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  1. #1
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    Home Cell Phone Signal Booster?

    Just curious... I have a rec-room in the basement and part of it serves as an office. It's a nice well lit, quiet place to work but the concrete walls combined with the distance and location of my nearest cell tower can result in some spotty reception. Bars can go from OK to very poor within feet of different locations.

    Has anyone here had a similar experience and found a workable (and budget friendly) solution?
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  2. #2
    WS Lounge VIP Browni's Avatar
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    I don't know the US market but do you have anything like this available?

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    T-mobile offered a signal booster a couple years ago. I don't know if it is still available.
    Joe

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Browni View Post
    I don't know the US market but do you have anything like this available?
    Calling out isn't a problem as I have a VOIP home phone I can use plus, for whatever reason, calls from my cell phone almost always go out after a short pause. But incoming can fail to ring.

    I'm on AT&T and they do sell a home device they call a Microcell and others call a Femptocell which relays to/from cell phones to the network through your home internet connection. There's no published price but I've seen others say it's $150, which is a bit much on top of the regular cellular charges.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Here is some excellent information about using your cell phone at home, when there isn't much signal strength there.

    Basically, there are two things you can do:

    1. If your phone supports wifi calling, you can turn that feature on. Then, whenever you are at home, all of your calls will be routed through your internet service rather than through the nearest cellphone tower.

    2. You can purchase a cellphone booster, which is nothing more than a mini-cell tower. It will either amplify whatever signal you have at home, or it will connect to your router and route your calls via the internet.

    Several years ago, I had a Sprint AIRAVE. It plugged into my router and provided a strong Sprint signal in my house. As I recall, I paid $5.00 per month usage fees for the device. There were some caveats with the device, however:
    * The device had GPS built-in. It knew where you were located, and it wouldn't work if you weren't in a Sprint coverage area. For example, you couldn't take it overseas to have local Sprint coverage there. I don't know if it would have worked had I taken it somewhere in the US which didn't have any Sprint coverage. I suspect that it would have worked all over the US, but nowhere outside of the US.
    * I had an old phone, and it didn't work well with the AIRAVE. My kids had newer phones, and their phones seemed to work fine. This was before the era of Smartphones, so I have no idea how the AIRAVE works with a modern Smartphone.
    *Virgin Mobile is Sprint's prepaid service. However, because it is "Virgin Mobile" and not "Sprint", it would not be able to use the AIRAVE. (That's what Sprint told me.) So if my son's girlfriend had come by, she wouldn't have been able to use her Virgin Mobile phone, because the AIRAVE would have taken priority over nearby cell towers, but her phone wouldn't have been allowed onto the AIRAVE, thereby blocking her ability to use her cell phone when she was at our house. In other words, her phone would have been "dead" while at our house.

  6. #6
    Silver Lounger lumpy95's Avatar
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    AT&T has a Micro-Cell unit that plugs into the router for dead areas but it's not cheap. We got one for free by bitching and complaining about very little signal in our part of the desert and threatening to change carriers. Fortunately they finally upgraded the towers out here and there was no longer a need for the Micro-Cell.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    If your phone supports wifi calling, you can turn that feature on. Then, whenever you are at home, all of your calls will be routed through your internet service rather than through the nearest cellphone tower.
    I thought that only deals with outgoing calls and it's only available on some phones with some services.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

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    In the UK, all networks (AFAIK - mine certainly does) have a downloadable app, alluded to by Browni, which allows your phone to work normally wherever there is wifi, regardless of whether you have a mobile signal or not. I'm sure you must have something similar in the US.

    Of course, that assumes you have a smartphone in the first place.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyl
    In the UK, all networks (AFAIK - mine certainly does) have a downloadable app, alluded to by Browni, which allows your phone to work normally wherever there is wifi, regardless of whether you have a mobile signal or not.
    In the UK only EE and Vodafone offer true WiFi calling, i.e. no app is needed. O2 and Three both offer WiFi Calling via an app. I don't know of any virtual mobile networks - e.g. giff-gaff - that offer WiFi calling.

    The biggest potential issue is that WiFi calling is not available on all handsets, even if the mobile network provides WiFi calling.

    Have a look at EE, O2, Three and Vodafone: Which networks offer Wi-Fi Calling? for more info. It's a bit dated now as I understand Three have moved to true WiFi calling on some phones since the article was published.

    Hope this helps...
    Last edited by Rick Corbett; 2016-09-27 at 18:02.

  10. #10
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    Well, I'm in the New K not the Old K so I'll have to research what's available on this side of the pond. Thanks.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post
    Well, I'm in the New K not the Old K so I'll have to research what's available on this side of the pond. Thanks.
    Here's a Top 5 Best Cell Phone Signal Boosters for Home review that's recently been updated. According to this recent How to Easily Boost Your Cell Phone Signal at Home article, in the USA, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, and Vodafone all support Wi-Fi calling.

    Hope this helps...

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Corbett View Post
    Hope this helps...
    Thanks, but I'd already read those when I started looking. The reliable solutions seem to involve things like the Microcell/Femptocell and they start at $150 (after discount) and go up. My carrier won't help because the signal is acceptable on my front porch. Unofficially, the guy at the AT&T store says that there's been an increase in complaints over the past 6 months so the tower may be due for an upgrade.

    As to Wi-Fi calling, in the US this seems quite limited. iPhone and LG/LTE appear to have the capability but it's really up to the carrier and it varies from area to area. The US is still way behind the rest of the world when it comes to cellular phone coverage. I know someone who just came back from working a job in India and said he had better reception out in the fields with some farmer with his water buffalo than he had in his office in Philadelphia.

    BTW, anyone have a recommendation for a good Android signal strength app? I want to check in the basement to see if some places are actually worse than others.
    Last edited by gsmith-plm; 2016-09-28 at 09:14.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  13. #13
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    I ran across a discussion on this and one person (who worked as a troubleshooter for {bleep} cellphone provider} said, before you spend any money on signal boosters, take some time to check your area carefully to see how the signal changes from one point to another. It takes some time because the strength indicator can take a while to respond to a location change. He said that sometimes just a small change in location can make a difference.

    Yesterday, while I was working, I tried it and found that the area on my desk where I typically put the phone was somewhat dead, while the other side of the desk was better. Also, propping the phone up rather than lying it down helped as well. Apparently, I'm just far enough away from the tower that even a small obstruction can make a difference.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  14. #14
    Super Moderator Rick Corbett's Avatar
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    If you have an iPhone, hold it in your right-hand, not left, to improve reception. Odd but true.

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    If you have T-Mobile (I do), they'll provide you with a free 4G LTE CellSpot signal booster. I have one, and it works great. Gives me five bars of coverage. For some reason my house has a little bit of spotty coverage on all four carriers (even with the carriers making upgrades to their towers, and even with me being in the middle of town). It's crazy, but that's how it is.

    AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint also offer boosters, but AT&T and Verizon usually make you pay for theirs, and they're typically not 4G LTE boosters like the T-Mobile one.

    If you have an iPhone (as well as some Android phones do this such as T-Mobile Android phones), you can also enable Wi-Fi Calling which gives you a calling signal even without cellular coverage. I've used it on my iPhone, and it works great. The call is wrapped in an IPSec tunnel VPN during the call to help prevent hackers on Wi-Fi snooping into your call.
    Nathan Parker
    President/CEO
    Mallard Computer, Inc.

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