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How to solve no cell phone signal reception issues in your home

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Bad cell phone signal reception is something everyone has to deal with, both home users and business users. There is a lot of conflicting information out there and I often have to explain how cell phone repeaters and other cell phone booster solutions work and what doesn’t to my family, friends, and co-workers. I have very good first hand experience with some solutions and since it is technology related, I have decided to dedicate a post here on my blog about these cell phone reception solutions to point everyone to. Saves me from having to say the same thing over and over when I could just email them a link. :)

First, for those people that are not regular readers of my blog, I have to let you know I work in IT infrastructure so cell phone engineering is not my expertise. I do some telecom and VoIP work but I am not an RF Engineer that works for a cell phone carrier by any means so please don’t consider me an expert on this subject. I’m only going to tell you about my own experience and research.

Second, I live in the Houston, Texas area. Cell phone coverage depends on your carrier and how their cell tower coverage is in your city. Houston being the fourth largest city in the United States has very good cell tower coverage from all the big carriers: AT&T, T-mobile, Verizon, Sprint, & Nextel. So parts of this post may or may not apply to you depending on where you live. Please do your research before spending your money and don’t rely soley on my blog post.

The Cause of Bad Reception
The question I get asked a lot is how can I improve the cell phone signal in my house or my office because I get 0 bars. In Houston, it is rarely a cell phone tower coverage issue. Cell phone towers are everywhere in this city. People just usually don’t notice them. But if you really start paying attention, you can’t go more than a few blocks before spotting one. Most of the time I hear complaints from friends and family that have just moved into a new house (newly constructed home) about cell reception being poor or 0 bars. They wonder what the cause could be in their brand new house because their old house didn’t have signal issues. The reason for this is because new homes use better radiant barriers in the attic than older homes. Especially in hot places like Texas. These radiant barriers are the cause of the poor signal, not cell phone tower coverage. They are blocking the cell phone signal from penetrating the house. Almost all home builders in Houston use LP TechShield radiant barrier:

http://www.lpcorp.com/techshield/

David Weekly Homes, Newmark Homes, etc. to even smaller custom home builders all use it here in Houston. TechShield can save you a TON of money per year. I went from having a $900 per month electricity bill in the summer in a house with no TechShield to less than $200 in a newly constructed home with TechShield installed. And the new house has double the square footage! Though TechShield works great and will save you a lot of money on your energy bill, the downside is it block RF signals (radio frequency signals). RF signals is how your cell phone talks to the cell tower. Specifically Ultra High Frequency or UHF. So what a lot of my friends, family, and co-workers find is that when they go home, they go from having 5 bars outside to 0 bars inside their homes. You can confirm TechShield is the cause by going into your attic and looking up. You will see the silver radiant barrier and it will say TechShield on it like this:

With businesses, the taller your building is and the more steel, insulation, and other dense material it is constructed with, the less signal you will get. In some cases like hospitals and large medical centers there could be equipment causing poor signal too. A lot of the big skyscrapers in Downtown Houston and the Medical Center rarely get good a good cell phone signal without working with carriers to install commercial in-building cell phone repeaters on every floor. I will go over what cell phone repeaters are exactly in the next section.

The Wrong Solution
A quick Google search will tell you cell phone boosters or cell phone repeaters are the way to go to solve bad cell phone signal issues. Those stickers and other solutions that are “passive” are all garbage. You need something that is “active” and amplifies the signal which is what a cell phone repeater is. Another term for a cell phone repeater is a BDA or bi-directional amplifier. For home users, you can even buy cell phone signal repeaters at electronic stores like Fry’s or Best Buy. They are cell phone amplifiers that amplify the weak signal from cell phone towers. Usually you stick an antennae on your roof that pulls the signal in, which is connected to the amplifier inside your home which amplifies the signal, which is then connected to another antennae inside your home that your cell phone connects to. Here is a diagram of how a simple cell phone repeater system works:

One thing you will not be told about these is that though they are completely legal to purchase, they are illegal to operate. The reason is cell phone carriers pay tons and tons of money to the FCC to license radio frequency spectrums (cellular frequency spectrums) for their use. You are not allowed to broadcast on these licensed frequencies without permission from the carrier that has licensed the spectrum or you will be fined by the FCC. The problem with a lot of cell phone repeaters is that they amplify the signal, sometimes way too much. This can cause issues with a nearby cell phone tower and causes problem for the carrier. For this reason, they do not want consumers installing and operating in-building cell phone repeaters in their homes. I speak from first hand experience so let me continue.

