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Boosting the Cellular Signal, Inside?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the can-you-hear-me-now? dept.

Technology 38

Ryan Black asks: "I live in a suburban area where cellular signal strength is not what it should be. I am a Verizon customer, and while they have been courteous in addressing the issue, they have not been able to fix the situation. Is it possible to create a sort of cellular repeater to attach to the roof of my house? The signal outside is acceptable, it just cannot penetrate the walls of the building."

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You mean you never received those damn e-mails? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4757505)


two solutions (5, Informative)

austad (22163) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757516)

There are a couple of ways you can go about it.

One way is to buy something called an active repeater. It has an amplifier, and can amplify signals both coming into and exiting the house. Do a search on google for gsm active repeater. I looked into this for one of my remote offices. Cost was around $1500, which is probably more than you want to spend for your house.

Another option is a passive repeater. Basically just an antenna outside, and another inside. No amplifier. However, I'm not fully sure how well these work. I purchased one which claimed it worked for my frequency, but it didn't do a damn thing. If you do this, make sure you buy from some place that looks reputable. Otherwise, there are antenna sites that tell you how to tune antennas to certain frequencies, and if you wanted to do some research, you could probably build your own.

In all reality, you could probably build your own active repeater also, and base it on the design of one of those cable tv amps that work with cable modems, they boost both ways. Of course, you'd have to spend like $80 and rip the thing apart and figure out how to change the range that it works in.

Re:two solutions (3, Informative)

Minupla (62455) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757533)

Also be aware that doing some of these things may place you in violation of FCC type compiance rules if you do it yourself, without appropiate FCC licening and testing. I am unsure of the rules and regs outside the ham frequencies, but you might wanna look into, to ensure you're under whatever the max radiated power for the frequencies involved. Having said this, there is a fair bit of home brew info for both active and passive repeater systems available, and the theory on that stuff should point you in the right direction for handling the shorter wavelengths (higher freq) involved in gigahertz frequency work.

Re:two solutions (2)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757828)

Except he said he is with Verizon. They are CDMA as far as I know and not GSM. At least that's what the one phone I saw that had anything about the network on it said. Saying that, in my house, I have good reception. At work, I only have 2 lights, at home I have a full meter. I guess Verizon's service is better in my area then in some areas.

CDMA (0)

Zapper (68283) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757546)

As I understand it, if you are using CDMA then only a passive type of aerial mentioned above will be of use.
CDMA handsets require specific timing with their signals.

Then again IANA-RF-ENGINEER :-)

Timing, not. Linearity, yes. (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 11 years ago | (#4758991)

Unless your amplifier is horrible it's not going to do anything to the timing of the CDMA signal... It may delay it, but that's the same effect as walking away fromt he base station.

On the other hand, CDMA uses some neat tricks to overlay numerous signals on one channel. The one disadvantage of this is that it requires extreme linearity for any amplifier the signal passes through, otherwise the multiple CDMA carriers will garble each other.

Not that I'm complaining, solving nonlinearity problems in power amps is what keeps my company in business and the paychecks coming. :)

Sure ;) (3, Funny)

Discoflamingo13 (90009) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757593)

I think it's called a Faraday cage [] . They have one on a building at MIT.

Similar problem. (5, Informative)

blues5150 (161900) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757596)

I use my cell phone as my primary phone. My problem is that the reception inside my house is poor. The signal outside is a lot better. I Googled this cell reception idea a bit. The best site I found was Cell Antenna. [] The also have another site called Boat Antenna. [] which specializes in providing signal boosters for boats. The hardware is pretty much the same on both sites.

