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Recommendations for Cellular Signal Repeaters?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the better-than-a-pringles-can dept.

Communications 64

itwerx asks: "Like most folks these days I have a cell phone and indoor reception problems, especially in my house which is behind a ridge from most of the carriers in my area. So, I'm looking for an indoor wireless repeater (not a plug-in amp). There are a lot of them out there ranging from $300-$3000+, but for every article, forum or newsgroup posting proclaiming the relative merits of this brand or model over another I find another post saying that they suck. A couple of units I'm looking at are the Wi-Ex YX500 series and some of the ones made by Wilson Electronics (not providing direct links so as to avoid boosting their Google ratings). Has anybody here used these, or junked them in favor of something better?"

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Oh No (1)

Cyraan (840132) | more than 7 years ago | (#16105859)

"Nothing for you to see here. Please move along." Dammit, i must be out of minutes.

Watch out... (3, Informative)

kf4lhp (461232) | more than 7 years ago | (#16105933)

http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-267221 A1.html [fcc.gov]
http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-266089 A1.html [fcc.gov]

Watch out if you buy one; they can easily create interference to other users in the 800 MHz band, like public safety radio systems, and the FCC takes a rather dim view of this - see the FCC notices sent to some unlucky users above.

Re:Watch out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16106894)

Forget interference. I bought one a few months ago the instructions said that you had to keep 20 feet away from the receiving antenna or risk "danger". Not very safe sounding if you're in an apartment. I don't want a good signal if it means i can't stand on my porch without getting brain cancer.

by the way, it was a powermax, dual band.

Re:Watch out... (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16128164)

The big issue with bi-directional amplifiers are too often the antennas are mounted too close together and without a signal blocking obstruction in between. This like a PA system with monitors speakers too close to microphones creates positive feedback at some frequency. In a PA system this causes the operator to reduce the gain to stop the squeal. In a bi-directional amplifier, seldom does the unlicensed operator have a clue the system is squealing right on top of somebody else's licensed frequency. Pro's that install these bi-directional amplifiers have the test gear to check for unwanted radiation and take corrective steps such as lowering the gain, moving the outside antenna to a location providing better isolation, or such.

Disclaimer.. Before my current job, I set one up for a Motorolla 800 Mhz trunked radio system. And yes, when it was first powered up it did feedback and we did take immediate steps to correct the problem. Without proper test gear we would not have known.

Maybe just switch providers... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106011)

My girlfriend had T-mobile at her old apartment and always had terrible coverage. She found out that Nextel got great reception in her building, so she switched to them. Later she switched jobs and gets no coverage from Nextel inside her work building, but my T-mobile phone works fine.

The point is that maybe you should try switching to a different provider that has better reception in your apartment/house. There's nothing inherently great about one provider over another in terms of coverage, but they do vary in their "dead/sketchy signal areas".

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (1)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106042)

The problem is that contract lock-in is de rigeur in the cellular industry these days. It could very well cost as much or more to get out of your contract as to get a repeater.

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106163)

If someone moves around (work or otherwise) in an area where the reception is splotchy then I'd guess that person might be best served by buying an unlocked phone and using prepaid calls. Not as cheap, no... but what should a buyer expect with no lock-in?

"Unlocked phone"? (1)

mollog (841386) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106896)

Ok, now you have my interest. Are you saying that pre-paid phones aren't locked into any particular band/provider? That's interesting news. I've been in situations where I'm looking at a cell tower and can't get service. I thought that AT&T would switch my Nokia phone to another provider's tower if they weren't covering me with their service. I dropped AT&T because of that incident.

Re:"Unlocked phone"? (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107389)

Ok, now you have my interest. Are you saying that pre-paid phones aren't locked into any particular band/provider? That's interesting news. I've been in situations where I'm looking at a cell tower and can't get service. I thought that AT&T would switch my Nokia phone to another provider's tower if they weren't covering me with their service. I dropped AT&T because of that incident.
With "unlocked" I mean that the SIM card can be replaced with another providers SIM card (subsidised phones are usually locked down but I guess you knew about that in some way). Sounds what you would have liked was kind of a local roaming (or national perhaps depending on where you are). I guess there's not enough people like you to drive that kind of business.