Amazon, Best Buy, Fry’s and a lot of other stores and websites sell dual band cell phone repeaters and boosters. They are usually dual band meaning it will work with 800 Mhz and 1900 Mhz bands which is AT&T and T-mobile respectively in the US. My friend’s 2 story 5,500 sq. ft house was currently getting 0 bars inside the house due to TechShield radiant barrier. Up to the front door, we could get 5 bars on AT&T and T-mobile phones. As soon as we stepped into the house, the signal drops. He specifically wanted coverage in the kitchen and living rooms only because that is where most of the family usually is. Having 0 bars in the house was unacceptable. If there was an emergency at work or with family everyone has his cell phone number and will call it first. Also he did not have a land line since his whole family had cell phones. So he purchased the zBoost YX-545 unit for around $270 from Amazon.com.


http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Extenders-YX545-Dual-Band-Booster/dp/B003VOW5WI/ref=sr_1_1?s=wireless&ie=UTF8&qid=1301611766&sr=1-1

You will see a lot of reviews online ranging on this unit and it’s predecessor the YX-510 from horrible reviews to 5 stars. It all depends on your building, cell tower coverage, and installation. I personally saw very poor results when my friend set it up. Within 5 ft. of the unit, I went from 0 bars to 2 bars. As soon as I stepped out of this 5 ft radius, I got 0 bars again. He called their support line which was very helpful and they confirmed everything about the install was correct. He even sent them pictures of how the antennae was mounted outside on the roof and into the house. But, that’s the best he could get in the house.

So both of us being geeks, I convinced him to try upgrading the unit. He bought the premium kit with upgraded outdoor directional antennaes for $130. You can use this to get a better signal from the cell tower because you can point it directly at it:


http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Extenders-zBoost-Dual-Band-Directional/dp/B003N3HDAQ/ref=sr_1_5?s=wireless&ie=UTF8&qid=1301611766&sr=1-5

We also upgraded the thin RG-59 coaxial cable the kit came with to some nice thick RG-11 cable:


http://www.showmecables.com/viewItem.asp?idProduct=7326

The tradeoff is the RG-11 is less flexible so it is harder to run the cable through walls or attic all the way up to the roof. Imagine RG-6 (the cable you use to connect your to your TV or cable box for cable TV) but twice as thick.

After getting all the new upgrades installed, we could get 3 bars within about 10 ft. As soon as we leave that radius, the signal drops to 0. At this point zBoost support did not have any other suggestions for him except to move the directional antennae on the roof and point it directly at another cell tower. We had already mapped out where the AT&T and T-mobile cell towers were by using Google Maps and a cell tower locator application for our phones called “Cell Tower Locator”. We also drove by the cell tower sites to confirm we were connected to it and measured the dbm as we approached and left the tower. There are also websites online that document cell tower locations and we confirmed the locations of the towers there as well, it was only 1.3 miles away. He even rotated the antennae on a mast at 5 degrees each for the full 360 degrees testing and that was the best he could do. So it wasn’t a problem with my friend’s antennae pointing for sure.

So again, he opted to upgrade but this time to a business solution that is used for large office buildings, warehouses, etc. One really popular cell phone repeater company that caters to home users and business users is Wilson Electronics but he opted to go with Cellphone-Mate that makes a comparable product with excellent reviews. There was a company locally that installed both Wilson and Cellphone-Mate in office buildings and they recommended going with Cellphone-Mate for his house. He decided to go with their flagship product, the SureCall CM2020 68dB amplifier for $1200. They claim to cover 60,000 sq ft on their website:


http://www.cellphone-mate.com/newp/68db.html

and that it is FCC approved to the max output of 3 watts. But keep in mind they are talking about the output of the device being legal per FCC regulation. They do not say operating the amplifier itself is FCC approved and as I mentioned above, it is illegal to operate an unauthorized cell phone repeater/amplifier. He did not know this of course when purchasing the unit for $1200. They told him on the phone as well as on their website that their basic CM2020 kit can cover up to 10,000 square feet easily and they have done many installs for businesses and hospitals. Up to 60,000 sq ft. that the manufacturer’s website said was with multiple antennae upgrades and such that was overkill for a home. He purchased a complete top of the line kit consisting of the following:

