or Sone Ericsson models I had used) and changed providers. Now instead of maybe one bar every once in a while, I get between 2 and 4 bars depending on where I am in the house. Enough to make a call without spending the entire time asking "can you hear me?"

FWIW Cingular offers a 60 day trial period (or is it 30 day? At any rate twice as long as the competition) so you could always check out the service without committing. However if you try before switching you'll pay a fee to port your number (free if you do it when signing up), so you might be better off checking with friends to see how well other services/phone models work in your residence.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2005

I had Sprint and have Cingular. Both are one bar with fading to no-bar outside, and the same inside. I've had two different phones for both services here, and the results have been the same. My inlaws have Verizon and seem to get slightly better service i.e they still get one bar but the calls don't drop as often. There's a site on the web (can't remember the URL) where you can check to see the towers in your area with the carriers listed on the tower and when I checked that (who knows how accurate it is) it looked like all the major carriers on on that rack that is closest to my house.

I'm pretty sure that putting an external antenna would help since our house has a high roof and we're basically built into a hill...I'd looked into repeaters and had seen the $500 price and was hoping there might be another way around it. But I suppose I should check out Verizon (I have no contract with Cingular, ha ha you b@stards) and if that's not better then head the repeater route. This is driving me crazy.
posted by thewiseacre at 11:52 AM on December 7, 2005

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