Roaming rocks though... called a friend and said I was heading his way in a day or so to he said "Kind of a bad time since I'm in Germany right now drinking beer and looking at a sunset over a lake." Damn him :)

Re:"Unlocked phone"? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109265)

With "unlocked" I mean that the SIM card can be replaced with another providers SIM card (subsidised phones are usually locked down but I guess you knew about that in some way).

That does no good in most of the US. One and only one provider usually buys up all the GSM in an area, and another one and only one provider buys up all the traditional frequencies available (and NexTel, that was granted the ability to buy lesser used walkie-talkie frequencies because of how they designed and marketed their service). It is only very recently where enough spectrum has been available to allow overlapping companies with compatable frequencies. I live in Alaska. There is one and only one company in the state that offers GSM service. I have two unlocked GSM phones. Those unlocked GSM phones do me no more good than locked down because there are no choices here at all. GSM in Dallas as of about 4 years ago (when I was last there) was 100% T-Mobile. As far as I know, every GSM tower in Dallas was owned by T-Mobile. Again, the locking doesn't matter much. Locking made more sense when it was a sea of analog companies and they actually had overlapping coverage. Or the places where TDMA/CDMA services overlap. But even then, and unlocked GSM phone won't work on that, so it doesn't matter.

The realities are that an "unlocked" phone still does not give someone too many choices. It is a great convenience if you move somewhere with a different carrier, but for a given location, having a locked vs unlocked phone will rarely allow for there to be any change in coverage.

Re:"Unlocked phone"? (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#16111534)

Thanks for the interesting insight. Guess we have it good here in Sweden where we have 3 providers in most areas (and a handful of virtual providers but they just buy access from the owners of the physical nets).

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107349)

The problem is that contract lock-in is de rigeur in the cellular industry these days.
You can legally transfer your cell phone contract (sometimes with a fee that is smaller than the termination fee).

Here's an article [smartmoney.com] with some advice on the process.

Note: You can keep your phone number

http://www.cellswapper.com/cellswapperv2/default.a spx [cellswapper.com]
http://www.celltradeusa.com/ [celltradeusa.com]
will help you find someone willing to take up your contract.

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (1)

emd (25227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16108476)

In the US, sure. But in other countries, like Canada, you cannot. Which is why I am interested in cellular repeaters as well.

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16110315)

Wow, I knew that the transfer of contract terms was possible, but I never realized that there were businesses and groups dedicated to public benefit from this. Very informative, thanks!

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109530)

So don't sign up for a contract and buy your phone secondhand on ebay, or find a company that only goes 1 year contracts. My original Nokia 5190 finally got too annoying to use a few years ago, so I just bought a used Nokia on ebay for $30. Swap the SIM card into the new phone, and 20 seconds later my phone works perfectly. I'm happy because I got a new phone, T-mobile is happy because they didn't have to front money for a new phone to give me, the guy I bought it from is happy because he's a tech freak and needs a new toy every year.

The contract is just so the cellphone provider doesn't lose money on the phone, which they sell at less than cost.

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (0)

mollog (841386) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106980)

I was visiting my sister. She's living in a 'McMansion' complete with copper roof flashing, gutters and down spouts. As you can guess, there's almost no cell phone signal in the house. On the back porch I get 5 bars.

Another factor might be the wiring; they've got Cat 5, cable and phone lines throughout the house along with the usual house wiring. Seems like a pretty good Faraday cage.

I like one poster's idea of a Bluetooth repeater lash-up from the point with the strongest signal.

Re:Maybe just switch providers... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107654)

Another factor might be the wiring; they've got Cat 5, cable and phone lines throughout the house along with the usual house wiring. Seems like a pretty good Faraday cage.

A faraday cage has to have zero straight-path holes that are larger than your wavelength.

Seems like a pretty shitty faraday cage.