-68 dB CM2020 amplifier
-Outdoor directional yagi antennae
-Indoor omnidirectional dome antennae
-LMR400 cables (really thick coaxial cable)

You can see it here:

http://www.wpsantennas.com/CM2020-Kit-Cellphone-Mate-65db-dual-band-system.aspx

My friend purchased it locally and got the company to come out to install it. Instantly his 5,500 sq ft. house was at 5 bars. Anywhere in the house was a solid 5 bars, no drops at all. The company tuned down the 68 db gain using the dip switches on the front of the amplifier to a level that was just enough to cover the inside of the house only.

Now the problem came a few days later when he received a certified letter from an RF engineer from one of the major cell phone carriers. In the letter the RF engineer stated that since the day the unit was installed, it has been causing interference with a nearby cell tower. It was causing all sorts of problems for that carrier’s customers in the area. So they had sent this RF engineer out to investigate. Using a directional antennae in his van and some other hardware, he discovered the source of the signal was my friend’s house which is why he sent the letter. He went on to explain cell phone repeaters (aka BDAs) are not permitted to be installed for use on any cell phone spectrum in the US by the FCC without consent from the carrier that licenses (T-mobile, AT&T, Verizon, etc.). None of these carriers permit the use of a BDA by a home or business user. Only the carrier themselves installs them and it’s a huge process and very expensive to have them do it so only large corporations tend to do this. My friend called the RF engineer and got more info on this. They typically install licensed BDAs themselves or subcontract the work out to companies like the one that my friend had hired to install the unit.

In fact a few months ago while working in one of the largest skyscrapers in Downtown Houston, I ran into a T-mobile subcontractor that was going from floor to floor testing the building’s repeater signal. They had several of them per floor that fed into an IDF closet that ran throughout the building and into several amplifiers on one level. Something like this:

Anyhow, operating a big system like above or a simple system like my friend started off within his house on your own is illegal. Only the carrier which is the licensee of the spectrum is allowed to do it. Quick research online shows several cases of FCC inspectors imposing fines and seizing cell phone repeaters that were installed by home and business users without authorization. They typically start of with cease and desist letters like below:

http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db0927/DOC-301700A1.pdf
http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-300634A1.html
http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-296857A1.html
http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-296238A1.html
http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-295061A1.html
http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1012/DOC-302031A1.txt
http://www.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/2003/DOC-266448A1.html
http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1101/DOC-302541A1.pdf

Here is the important part in all these cease and desist notices:
“Licensees may install in-building radiation systems without applying for authorization or notifying the FCC, provided that the locations of the in-building radiation systems are within the protected service area of the licensee’s authorized transmitter(s) on the same channel or channel block.”2 A licensee’s authority to install a BDA does not permit a subscriber to install a BDA, unless that subscriber has received explicit authorization from the licensee to do so. In response to an inquiry from an FCC agent, T-mobile reported that it did not provide you authorization to install a BDA. Operation of radio transmitting equipment without a valid FCC authorization or license is a violation of Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended,3 and may subject the responsible parties to substantial monetary forfeitures, in rem arrest action against the offending radio equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.”

These “notices” from the FCC go on and one if you do a Google search for “FCC BDA notice”. I’ve found them from just a few weeks ago to even as far back as 10 years ago. You will notice that most of the complaints above are to home or business users. Some are even found on boats. I even found one to Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles so even a huge company can land in hot water. One really interesting find, there are some notices from the FCC stemming from carrier to carrier complaints! So even one carrier installing a repeater that interferes with another carrier’s signal is a real issue and the FCC has to step in to correct it.

Luckily, the RF engineer was extremely nice in informing my friend of the laws in his letter and on the phone and the company that installed the unit had a 30 day return policy and removed the unit within a day. Apparently, this happens a lot in the Houston area. Consumers go and purchase cell repeaters (or BDA which is the “official” term) from Amazon or Best Buy and install them. Then he has the headache of hunting them down and requesting the business or home user to remove it. If they don’t, he then requests help from the FCC and they said a notice to the user like above. Poor guy. Working in infrastructure myself, imagine end users running amok on your network causing it to go down every day. This is what he had to deal with on a daily basis. I did not envy him.

