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How Do You Extend Your Wireless Connection? 214

Posted by timothy
from the high-quality-tin-can dept.
ganjadude writes "So I am moving to a location where the cell signal is very poor (I don't get signal inside my house), and I have been looking at wireless extenders such as the ones that Sprint and Verizon have. I am brought down by the cost (Sprint charges monthly, Verizon $250 up front, AT&T.... well they are AT&T). Being that this is Slashdot, and a lot of us live in basements (I kid!), I assume that some of the crowd has had this issue in the past. What have you done, or what alternatives are available to someone in such a situation?"
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How Do You Extend Your Wireless Connection?

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  • Wifi (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alop (67204) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:12PM (#31619174) Journal

    I use google voice, over wifi while at home.
    If you have T-Mobile and a blackberry device, you have use UMA over wifi as well.

    • by MDMurphy (208495)

      I don't think so.

      Google Voice isn't a VOIP service, it's a forwarding / routing service. You might be able to have it route to another service, like Gizmo, but by itself you'd not going to send/receive calls.

      Makes a pretty good answering machine though, so you could use to listen to messages and call them back when you're in cell coverage, but that's not quite the same.

      • by BobPaul (710574) *

        If you use the Google Voice app, you make a receive calls over SIP.

        If you aren't using the Google Voice app, you have to call your Google Voice number first, and that means your call goes over POTS.

        I understand how you got you're confused. You probably don't have a smartphone with the Google Voice app.

        • Re:Wifi (Score:5, Informative)

          by noc007 (633443) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @07:46PM (#31620278)

          I do have a smartphone running Android with the Google Voice app and this is not the case. As MDMurphy stated, GV is a forwarder and this is how the app functions; outbound GV calls still call the local GV number and use minutes. I believe alop has a Gizmo5 account, which is a SIP service acquired by Google in November, and is the only SIP service supported to directly work with GV without a POTS call having to be initiated.

          Googles FAQ backup what MDMurphy and myself are saying:
          http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=115079 [google.com]
          http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=115104 [google.com]

          Even if one were to have a Gizmo5 account before they stopped accepting new accounts when Google acquired them, a SIP client app is still required; the GV app for Android will not connect via SIP and will still use airtime. The only way around this is to get a SIP account, Gizmo5 or not, and use a SIP client. GV can be optionally used depending on what services the SIP account provides and what you want to do. Additionally a service like SIP Sorcery might be needed depending on what you're doing:
          http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0Ae8glDUXDsh9ZGR2eG43cjRfMzNkOTM4ZjNjeA&hl=en&pli=1 [google.com]

          Google has stated that they plan on bringing SIP connectivity to the GV service in the future as part of their Gizmo5 purchase. Besides having a Gizmo5 account or jumping through the hoops of what's documented in the last link, I'm interested in how one can use GV via SIP or WiFi and no call over POTS or a mobile network using minutes.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        iirc, google bought gizmo recently, and provides easy setup for linking google voice and gizmo.

    • Re:Wifi (Score:4, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:42PM (#31619570) Homepage Journal

      If finding a solution to the actual problem of not being able to respond to phone calls is what's important, may I suggest an alternative workaround?

      Forward your cell phone to a land line in your basement.

    • by RJFerret (1279530)

      A friend had this problem, horrible reception at home and also didn't like the landline voicemail. She signed up for Google Voice and gave out that number instead, voilà, one voicemail/text msg solution, answer whichever phone is most convenient/best at the time.

      A nice feature of GV is you can actually transfer a call from your cell to your landline and vice-versa (incoming calls only). I've answered when driving home, gone inside and switched to the landline; also the other way, I've answered calls

      • by hitmark (640295)

        you cant transfer a outgoing call if you use google voice to initiate the call?

        • by RJFerret (1279530)

          Not on outgoing calls, which I understand as you'd presumably have made the call from the line you wanted to!

          However there are other features that only work on incoming calls, like call recording (!?) and conference calling that would be nice to be able to use via outbound calls too.

          They do act on feature requests though, they've added SMS to email, with replies from email directly.

    • We just bought a house in a deep, but narrow valley that was right on the border of Verizon's coverage map. My old Samsung phone got a decent signal but my wife and daughter's newer Samsungs didn't get shit.

      We tried the Verizon extender. The one VERY important thing that the reps do NOT tell you is that the device is completely dependent on a strong GPS link for 911 service calls (required by law).

      For me that meant that since I live in a deep, narrow valley and had line-of-sight on only one satellite at a t

  • help (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:14PM (#31619202)

    This should help
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16875995063

    Tim Rosco

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Looks good, but I am always a bit leery of products that have no customer reviews.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        Normally I'd agree, however this is a niche device - less customers = less reviewers.

        The actual problem with that particular item is that it's not the appropriate Wilson system for the article poster, as others have commented. (The link is to a car kit.)

        However, Wilson's "big blue bricks" have an excellent reputation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I've used a similar wilson setup for 3+ years now (http://www.repeaterstore.com/products/repeaterkits/wilson/images/pages/soho-50db-full-kit.html). Using the repeater to an internal antenna, I boost my signal from -1 in much of the house to 4+ (out of 5) in much of the house. The only down-side I've had is it's quite expensive, and not easy to install. The 30' foot cable from the repeater to the internal antenna is 5/8" thick and was very hard to pull through my walls. It works pretty good. My signal d
    • Re:help (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nimloth (704789) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:59PM (#31619772)
      That's the crappy car version, won't do squat for his home. Try this one instead: http://www.wilsonelectronics.com/801247.php [wilsonelectronics.com] The new DT series gets GREAT results while keeping costs low and installation troubles to a minimum.
      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        I've seen very mixed reviews about the DT series, and from an RF design/build quality perspective, I don't really like the look of them.