May not solve your problem. (1)

technothrasher (689062) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106138)

Like most folks these days I have a cell phone and indoor reception problems, especially in my house which is behind a ridge from most of the carriers in my area.

According to the FAQ for the Wi-Ex model you were looking at, "If there is no signal outside, this unit will not give you an improvement in coverage." So if you're behind a ridge, it may not help.

Re:May not solve your problem. (2, Insightful)

PCGAB (733998) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106216)

Try a passive repeater. My gf had terrible reception in her house, she bought a $8.00 passive repeater for cars/windows, etc. and it added a bar or two to her reception on the front of the house. Which was the most important area to her. Being so cheap, it cant _hurt_ to try one..

Re:May not solve your problem. (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107765)

Try a passive repeater. My gf had terrible reception in her house, she bought a $8.00 passive repeater for cars/windows, etc. and it added a bar or two to her reception on the front of the house. Which was the most important area to her. Being so cheap, it cant _hurt_ to try one..

What is a passive repeater? A pie pan?

(websearch)

Ah, here's what it is! It's an antenna hooked up to an antenna in an effort to get the signal out of your house. And look, there's some text next to the diagram!

Passive Repeater

You might think this would work but IT DOESN'T.

There is too little power from the phone and too much loss trying to span the gaps. It's kinda like plugging a power strip into itself.

See below for the completely "wireless" solution.

(http://www.criterioncellular.com/tutorials/homeof ficeantennas.html [criterioncellular.com] )

I have decided that it is most likely that you are a shill for a cellular equipment provider. I bet you think those little stickers will help protect you from BRAIN CANCER OH NOES! too.

It's very simple to understand why this won't work, and it's called Inverse-Square Law [wikipedia.org] . Simply, the cellular phone is putting out only a couple tenths of a watt to begin with (maybe .4 watts max on a handheld) and only a tiny portion of that power will reach the receiving antenna. Even if you're right next to it you can probably only get 25% of the signal to reach the other antenna at the maximum.

Short form: this is stupid, buy an external antenna instead.

Re:May not solve your problem. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109557)

I find that, with the wide variation in cell phone signal strength from one phone to another using the same carrier in the same physical location, it is far more likely that the receivers in some phones simply suck at picking out the tower signal. That's the big reason why passive repeaters can and often do work.

Further, your whole inverse square thing is failing to take into account the difference in directionality and noise rejection. Using a high gain directional antenna outdoors, the SNR to the tower is greatly improved, and the retransmission locally will dramatically reduce the interference. Also, assuming the omni antenna in your house picks up enough of your cell signal, it is radiating with a much more focused output, so the tower will see a lot more of your signal, too.

Note that there are laws about how high a gain you can use on antennas without a license. You should be sure whatever device you use has been properly certified as being within these limits, or else you could face serious fines.

Re:May not solve your problem. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16113694)

Using a high gain directional antenna outdoors, the SNR to the tower is greatly improved, and the retransmission locally will dramatically reduce the interference.

It might get the signal back to you better, but the signal leaving you and going to the tower will still be greatly degraded. The simple fact is that only a tiny, tiny fraction of the signal being transmitted from your phone will be received by the antenna in your house, which involves loss; more is lost in the cable between antennae. You might have good power levels, but you've introduced a ton of noise into the signal.

Note that there are laws about how high a gain you can use on antennas without a license. You should be sure whatever device you use has been properly certified as being within these limits, or else you could face serious fines.

AFAIK the laws mostly apply to powered devices. A passive antenna being illegal? You'd have to engineer all of your house wiring to make turns so it wouldn't pick anything up.

It might work if you used two directionals, and sat in just the right place, but I still doubt it.

Re:May not solve your problem. (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107458)

If there is no signal outside

Luckily I do get a bar or two outside the house.

      Also, to respond to a couple folks who suggested changing providers, various friends who have phones with other providers have the same problem in this neighborhood - a bar or two outside and nothing inside.