The Right Solution
So now my friend was stuck. After spending 2 months experimenting with cell phone repeaters and finding out their operation was not allowed, he was back at square one. So I ended up doing research for him and found another solution called a femtocell I pointed him toward:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femtocell

It is basically a small device about the size of your router that sits in your home. Your cell phone will connect to the device instead of a cell tower. The device then connects to your carrier’s network through the Internet using a secure tunnel. So you will be making the phone call over the Internet and not rely on a cell tower anymore. Currently AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all use this technology. Since his family was on an AT&T family plan, he purchased their solution called the AT&T MicroCell:

http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/3gmicrocell/

The device itself is manufactured by Cisco so you know it’s a solid piece of networking equipment. It cost a one time fee of $150 and there were no charges after that. Plus AT&T gave him a 30 day trial. I was there the day he got it in and after following the simple setup procedures, we turned it on. It took a about 5 minutes for it to get a GPS signal (for Enhanced 911 purposes) and to establish the VPN tunnel with AT&T’s server. Within a few seconds of all lights going solid green, all the AT&T phones that were registered to use the device had 5 bars inside the whole 5,500 sq ft. house! A $150 femtocell unit was doing the same thing a $1200 cell phone repeater was doing! Both of us were floored. All that time and money he spent on installing was a complete waste. He’s been using the AT&T Microcell for about 8 months now and is extremely happy with it.

One thing to note, I mentioned earlier in this post that dual band repeaters work on two spectrums. But sometimes carriers that offer high speed data operate those services on a different spectrum that is not amplified by the repeater so you will get little or no high speed data when you are around a repeater. For example, T-mobile uses 1900mhz for voice and slow EDGE data service in the US but 1700/2100 MHz for high speed 3G data service. When you go with a femtocell from the carrier that doesn’t rely on cell towers, you don’t have to worry about frequency bands and data, everything goes through the Internet and you will get the high speed data service you pay for!

By the way I mentioned above every major carrier has femtocell except T-mobile. I read an article that they were testing them though. For now, look into T-mobile’s feature called “Wi-Fi calling” which is similar to femtocell but this requires you have a special phone that can make calls over WiFi. Read about it below:

http://support.t-mobile.com/doc/tm24195.xml

Go to :

http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/phones/default.aspx

and click the “Wi-Fi and Mobile Calling” checkbox in the left hand bar to see all the phone that have this feature.

Conclusion
Do your research before investing money. My friend and I are both geeks, and he makes a lot more money than I do so he doesn’t care about throwing money away experimenting. If you live in a rural area with no cell phone towers around, using an unauthorized BDA or cell repeater will likely not mess with a carriers’ network and you probably won’t get a letter from a carrier or the FCC. But if you live in a highly populated city like Houston with cell towers everywhere, the chances of your repeater causing issues is much higher. Cell phone repeater companies will say “FCC approved” on the device but again as I mentioned earlier in the post, they are talking about the device itself, not it’s operation by you. So it is risky to use one and I would personally never attempt it.

Luckily for us, femtocell technology is available from most carriers and works just as well as an enterprise level cell repeater and for a fraction of the cost. So now my friends, family, co-works can read this article and I don’t have to keep repeating my story over and over again. :) And everyone else reading this, please do post if my experience helps you any. I’d also really love to hear from any RF engineers that work for any carriers about their own experiences and recommendations.

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  1. Jason
    April 2nd, 2011 at 18:59 | #1

    Great article and great writeup. I have AT&T and they just sent me one of these femtocells for free. Not sure what criteria they use to figure out who can get a free one, but I got lucky I guess. However, the calling on the femtocell is not unlimited for free – it is $19.95/mo for unlimited “microcell” calling. FYI – they call this feature a microcell in their website and billing.

  2. April 3rd, 2011 at 16:27 | #2

    @Jason

    Thanks Jason. I spoke to my friend and he verified, to date he has not paid any extra monthly fees. It was a one time $149.99 charge when he purchased the Microcell about 8 months ago and nothing else has appeared on his monthly statement since. It seems they have raised the price to $199 for the Microcell starting in January of this year though.

