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How Cell Phone Signal Boosters Work
How Cell Signal Boosters Work
Signal boosters, also known as Bi-directional amplifiers or BDA's, work by capturing a signal outside the home, building, automobile, boat, warehouse, etc…,with an exterior antenna, bring it inside, amplify it , and rebroadcast it. For most of the products on this site, there are four main components: the Outside Antenna, the Amplifier ( booster ), the Inside Antenna, and the cabling to connect everything.
The Outside Antenna
The outside antenna can be omni-directional (can capture signal from all directions) or directional (works best when pointed in the direction of a cell tower).
Reasons to choose a Yagi (directional) Antenna:
We Recommend the Wide Band Yagi to the vast majority of our customers.
Reasons to choose an omni-directional antenna:
Every amplifier (or booster) must provide at least two ports, an input and an output. While higher end models will have more sophisticated circuitry, higher gains, and adjustable uplink and downlink gains, they all function pretty much the same. The signal coming in from the outside antenna is amplified and sent to the inside antenna. Every signal amplifier has a specification called Gain. Without getting too technical, gain is defined as the ratio of output to input. When specifying RF power, gain is measured in dB (decibels). dB numbers are derived from a fairly simple logarithmic function, however all you need to know is that every increase in 3 dB doubles the power. Ex. 1 watt into a 3 dB amplifier would come out as 2 watts. 1 watt into a 6 dB amplifier would come out as 4 watts. For more, please reference the following:
When searching for an amplifier for your particular application, please reference the following table:
Please keep in mind that this table represents general rules of thumb and the recommended applications and antenna separation distances may vary by product/manufacturer, outdoor signal strength, cable lengths and antennas. Antenna separation distances are to keep your amplifier from going to oscillation. In the audio world, this is analogous to getting a microphone too close to a speaker, thus producing feedback. If you choose directional indoor (wall mount panel) and outdoor (yagi) antennas or there is metal or multiple walls separating the antennas, often times these distances can be much shorter than the distances listed above. Also, increasing the vertical component of the separation as much as possible will reduce the required separation as well. These are straight line distances with both horizontal and vertical components, not distances based on the cable lengths.
The Inside Antenna
Inside antennas, just like outside antennas, come in different shapes and sizes and serve different purposes. All of the Wi-Ex products on this site have a small omni-directional antenna attached to the amplifier itself. While this makes installation fairly simple, the unit must become part of your home décor as it must be installed in a central location and will be visible. Most of the other in-building amplifier products on this site will have a separately mounted internal antenna. The most popular antenna for providing omni-directional internal coverage is the ceiling-mounted dome antenna, such as the Cellular Solutions 501123 Ceiling Mount Dome Antenna. This type of antenna is a little more difficult to install than one that is directly attached to the amplifier, but is less obtrusive. A dome antenna provides 360 degrees of horizontal coverage in a downward direction. Inside antennas can be directional as well. If you are you looking to provide directional coverage for a large, open space or hallway, the Cellular Solutions 501135 wall-mounted panel antenna provides this. A panel antenna can also be installed in an attic (facing downward) if you have tall ceilings.
General Purchasing Recommendation
Reasons to choose a ceiling mounted dome antenna:
Reasons to choose a wall mounted panel antenna:
The cabling and connectors used to connect the outside antenna to the amplifier as well as the inside antenna to the amplifier play a crucial role in how your system will perform. Depending on the product, different types of cabling and connectors can be used. Ex. Some of the Wi-Ex and Wilson products use standard RG6 or RG59 75 Ohm coax between the outside antenna and the amplifier. This is the same coax used for your cable TV or satellite system. While this type of cabling is less expensive, there are some drawbacks. For cellular and PCS frequencies, on average, RG6 will lose 6-10 dB of signal per 100ft. This is typically more loss than the outside antenna provides in gain. Remember, you want your amplifier to receive the highest quality signal possible in order to provide full indoor coverage. For this reason, it is recommended that runs using RG6 should be no more than 50 ft. For most of the other products on this site, LMR-400 50 Ohm Coax is the standard. In comparison, while LMR-400 is more expensive and thicker, it only loses about 3-6 dB per 100 ft for cellular and PCS frequencies respectively. Based on this, LMR-400 can be run further than RG6 before there is a decrease in system performance. For all three-piece systems (outside antenna, amplifier, inside antenna) it is recommended the amplifier be installed as close to the external antenna as possible. Ex. If the external antenna is installed on a roof, it is recommended the amplifier be installed in the attic as opposed to the basement. The shorter the cable length between the external antenna and the amplifier, the better. Remember that there is no separation limit between the antennas and the amplifier, only between the antennas.
General Purchasing Recommendation
Example Installation Diagrams