Too cheap? (1, Funny)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106159)

What, can't afford the $4.95 for a high tech Cellphone Signal Booster [skinz.org]
And don't be suckered in by the scammers selling 1st 2nd or 3rd generation boosters. Insist on 4th generation technology!

Re:Too cheap? (1)

Roulduke (803675) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106754)

Why would anyone want to buy a pice of plastic with gold paint inside? I for one can vouch for this as a hoax. I dosen't make any sort of connection to the phone or RF components inside... This is a total scam.

Re:Too cheap? (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106973)

I for one can vouch for this as a hoax
Did you actually have to purchase one to be sure?

This is a total scam
Thank you Captain Obvious

Re:Too cheap? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107800)

I for one can vouch for this as a hoax. I dosen't make any sort of connection to the phone or RF components inside... This is a total scam.

I once installed a CB antenna in my car. The aerial gets stuck to the outside of the glass with glue. The signal is picked up by the aerial and passively transmitted to a pad underneath the glass, which has the wire connected to it.

These things ARE a hoax, but not because there's no physical, metal, electrical connection.

Re:Too cheap? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#16108277)

What I want to know is, why do people thing that a $5 (retail) do-dad would improve reception so much? If such a cheap technology existed, don't you think that the phone companies would be putting it in at least their high-end phones? Wouldn't it be a feature?

because they aren't people (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109275)

they are consumers. Big Difference, consumers don't think about the idea of a phone company already putting this technology into a phone, they simply walk up to the man in the blue polo/blue vest, and ask him how to boost signal on his new cell phone. After that, the item is consumed by the consumer and the millionaires prosper on this generations stupidity.

Re:because they aren't people (2, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109360)

Interesting... if only politicians could figure this out, they could manipulate the and... oh, wait, nevermind.

go with 2500+ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16106240)

If you're interested in a cellular repeater do NOT be fooled. Anything less than 2500 is a waste of your money. A repeater simply takes a good signal and repeats it within a structure. You'll need a booster if your signal is not good to begin with.

Check out spotwave.com for the best repeaters in north america. Check out smoothtalker.com for the best boosters.

900MHz vs. 1900MHz (1)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106319)

Phones in the U.S. either use the PCS band (1900MHz) or the original "cellular" band (800MHz). In theory, lower frequencies penetrate walls better. Any experts care to weigh in on this? I believe iDEN (Nextel) is all 800MHz...maybe this is why the submitter had better luck. Although its more likely that there was simply a Nextel tower closer to him/her.

You're going about this all wrong (4, Interesting)

Dryanta (978861) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106359)

Your perspective is kind of dumb when you pay a provider every month for service that does not do what you want. I have no idea how wireless providers tricked users into thinking signal problems are ALWAYS their fault. Just a tip to the wise, cell phone towers are normally broadcasting at less than 50% of capacity due to the fact they are terrified of the FCC, even though they have the licenses. I have cingular, and my wife has cingular. Both of my bosses, and everybody in my office has cingular. I called 611 on each of the phones, and filed a complaint with tech support about the 'poor service' in the area from five or six accounts. I also had one rep pull up a map and tell me the tower I was closest to. Then I found out that I was getting poor signal standing right next to it. I am a wireless engineer, so I made a couple guesses as to what could be causing the trouble (water in the fittings, disconnected pigtail, local source of interference from another carrier) and used the county locator service to find the ph# of the primary point of contact for the tower. I called the local cingular office, advised them of my situation, my trouble ticket numbers, the location of the tower, and my findings. The next day, they pointed a sector right at me and dialed up the gain. Now, I have 3-4 bars inside when I used to have to 1-2 outside. This might sound like I went to a lot of effort or something, but it took 2-3 hours tops - and now my calls don't drop!

Re:You're going about this all wrong (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107390)

"The next day, they pointed a sector right at me and dialed up the gain."

What's that mean for the non-wireless engineer?

Maybe you should write a quick "how to complain" guide (with links) that expands a bit on what you've said.