    I just read what you said about Unlimited calling on the Microcell where it doesn’t count against your plan minutes being a $20 a month charge. Thanks for the info. My friend has luckily been able to manage with the inlcuding plan minutes so that’s why he has not signed up for it. On AT&T’s website (http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/3gmicrocell/faq.jsp) there is some info about it.:

    Q. Do I need to subscribe to an AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling feature?

    A. No. While highly recommended for maximum benefit, a subscription to AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling is not required. Your normal wireless from AT&T minute plan rates will apply.

    Q. What minutes are included in AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling?

    A. Domestic calls only. These include inbound Anytime Minutes and outbound Anytime Minutes domestic calls made to the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands.

    Q. Where will I see my AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling usage on my invoice?

    A. AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling usage will appear on your invoice under Call Detail with a Feature Code of MCEL.

    Also I found this article from January 2011 saying AT&T was going to send free Microcells to 7.5% of it’s customers they deem to be in poor coverage spots. This is probably why you received one. They also currently have a $100 rebate on the Mircocell if you sign up for the AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling feature so they likely signed you up for that when they sent you the device for free to recoup some costs:

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/21/atandt-offering-free-microcells-to-top-7-5-percent-of-customers-l/

    $100 Mail In Rebate – with subscription to Unlimited MicroCell Calling Feature (Purchase Date: 11/7/10 – 4/4/11)
    http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/en_US/pdf/5010-2739_r3_NationalMicrocell_100_110710_040411.pdf

    If you can manage with just your inlcuded plan minutes, I’d call them and ask to remove the Unlimited Microcell feature to save some money like my friend has been doing.

  3. James
    April 4th, 2011 at 13:44 | #3

    Very informative article Jason- I’ve been looking into signal boosters lately and actually found this one for T-Mobile called Cel-Fi (www.cel-fi.com). Do you have any experience with this device?

  4. April 4th, 2011 at 15:27 | #4

    @James

    Thank you James. The Nextivity Cel-Fi is the one I mentioned they were testing. The last article I found was from October of last year saying it was in beta:

    http://www.itworld.com/mobile-amp-wireless/125524/t-mobile-quietly-testing-cel-fi-femtocell-alternative-customers-signal-ch

    Here is a Youtube video of the beta version from October someone received:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzCKlBGi9b4

    The latest discussion on the beta program:

    http://forums.t-mobile.com/t5/Coverage/Cel-Fi-status/td-p/693435

    It is not a femtocell device like I originally thought but a repeater that is tuned to very specific T-mobile frequencies. That means it still relys on cell towers very much like the zBoost, Wilson, etc repeaters…but without having to run coax cables which is very nice. T-mobile has likely tuned it to their specific cell frequencies and at a certain power/gain level, it will likely not cause any issues with other towers in the area. Here is some info about this from the link you posted:

    Q. Experience has shown that traditional repeater products often cause significant degradation to the mobile network quality. How is Cel-Fi different?

    A. Cel-Fi utilizes an intelligent processor to actively adjust to the network environment. It uses multiple techniques including automatic gain control, real-time path loss analysis, and uplink signal gating to ensure that it never degrades the quality of the macro network signal or artificially raises the noise floor of the node B.

    And since it is from the carrier, there won’t be any issues with the FCC like the other repeaters since it is authorized for use on their network. They claim it has 13,000 sq. ft coverage which is beyond any traditional home use repeater. The $525 price tag sounds high though considering AT&T’s price on their Microcell. Seems like some people have been able to talk to T-mobile’s loyalty/retentions department and get it sent to them for free while others are saying T-mobile is no longer even offering it. I hope this only means beta trials are over and they are gearing up for a national launch. I’m just thinking out loud but with AT&T’s acquisition of T-mobile, it could also mean they are abandoning it and maybe going with a femtocell solution like AT&T did.

  5. April 20th, 2011 at 22:46 | #5

    Would you know if the 3G Microcell Towers are available in San Juan , Puerto Rico? I never get more than 3 bands at Home – even w Wi Fi.
    i hope at&t does distribute their femtocell here..
    Please advise,Thanks,

  6. September 12th, 2011 at 14:28 | #6

    Quick update, a friend wanted to know if Sprint had a femtocell. I checked and they do, it’s called the Sprint Airave. Apparently they were one of the first to begin rolling out femtocells to consumers in the US way back in 2008:

    http://support.sprint.com/support/device/Sprint/AIRAVE_by_Sprint-dvc1230001prd

    Some forums posts I’ve read have said Sprint has been giving them away to customers who ask for them. Here are 68 reviews on it from Sprint customers, a perfect 5 out of 5:

    http://reviews.sprint.com/5611v2/233/airave-by-sprint-reviews/reviews.htm

    If Sprint doesn’t give you one for free, there are resellers on Amazon and Ebay selling them for around $50.