Dumbass (0, Troll)

Firetoad (125813) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757604)

If you look hard enough you will most likely find that your home is probably like most other 21st century homes and comes with telephone wires that COME RIGHT INTO YOUR HOUSE!!! These so-called "land-lines" don't suffer from the same reception problems as cell-phones because the signal is not blocked by walls, it actually goes right through them using the highly-advanced space-age technology of copper wires. Best of all, compatible receivers can be found for a fraction of the cost of cellular phones!

whos the dumbass... (1)

NevermindPhreak (568683) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757810)

these so called "land-lines" are connected to "phone companies", which charge "up the ass" for long distance. why pay (only!) 10 cents a minute, when i can pay 30 bucks a month and get unlimited long distance during nights and weekends. and the interLATA (near zone) calls are the ones that really kick your ass, since they charge a more than long distance for calling less of a distance, and more people have relatives and friends in this zone than in long distance zones.

i know you can use calling cards, but if you have the cell phone already, might as well use those free minutes.

seriously, though, why dont they make it so that cell phones have a jack where you can plug in an external antenna in them? or are there models that have this option?

Re:whos the dumbass... (3, Informative)

_Spirit (23983) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757852)

My phone (Nokia 7110) has a jack for an external antenna, most phones sold here (Netherlands) do, mostly to be able to use an outside antenna on your car. When I put my phone into the handsfree kit, it automaticaly jacks into the external antenna as well. It would be trivial to set this up at home. You would lose the cordless functionality though. In my car I sit in the same spot all the time(well most of it, I do escape from traffic jams and actually arrive somewhere every once in a while ;-) ) and I am not allowed to hold the phone in my hands so the physical connection isn't an issue. At home I tend to walk around alot while I'm on the phone.

I am not sure if these external antenna kits are readily available in the US as I noticed the last time I was there that most people prefer to hold the phone in their hands. That's one of the differences I saw between Europe and the US. In Europe a driver is defined as the person driving the car. In the US the driver is considered to be the person who got into the seat that has the steering weel in front of it. Is there anything you guys don't do while driving ?

Re:whos the dumbass... (2)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 11 years ago | (#4758231)

Shower, although I have been known to clean my hands and face with a WetNap while driving.

Re:whos the dumbass... (1)

Drakin (415182) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757855)

The older bag phones do... my dad had one when he went out into the bush, plugged in an antenna and got service where the company claimed "no way in hell it would work" (well, not thier words exaclly...)

I can plug an external antenna to my cell, it's older (2 years or there abouts) although, I need to remove the antena on it to plug into it. never had a need to though... in the areas I travel the phone company has decent service.

Re:Dumbass (2)

krinsh (94283) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757916)

Actually I have to really, really contradict this. In my area the landline reception is shoddy and full of interference on a good day [and that's plugged right into the line; not on a cordless]. The guys here have a point about using their cell phones all the time - my wife and I are experimenting with replacing our land line with two cell phones - it is a lot cheaper all around and we use cable for our internet so we don't need it - not to mention we've just removed a major inlet for telemarketers and other annoying calls in the evening - especially if we turn the phones off when we're together. Add the first tone of the 'line disconnected' message to your cell's voicemail and you've freed yourself from a lot of ordinary household telephone constraints [even if you don't get 3 or 4 Blockbuster coupons for your outrageous long-distance bill to the in-laws' house an hour away].

get an antenna outside (3, Interesting)

KarlH420 (532043) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757615)

On my cell there is an antenna connector on the back. I hook up to it while in my car. It considerably improves the signal. I've tried the antenna inside, and it also works well. You should be able to purcase an antenna accessory for your phone.

Re:get an antenna outside (1)

NevermindPhreak (568683) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757814)

well, that answered my reply to the thread right above yours. what type of cell phone do you have?

Re:get an antenna outside (1)

KarlH420 (532043) | more than 11 years ago | (#4762243)

I have a Nokia 5165 Most Nokia phones have the same antenna connector.

Re:get an antenna outside (2)

josquint (193951) | more than 11 years ago | (#4762137)

Bascially exactly what I did, just used one of those larger magenet mount antennas for cars, and ran athe cable into the house and to the phone.

Biggest drawback is, it basically makes it a corded phone.