Smart comlaining and other options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16107625)

Cellular coverage is like hex grid from your AD&D maps, where a tower is located at the junctions of the lines, and each of the open 'hexes' is called a sector. This is how it would look if the towers were at max density and the terrain were perfectly flat.

Each of the three sets of directional antennas are pointed so as to cover one of sectors adjacent to the tower. In the real world the towers are farther apart than max-desnsity and they project their signal in large misshapen overlapping bubbles, which will still be known as sectors.

Many things can go wrong to wreck the signal in a particular bubble, but once discovered and fixed the system can perform like the radio engineers envisioned. In this case it sounds like the parent poster's antenna array became misaligned and they adjusted the array to properly overlap his part of town again. No cellular company would re-point an antenna array just to make one customer happy, but a well documented problem carries a lot more weight and gets fixed much faster than vague customer complaints about coverage.

Another good solution is the UMA phone. They use your wireless acces point to do VOIP from your handset, even in your basement and then as you take the call out of reach of your AP they hand into the GSM network. So essentially you extend their network into your home for the carrier. That offering should be available from T-Mobile for Christmas.

Re:You're going about this all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16107510)

Then I found out that I was getting poor signal standing right next to it. I am a wireless engineer

I'm not a wireless engineer, but from what I've seen the phase arrays they use don't point downward.

Re:You're going about this all wrong (2, Informative)

Dryanta (978861) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109575)

You're correct. However, there is a lot of 'ground plane radiation' that eminates from the base of highly directional antennas, which is why there are big fences around cell phone towers. Provided that the antennas are directional enough, standing at the base of a macrocell even (normally 60m up) will give you killer gain (normally around 20-35 db, 5 bars) provided that the Fresnel zone (the area between the two antennas) is unobstructed by anything like vegetation, trees, cars, etc. and a clear line-of-sight is maintained.

I wasn't trying to be all elitist, you guys know more about *nix/databases/any number of obscure IT things than me... I know more about antennas and radio waves. Thats the fun of a forum!!! :)

Re:You're going about this all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16109800)

which is why there are big fences around cell phone towers.

Really? I thought it was to keep people/animals away from the enclosure and tower/wires to prevent deliberate/mischievous/accidental interaction with the building/tower/locks/cables/etc.

Re:You're going about this all wrong (2, Informative)

RadioTV (173312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16115788)

I am a television and radio broadcast technician and we maintain a broadcast tower. There are several reasons that there is a fence around the base of the tower.
  • it keeps people from trying to climb the tower
  • it keeps people away from possible falling debris (ice)
  • wave guides are very sensitive - when we installed a new tower, any section of wave guide that hade a dent deeper than 1/32 of an inch was replaced
  • transmitters use a lot of electricity and the transformers are usually inside the fence
  • there is a lot of (non-ionizing) radiation given off - on our tower there is a TV antenna (connected to 4 transmitters), a radio antenna (connected to 4 transmitters), three cell sites, a couple microwave STLs (studio transmitter links), a police radio transmitter, and a local pager company

Re:You're going about this all wrong (1)

EtherMonkey (705611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107552)

I'm not a wireless engineer, I'm just a customer. I just want my f*cking phone to work. I don't want to have to learn about RF signal propogation or antenna design, or spend hours trying to fight my way through the mindlessly apologetic "Customer Service" guantlet that companies erect as obstacles to customers trying to reach someone that can actually solve a f*cking problem.

I spend $3,500 every year on cell phones and service. That puts cell phones at about the same cost level as my electric service, which is my fourth largest recurring expense. I believe I have the right to demand the same level of customer service from my cellular carrier as I do from my electric company, and at the same time not need a 5-year advanced engineering degree and hours worth of research to tell some customer service phone monkey how to fix technology she (or he) can't even spell.

Re:You're going about this all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16109703)

I spend $3,500 every year on cell phones and service.

Holy crap!

Re:You're going about this all wrong (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 7 years ago | (#16123479)

I spend $3,500 every year on cell phones and service.

Holy crap!