  7. harpo49
    September 22nd, 2011 at 16:36 | #7

    I purchased an AT&T microcell in an attempt to gain the cell phone service I was already paying for. That was July 2010. For the past 15 months, I have been working with various levels of AT&T tech support because none of the phones registered to the microcell will transfer reliably to/from other towers once you are away from the microcell. Just last week, the final report from AT&T was that they could not fix this problem. So, I started reading about cell phone repeaters. Now I learn that this is not an option either!

    Anyone else have a microcell with handset transfer problems?

  8. Ed
    October 3rd, 2011 at 18:39 | #8

    FYI,

    A few things are wrong in your article.

    First, Cisco is not solid equipment. Sorry, but, their Linksys gear is less than adequate and we know what is happening with their core router business in the face of Juniper and Alcatel.

    Second, a Femto Cell device does not do a VPN connection. It is authenticating, most likely, via Cert over a 802.1x/DHCP connection.

    Third, how much additional RF energy (aka Microwave) are you introducing into your home with that little gem? On top of the radiated energy coming off of your cell phone (microwaving your head), any 802.11g or -n coming off of a Gateway or WAP, cell tower energy, etc., Femto Cell devices crank out more microwaves. You may want to check into how much power is being broadcast.

    As you can tell, I’m in the industry and stick with landlines whenever possible. Much safer and no connectivity problems.

  9. harpo49
    October 3rd, 2011 at 22:03 | #9

    @Ed
    Ed,
    Please tell me more about your comment regarding VPN and certification. In particular, how does this impact the handset’s ability to transfer between the microcell and an outdoor tower?

  10. Mariah D
    October 28th, 2011 at 02:22 | #10

    Your article is quite helpful for those who are experiencing bad cell phone signal in their houses. Another problem being experienced by cell phone users is the possible additional charges on their bills. The phenomenon called “bill shock,” where individuals unexpectedly discover out their cell phone bill is hugely inflated, has infuriated millions of people. The cellular carrier market and federal regulators have just reached an agreement that could keep it from happening anymore, as companies have decided to start giving more advanced notice. This will save many people from getting payday loans to pay for unexpected cell phone bills.

  11. Pam
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:25 | #11

    I called sprint today and ordered the airave. The agent on the phone told me it would NOT work with satellite, but double checked this, then came back and said YES, it does work with satellite ISP. I have Hughes net and thought I would give it a try. If nothing..it is going back as fast as I ordered it….

  12. brenda
    November 10th, 2011 at 19:28 | #12

    Does femtocell work with Cricket? I need to know quickly becaause I only have two weeks to return my new smartphone to Cricket. No sence keeping it if I canKt even use it in my home!

  13. Bob
    November 30th, 2011 at 12:18 | #13

    Will this work with satellite internet? Rural area – options are 28.8 dial up or my currently satellite internet (Hughes).

    Bob

  14. Pam
    November 30th, 2011 at 16:29 | #14

    Bob…I purchased an Airwave/Sprint device a few weeks ago because they told me it would work. Well….it did NOT work. Initially on setup it did, but then the signals were weak later on. I quickly returned the item. I do have satellite (hughes). I am soooooooo frustrated with the lack of cell phone towers or fiber optics in the rural community.
    Good luck to you!

  15. Bob
    November 30th, 2011 at 21:10 | #15

    Thanks Pam

  16. December 3rd, 2011 at 14:02 | #16

    My office is in the middle of downtown Chicago. You would think At&t would have a good signal. Not if you are in a newer building. The glass blocks the signal & 3g becomes the edge (AKA – zero signal).

    I got the microcell last year right when it came out. $150 no rebates. This is because the signal is great on the street. However… it really isn’t feasible to stand on the balcony making client calls during a sleet storm in january.