They're passive, but if the signal is good outside, its just like having the phone outside. And its cheap, like 15-20$

Wireless TelCos Should be Looking into this (1)

Cokelee (585232) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757665)

I use my cell phone as my primary phone.
If Wireless companys really want everyone using a cell phone as their primary phone, I think they'd better invest in manufacturing this type of technology.
If I were you I would be calling Verizon about that.

Re:Wireless TelCos Should be Looking into this (1)

red hot (630285) | more than 11 years ago | (#4782598)

well...isn't cokelee the brightest crayon in the box!

Two solutions... (2)

shepd (155729) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757713)

Best. []

Cheapest []

This [] + Call Forwarding [] = Easiest.

Suggestion: You can find out more by asking the "You've got questions, we've got blank stares" salesclerks. They are actually overqualified for this question, but I'm sure they can take a moment out of this busy stereo and computer selling season to help you for a moment. Or you could simply Ask Google [] next time.

Either of these should get your answer much faster than Ask Slashdot. :-)


gsm (2, Interesting)

Zephy (539060) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757717)

I don't know if it'll work with your cdma style phones over there, but here in the uk some mobile operators will install repeaters for you (we in our offices use o2/cellnet for our mobile services, and since inside our building has poor reception , they installed a repeater ). I think it is fairly expensive though, but effective ( i get full signal strength inside a building that is essentially a block for most other networks' signal.

Re:gsm (2)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757931)

Not all phones in the US are CDMA anymore, although Verizon is. GSM is making a huge push alond with iDen (Nextel). iDen may not have the most exciting phones, but everyone I know of in business uses them because of the Direct Connect feature.

Something similar (1)

krishnaD (514548) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757720) &mode=thread&tid=126

Solution (1)

Samus (1382) | more than 11 years ago | (#4757942)

<sarcasm>Let them put a tower up in your backyard.</sarcasm> Seriously its quite possible that you live in an upscale neighborhood where people want to have the cell phones but don't want the ugly towers in their back yards.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4760156)

acctually if you put a tower in your backyard the signal would be ZERO for about a quater mile. my college is planning on putting a tower in the center of school in our clock tower so we can have soem extra money, but service would be negative for a 1/4 mile. not to mention all the caner it'll spread through radiation (unproven)

Spotwave's SpotCell (4, Interesting)

mTor (18585) | more than 11 years ago | (#4758515)

Spotwave [] has a product called SpotCell and we use it at a building where I work. We had an absolutely awful cell coverage because our offices are really high up. After they installed one of the SpotCell devices, cell phones actually started to work again.

Ask them for a demo!

Check the FAQ... here's a part relevant to your question:

I work in an office building where my cell phone coverage in certain areas, including my office, is non-existent or spotty at best. How can I improve my coverage?

The requirement for reliable, always-on cell phone coverage within the office environment is increasing dramatically. It is not unusual to encounter trouble spots within a building where cell phone signals are weak or non-existent. SpotCell provides affordable and clear coverage to those trouble spots. The unit can be easily deployed and provides a coverage range of 15,000 to 50,000 square feet (2,000 to 4,600 square metres). Multiple units can be easily deployed to cover office areas and working locations. SpotCell can be deployed even without access to the roof or outside.

Re:Spotwave's SpotCell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4761152)

Any idea what these units cost?

Re:Spotwave's SpotCell (1)

mTor (18585) | more than 11 years ago | (#4769863)

No :(.

I'm sure you'll get a quick quote if you email them.

I suppose this is the non-technical way, but (2, Interesting)

cinder_bdt (11946) | more than 11 years ago | (#4758847)

I had the same problem. I switched to the "America's Choice" plan, which is a bunch of roaming agreements with other carriers, and now I don't have low signal strength in my house. Apparently I'm close enough to someone else's cell site that I'm "roaming" in my house. My bill actually went down, too.

Here's how to fix it ... (3, Insightful)

nbvb (32836) | more than 11 years ago | (#4758917)

Get more people in your area to complain (nicely).