Heh, I've been known to spend that much in a single month!
      (Busy project, lots of travelling, remote team, lots of customers, and a serious case of "phone ear" every day. :)

Re:You're going about this all wrong (3, Interesting)

itwerx (165526) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107891)

thinking signal problems are ALWAYS their fault.

Ordinarily I would indeed be chasing this up the tech support chain but service is great everywhere else and I've looked at the tower maps and it's pretty clear that it's simply a matter of geography and that it only affects a fairly small area, i.e. not something I'd ask them to put in a whole tower for.
      However, that said, I may be getting something similar to the response you got, and this may be a useful approach for others with the same problem.
      I went to the website and filled out a customer service form, (not a support ticket), explaining the situation and asking what repeater/booster brand/model they recommended. The next day I got a call on my cell from an engineer who explained in no uncertain terms that they did not want me to install any sort of repeater/booster under any circumstances. They then asked if I was in the affected location at that moment, (I was), and while on the line did a bunch of tests confirming the problem, opened a ticket and said it should be fixed in two weeks and that they would keep the ticket open for me to call back if it wasn't any better.
      It turns out that no matter how small an area is affected they would rather fix it from their end than have someone installing some random repeater/booster as they apparently have no end of problems with people doing exactly that and screwing up the network! (Kudos to the poster who mentioned potential FCC issues above).
      Now we don't know how things will turn out yet, my reception is still just as bad, but it's been barely a week so we'll just have to wait and see.

      So the upshot of it is that if reception sucks in your area, ask them nicely what they recommend for third-party solutions and they just might get all excited and actually fix it themselves.

Re:You're going about this all wrong (1)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 7 years ago | (#16177725)

I have cingular, in upstate NY. After navigating the maze of "support" options, I gave up and called the normal tech support number and complained about poor reception at my house, yet full signal on a road 400 yards away.

Less than a week later, and I'm now getting full signal on the first floor inside my house, during a rainstorm; normally those conditions mean phone = paperweight.

Get a Bluetooth Cordless Phone (1)

cualexander (576700) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106438)

Find the spot in your house where you get full reception. Buy a cordless phone similar to this one (http://www.uniden.com/products/productdetail.cfm? product=ELBT595&page=2) that will link your cellphone to your cordless phone. That way, it acts like a cheap repeater for your cell phone. See the cellphone is linked via bluetooth to the cordless phone. Then the cordless phone can control both your landline and your cellphone and it will work anywhere in your house perfectly as long as you can find some spot where the cell phone gets good signal to place the base unit. I think its a good idea myself.

You need a passive repeater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16106621)

This is just two directive antennas linked together.

I love repeater(s) (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106652)

Mac: All right, how about "Cat Game?"
Foster: Cat Game? What's the record?
Mac: Thorny did six, but I think you can do ten.
Foster: Ten? Starting right 'meow?'
[Mac laughs - they walk up to the car, and Foster taps on the driver side]
Larry Johnson: Sorry about the...
Foster: All right meow. (1) Hand over your license and registration.
[the man hands him his license]
Foster: Your registration? Hurry up meow. (2)
[Mac ticks off two fingers]
Larry Johnson: Sorry.
[the man laughs a little]
Foster: Is there something funny here boy?
Larry Johnson: Oh, no.
Foster: Then why you laughing, Mister... Larry Johnson?
[pause]
Foster: All right meow, (3) where were we?
Larry Johnson: Excuse me, are you saying meow?
Foster: Am I saying meow?
[Mac puts his hands up for the fourth one, but makes an "eehhh" facial expression, as he is considering the last one]
Larry Johnson: I thought...
Foster: Don't think boy. Meow, (4) do you know how fast you were going?
[man laughs]
Foster: Meow. (5) What is so damn funny?
Larry Johnson: I could have sworn you said meow.
Foster: Do I look like a cat to you, boy? Am I jumpin' around all nimbly bimbly from tree to tree?
[Mac is gut-busting laughing]
Foster: Am I drinking milk from a saucer?
[feigned anger]
Foster: Do you see me eating mice?
Foster: [Mac and the man are laughing their heads off now] You stop laughing right meow! (6)
Larry Johnson: [the man stops and swallows hard] Yes sir.
Foster: Meow, (7) I'm gonna have to give you a ticket on this one. No buts meow. (8) It's the law.
[rips off the ticket and hands it to the man]
Foster: Not so funny meow, (9) is it?
Foster: [Foster gets up to leave, but Mac shakes his hands at him, indicating only nine meows] Meow! (10)