    1. It does not work very well on the minimum recommendations. You will need to step up your broadband internet plan. You will be able to hear everything fine, however no one will be able to hear you clearly due to dropped words. This is because every broadband plan limits upload speeds. If you want people to hear what you say… up your plan to better upload speeds. Use speedtest.net to check your internet speeds.

    2. If you have an older router that does not allow port forwarding, you might need to get a new router to accommodate the microcell.

    3. 5,500 sq ft… ROTFLMAO… maybe if you live in a circus tent. Seriously, this thing has a odd radius. I can walk 15ft away from it nothing but air & lose the signal. Yet, I can walk into the office behind it with a wall in between & never have a problem (same distance – I measured).

    4. 2 identical Blackberrys yet 2 different signals. My partner experiences the exact opposite in signal strength in the office on his blackberry. WTF?

    5. If you are considering talking on the phone while using the internet… choose one or the other. See #1 above. Because we use gotomeeting constantly we had to up our internet to 9mb down & 768up. Now we can use gotomeeting & voip but not in conjunction with a phone. It is still one or the other. & if anyone uses the internet while the internet meeting & voip is going on… you will lose the voip part of gotomeeting.

    6. After a few months the microcell decided that on 1 blackberry it will still show that the phone is connected to the microcell and on the other microcell will not show as connected. Very odd.

    All in all, the microcell does the job if you remain within line of sight 10 ft of it, up your internet connection speeds & be careful of how you use the internet during a phone all. Our contract is up in a few months so as much as we love our blackberrys, we are ditching AT&T.

    @Bob & @Pam – I have a client that used satellite internet for years in SW Michigan. HATED IT! Every time a cow broke wind the towers were down. Anyhow, the second Comcast ran a line we got them hooked up & outages are maybe 2x’s a year and only due to extreme weather conditions. The problems you experienced might have been due to weak internet speeds.

  17. December 5th, 2011 at 10:11 | #17

    Everything you did was good, but RG-6 is more common and would have been a better coax cable to us. RG-11 has higher lose per foot, is more expensive and the termination is expensive. You can terminate RG-6 first time expense ~ 16 dollars for crimper, ~ 8 dollars for a package of 10 RG-6 F-connecters and the striper is ~ 10 dollars.

  18. robar
    December 16th, 2011 at 22:51 | #18

    Wow and crap,

    I live in the woods a few miles from cell towers. Cell phone get 5 bars when I go on top of the roof of my home. And mostly zero in the house. I was contemplating on getting a repeater booster so that I could do two things, get a cell phone signal in the house and use the laptop on the internet with the broadband AT&T data card. I wanted to set my desktop computer to access the internet thru AT&T also. But don’t know exactly what I need to do that.

    My computers presently access the internet via a local router and Hughes net modem.

    I bought the AT&T data plan so I could get internet when I was mobile. It is useless in the home thru AT&T.

    I want to get away from Hughes net because it is notorious for slow speed anytime of day or night with clear skys.

    I was trying to figure out a better way for both laptop and desktop to go with AT&T on the internet in the house. I just don’t know what modules or cards to buy for the desktop.

  19. December 16th, 2011 at 23:45 | #19

    @robar – from your description it sounds like you have signal issues in general in you home due to the structure.

    You said you get excellent cell phone reception on the roof. You might want to try a external cell repeater (wilson electronics) to increase your signal in the house.

    have no idea about the internet -> not enough information.

  20. Bob
    December 17th, 2011 at 18:39 | #20

    Cable: only option is local Mom and Pop, they don’t offer internet.

    Phone: No DSL out this far, dial up = 28.8 on a good day.

    Hughes is an improvement, but still pretty bad.

    No roof issue here. Get one LOOKING bar in a few places. It is a bar that appears for a second to look at on the phone, but not for calling/txt etc.

  21. December 17th, 2011 at 22:16 | #21

    @Bob – I don’t know where you are but you might look into using a wireless networking card (“air card”) on your computer.

    You could also try looking into satellite providers.

    Worst case, google rv internet or truckers internet. See what those folks do in remote area’s to keep connected.

    Off topic

    This brings up a sore point for me – What the H*!! are we paying a “rural connectivity infrastructure” fee on every phone bill for if folks in rural area’s can not get service???

  22. LJ
    January 29th, 2012 at 20:12 | #22

    I use a straight talk which run off of verizon towers. Is there any way I could use the verizon femtocell device to boost my signal or is there a device which runs thru the internet that is not carrier specific? Thanks.