If VZW gets more than a few inquiries about cell signal in the same area, they'll send out one of those Test Guys (yes, they really _DO_ exist) in a car that looks like a porcupine to test the signal. Then they can adjust and/or add transmitters as appropriate.

Other things to note:
#1 - You need to convince your town council/zoning board/whomever that YES adding a cell transmitter is a good idea and NO it won't irradiate their children. Anyone with even a fundamental understanding of derivatives (any RF engineer) can explain why it is that the amount of RF output drops exponentially as you move away from the transmitter. Within a few feet, you're well within FCC limits. The NIMBY yuppies (Not In My Back Yard) folks are usually the ones screaming "YOU'RE IRRADIATING MY CHILDREN!!" at the town meetings, then b*tching up a storm in their Ford Extravagance when they can't make a cell call because they wouldn't let the cellco's put towers within 20 miles of them! Cellular towers are perfectly safe ------ just do the math!

#2 - You also need to not only let VZW know there's a problem, but get your neighbors to do so also. If there are any businesses in the area that have folks who use cells (sales forces, etc.) make them call too. We all have to remember that as important as it is to have great cell reception in your house, you also have to weigh the cost factor in. Transmitters ain't cheap. That's why you need your neighbors & businesses to call.

It's not that they're thinking "well, it's only one guy, screw him", but rather "How do we justify spending $20,000 to boost one customer's signal? We'll _never_ make a return on that!"

If you get some more people to complain, all of a sudden it's no longer a loss..... :)

Again, just like RF signals, it's all about the math.... :)


Re:Here's how to fix it ... (2)

mph (7675) | more than 11 years ago | (#4760778)

Anyone with even a fundamental understanding of derivatives (any RF engineer) can explain why it is that the amount of RF output drops exponentially as you move away from the transmitter.

I wouldn't trust an engineer who thinks that.

(First, output is output, and doesn't depend on where an observer is. Second, received power per unit collecting area does not decrease exponentially.)

Re:Here's how to fix it ... (2)

nbvb (32836) | more than 11 years ago | (#4762037)

OK, I guess I worded that wrong. Output _is_ output. What I MEANT to say is that one's exposure to RF drops off exponentially over distance....


Re:Here's how to fix it ... (2)

mph (7675) | more than 11 years ago | (#4762148)

What I MEANT to say is that one's exposure to RF drops off exponentially over distance....
That was the second point that I addressed. The fall-off is not exponential. There's a reason it's called the "inverse square law."

Stay out of the cellular spectrum or go to prison (1)

crstophr (529410) | more than 11 years ago | (#4759785)

First of all a repeater typically listens on one frequency and broadcasts on another. Your radio hardware needs to support the feature and your cell phone doesn't. Second. The FCC has extra special laws covering the cellular range of frequencies and screwing around or even owning the equipment to mess around will land you a nice felony conviction.

and while we're at it... (1)

Hubert_Shrump (256081) | more than 11 years ago | (#4761043)

cell phones being used at the edge of their range don't really slam enough RF into my skull, so:

1) find a pencil/pen you're no longer going to use.
2) jam it in the latch hole for your microwave (you'll still be able to use it after the mod)
3) put microwave on tall bookshelf
4) aim open door at chair you normally sit in
5) defrost

weak signal?!
beep beep --- whirrrrr

Infrastructure solutions: TMAs or CRFEs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4761656)

There are basically two simple solutions that Verizon can use to increase range throughout the cell and improve in building coverage without adding towers. Tower Mounted Amplifiers (TMA) will help a lot, but if interference is also an issue (most likely in a suburban setting, less in a more rural area) a Cryogenic Receiver Front End (CRFE) would be preferable. (plus it's neat technology!)

See e.g. Conductus [] ,Superconductor Technologies [] and ISCO [] for info on CRFEs.

I work for one of those companies so I'm posting AC, but we'd be glad to sell more into Verizon. ;-)

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