Someone with experience (2, Informative)

rosswil (1002596) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106974)

Recently the company I work for built two beautiful new office buildings with one minor drawback; They had large metal roofs that almost completely blocked cell phone signal inside. Many employees had to go outside the building to use their (company owned) cell phones. Our solution was to purchase a wireless repeater like you mentioned above. We went with the Digital Antenna(r) DA4000SBR. This is the small building repeater, they also have other versions available that cover less square footage. It was very easy to set up (mount and outdoor and indoor antenna) and improved signal quality from -85db to -62db (1 bar to 4 bars)over about 3500 sq.ft. Our employees are very happy now that they can use their cell phones inside. This unit can be purchased for around $455 from Talley Communications corp or almost any other wireless retailer.

Re:Someone with experience (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16128211)

They had large metal roofs that almost completely blocked cell phone signal inside.

The key to any bi-directional repeater is there must be a block between the outside and inside antennas. Without that attenuation between the antennas, a feedback loop is formed that may operate on or off channel. These unlicensed instalations by the clueless without test equipment (spectrum analyzer) are the ones getting nastygrams from the FCC. By trying to make up for loss of a signal by a hill, the clueless install a 2-way amplifier with the antennas unshielded from each other and crank up the gain. This results in a solid interference of dead air carrier for the FCC to direction find.

Moral of the story.. This is not a weekend warrier do-it-yourself project. The instalation needs to be done by someone with the test equipment to verify the system does not feedback and broadcast a signal of it's own.

Re:Someone with experience (1)

rosswil (1002596) | more than 7 years ago | (#16130352)

The model we installed actually detected the presence of a feedback loop at the amplifier and gave you a red or green light. The instructions also clearly state that the outdoor antenna and indoor antenna need to be at least 40 ft apart and have some sort of solid surface (concrete, brick, steel) between the antennas.

They're good (1)

Monokeros (200892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16106997)

The Wi-Ex YX500 series and some of the ones made by Wilson Electronics Are all great. Get them.

Re:They're good (1)

Monokeros (200892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107035)

The Wi-Ex YX500 series and some of the ones made by Wilson Electronics all suck. Avoid them.

Re:They're good (1)

scovetta (632629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16108242)

Dude, make up your mind!

Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16107633)

I'm fond of the monoamines, such as dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine [wikipedia.org] .

How about an external antenna? (1)

DrGalaxy (89127) | more than 7 years ago | (#16107893)

If this is just for one phone, go out and buy an external mobile phone antenna for about $25-50.

This is only going to work if your phone has an external antenna jack on the back (it is usually filled in with a rubber plug that you can pop out).

A member of my family spends a lot of time in a remote area and can only get 0-2 bars if he stands on the highest point of the property with his flip phone. After buying a $30 mag-mount antenna, plugging it into the external antenna port on his Cingular GSM phone and sticking it on the top of his truck/house he gets very good signal all the time. Sprint phones have good results with the antenna as well.

If this doesn't work (his problem was range, not obstacles), consider taking it up with your mobile company or look into passive repeaters. If those don't work, consider either dynamiting the ridge, developing a space ladder, or buying an active cell phone repeater.

Try a "Cell Socket" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16113087)

I have a "Cell Socket"... cradle [cellsocketusa.com] with its own whip antenna that is then connected to either the hard-wired house phone system or the base of a regular cordless phone. Takes my phone from 1 bar to 4.

I come in the house, and put the phone in the cradle by the door, and then make and receive calls over the cell line on a nice 900mhz SS cordless phone w/ callerID that cost a whopping $14. And the cell socket charges the phone.