  23. Jason
    February 8th, 2012 at 22:45 | #23

    I have a straight talk smart phone from what I can see it runs off of Sprint towers, here in Lakeland, FL. Will the Sprint Fomtecell work sith my phone?

  24. February 23rd, 2012 at 02:22 | #24

    dear sir,
    my house not inside signal weak for cell. how can rectify the result?.
    so, require the need information.

  25. mvd
    March 12th, 2012 at 12:26 | #25

    We work in a lab that blocks most cell coverage, even though, as you mentioned before, we can get 5 bars walking outside. The issue with getting a femtocell is that we don’t have access to our company provided internet. Has anyone tried any type of hyperbolic reflector to maybe focus what little signal we can squeeze from the ether?

  26. David
    March 13th, 2012 at 10:26 | #26

    Great post

    I am moving to rural Ixiamas Bolivia. Probably the only Internet available will be Tigo 3g on my iPhone. No FCC interference there!

    Where should I start my research? From reading this, something like the $1,200 cellphone mate sounds reasonable.

    Thanks

    David

  27. Ann
    March 19th, 2012 at 04:48 | #27

    Great article! Thanks for sharing you insight.

  28. Steve
    April 13th, 2012 at 21:32 | #28

    I was wondering if what your friend has would work with cricket cell service? Do they have any routers that work next toa window because I get no reception in my place and its an 18 unit condo.

    Thanks

    Steve

    @James

  29. Ann
    June 15th, 2012 at 20:29 | #29

    I found your blog to be very informative however, I live in a 3-story (18 unit) apartment bldg in Birmingham AL. I used to have Boost when I moved here but after enduring months of dropped calls, no bars, and absolutely no connection to the outside world, I switched and bought a Straight Talk Droid in hopes of maybe getting a better signal. I was wrong. I get 0 bars, again no signal and no connection to the outside world with the exception of the internet. What can I do about this? It’s depressing! I can’t make important calls, I can’t communicate with family in Chicago and any call I need to really make, I would either have to walk 10 feet outside my door or drive to the end of the block! I have become seriously depressed about this b/c I live alone and have no friends or family here and without the resource of communication, outside of work, I sit home in silence every evening and weekends. What can I do or buy to boost my signal? Or do you think I should invest in a Magic Jack? Please help me! I’m too old for this shit! Thanks!

  30. other David
    June 21st, 2012 at 22:08 | #30

    David in Ixiamas:
    When are you moving? Is there 3G in the Tigo tower there, for sure? Let’s keep in touch, we may be able to help one another. I was discussing today about investing in a better INTERNET service for Iturralde Province.
    David2

  31. August 3rd, 2012 at 02:22 | #31

    In the UK a large mobile network (Orange) has begin to use a signal booster service based on connecting to a home WiFi network and using the line to boost the signal. Free to use and perfectly legal. I did a write up of it at http://www.simonlydealscomparison.co.uk/mobile-phone-signal-booster-reviews if you’re interested.

  32. Rissa
    March 27th, 2013 at 19:30 | #32

    Hello Jason! I am really very thankful of what you posted in here. We just moved in our new house and my big issue was my cell phone signal. And because of you, I got the wifi calling that you mentioned and made my first call to my husband.:) Thanks again!!!!!!:):):):)

  33. John in Houston
    May 31st, 2013 at 13:38 | #33

    Thank you…. I have an iPhone that works everywhere but at my home. I was going batty trying to determine what the problem was until I read your article. We had a new roof put on the house and we needed new decking up there too and they installed a vapor barrier. We use ATT but getting to them is enough to cause me to go bald by pulling my hair out… So when I read your article it all made sense and I wanted to thank you, thank you very much….

  34. May 31st, 2013 at 13:43 | #34

    Glad to help!

  35. David
    August 6th, 2013 at 09:44 | #35

    @other David
    David, sorry it has been so long. I forgot all about my post on this forum after all this time! Can you contact me? We’re looking to improve the internet here, as well. kosherorganic at yahoo dot com

  36. Brian
    March 1st, 2014 at 17:22 | #36

    FemToCell to my knowledge does not work for those of us stuck with Satellite as our only option for high speed internet. Do you have differing information or suggestions for people with satellite internet and bad cell reception?

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