Thread on howardforums.com (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 7 years ago | (#16108224)

I asked a similar question on Howard Forums [howardforums.com] and they do sound like a good idea. My problem turned out to be my phone locking onto a distant tower rather than one of three nearer ones (your phone will tell you the GPS coordinates of the tower it's connected to in its service menu, or some phones at least, see the link). I never did buy a repeater.

PopSci says... (1)

emd (25227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16108639)

Try this one: http://www.signalwide.com/ [signalwide.com]

Solutions (1)

non-poster (529123) | more than 7 years ago | (#16109837)

  • Buy a better phone
  • Switch to a provider that works in your area
  • Move to a new house that lies in a service area of a provider
  • Use a landline

Isn't This Supposed To Be A Geek Site? (1)

nuintari (47926) | more than 7 years ago | (#16110442)

I am amazed at the number of replies that say, "Oh just get a new phone, switch providers, or buy a landline." Isn't this supposed to be a site for geeks, tinkerers, people that like to fix stuff by ourselves? This person wants to fix a problem, and they want to fix it the geek way, and all everyone is saying is, "be a good consumer and give the phone company more money." This is supposed to be a geek site, and all these answers sound like they belong in Newsweek.

My own two cents. I frequently work in a datacenter that can, in theory, withstand a level 5 tornado hit. As a consequence, cell phones suck as inside the building. They recently installed a 500 dollar booster, not sure of the model, but it did indeed boost signal strength from useless to quite bearable. My casual inspection of the device revealed some kind of omnidirectional antenna fed by coaxial wire that ran to the roof, where I can only assume the rest of the gear was.

Do bear in mind that coax wire is a pretty lossy method of transmitting microwaves, and the connectors bleed power levels off like its their primary function. If you are going to need more than 30 feet in between ends, consider spending a bit more money on a better grade of coax than your standard stuff. Otherwise, you are throwing your money away. Microwaves move better through the air than they do over wire. So, collecting the waves where they are strongest, on the roof, with a dish, and carrying them inside over coax to another antenna only has a point if you don't bleed out all the signal strength along the way.

Thought about a Passive Repeater...? (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 7 years ago | (#16110748)

Two directional antennas - back-to-back - placed
on top of the ridge that blocks your connection.

One antenna is aimed at the carrier's cell tower;
the other antenna is aimed at your home/property.

Let us know how this works, if you try it... ;-)

From Direct experience: (1)

NDeans (611232) | more than 7 years ago | (#16110862)

Speaking from a sales and Installation experience, the JDTeck at http://www.jdteck.com/ [jdteck.com] line of Active Cellular repeters is the best bang for the buck. $695 retail will get you the JD65-XT which is a full-duplex active repeater, allowing up to 20 simultaneous calls. I have installed 3 of these units for various customers and have had excellent results.

When I call to order one they ask the Zip and carrier and will do a tower location to find the best frequency for you and send it along. It is a full kit with a flat panel antenna for 1900 (PCS) kits or a directional Yagi for other frequencies.

Keep in mind I set these up in a rural environment with distance to tower being 3-6 miles. But this sounds like it would do the trick for you.

Go All Out (1)

_RiZ_ (26333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16112936)

For a mere 100k+, you too can have a full LGC Fusion Singlestar repeater system covering an eight story building. You could work with the carriers to extend their signal to your place and then it will work great. http://www.lgcwireless.com/products/intereach_ss.h tm [lgcwireless.com] We have this at work and the cell signals went from no service to full 4/5 bars everywhere. Including in the elevator, bathroom, basement, and data center. If you are gonna do it, do it right!

Crooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16114101)

Firstly, all cellular networks suck horribly, they are all guilty of false advertising, breach of contract, extortion and other criminal acts that seem to be oficially condoned by the government.

If you must use cellular, get an old 5-10 watt analog bag phone. These kiddie toy 0.5W digital phones are a complete waste of time and are not really phones but are rather fashion accesories for kids.
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