        The "big blue bricks" are not really that much more expensive and have an excellent reputation. I'm house shopping this year and am very likely going to be installing a Wilson system wherever I move to.

      • by atamido (1020905)

        I'd recommend a wired version between the pickup and retransmitter. Why bother with adding an extra bit of wireless that could have potential issues?

    • Someone I know has one in his car because he often goes sailing at the beach where reception is very weak, but he wanted to be able to call people either for "I'm on my way home" or "I need help." The unit has a nearly identical cradle. Hiding behind that foam back is an antenna which couples any phone to the amplifier (this is why nobody makes phones with RF connectors any more.) A fairly large (foot or so high) antenna on the roof of the SUV further helps both reception and transmission compared to the
  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:18PM (#31619262)

    The phone companies do charge upfront/monthly fees for those micro-cells, but when pushed, they will often reduce or wave the charges for them to retain a phone customer. You might call your provider (be it Sprint, Verizon, etc) and talk to the retentions department.

    • I second this. With Sprint, if you tell them you get no service at your house, and that you would like to keep them as your carrier, they will not only waive the monthly fee but sometimes will even give you the device for free.
  • Cell Phone Repeater (Score:5, Informative)

    by mongoose(!no) (719125) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:18PM (#31619268)
    My dad lives in the shadow of a cell tower and gets no reception on his property, but does if he walks to the neighbors house (100 feet or so). I suggested he get a cell phone repeater. He now gets a bar or two, but not a good quality signal. This is the one he got [thinkgeek.com] (but not from Thinkgeek, I don't think). It should be noted, he also got a directional antenna that company sells to point at the nearest tower besides the one he lives under.
    • by dingram17 (839714) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @07:37PM (#31620192) Homepage
      That's the downside of being too close. The vertical beamwidth from the antennae will probably be too small as there would be gain, meaning that you need to be a reasonable distance away to start getting coverage. This is one of the reasons that cellphone coverage in high rise buildings is tricky -- there isn't enough signal directed upwards from ground masts, and masts that are on the top of buildings tend to not have enough down direction. Some clever use of phased arrays would solve this, but the sites are set up to serve the greatest number of people for the least cost.
  • sprint (Score:4, Informative)

    by JDAustin (468180) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:26PM (#31619352)

    I live between two hills in a area where Sprint has great coverage but in my house I get either 1 bar or roaming. If I walk 100 yards up either hill its perfect reception. Sprint sent me a Airave ($100 normally) for free and comps me the $5 month fee. With it I get perfect reception. The Airave is not a repeater but a micro cell tower that communicates with Sprints network over a internet connection.

    • Two questions: Can the guy your neighbor get a signal thru your extender? What about the kid across the street running a rogue AP and transparent proxy?

      • 1. Probably. It's a picocell. Should they not? It's using a few hundred kbps max, probably much lower.
        2. This isn't relevant. We're talking about cell signals, not WiFi. If he's got a rogue AP, it has nothing to do with his setup.

        • The picocell connects to sprint via ethernet. If you are doing that wirelessly, then it might be hijacked.

          • They'd be fools to not use SSL. They'd probably even be required to do it by law, since the backhaul should be as secure as the communications channel (GSM and others are all encrypted).

            Would I be terribly surprised if they didn't use SSL? Not really. But they should, and it'd be easy.

  • Tinfoil Suit (colander "astronaut helmet" optional).

  • by crazyj (145672) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:27PM (#31619366)
    As long as you have a decent signal somewhere close enough you can run a cable to such as in your attic, or on your roof I can highly recommend the Wi-Ex YX510 from ZBoost (http://wi-ex.com/YX510.aspx). I have one at home and one at my office and they're great — as long as you have a good signal it can repeat for you. If you have no good signal nearby then you're either S.O.L. or stuck with a "mini-cell" thingy from your provider.
    • Yeah, these are the ones available from SmartHome. I agree! They work great.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110)

      If you have no good signal nearby then you're either S.O.L. or stuck with a "mini-cell" thingy from your provider.

      Umm... that's not really true.

      If it wasn't for the curvature of the earth, we could well have a single cell tower serving entire countries. Is there anywhere on the planet that you can't get a cell phone signal while in a jet at cruising altitude?

      With an antenna, or a repeater (a proxy antenna...) a few feet of vertical rise can double the signal strength... So while you may have no signal on

      • by crazyj (145672)
        A few feet up would still qualify as “nearby” wouldn’t it? Thus making my statement still accurate as well as practical.

        I suppose if one could flatten the earth or had no limits to how high they could raise their antenna... but I thought the submitter would prefer a practical solution.

      • by 6Yankee (597075)

        If it wasn't for the curvature of the earth, we could well have a single cell tower serving entire countries.

        Not on GSM, as I understand it. Because you only get a time-slot on the channel, there's a limit on how far the signal can go out and still get back before it's the next guy's turn. IIRC it's about 35km.

        (Had a "GSM fundamentals" course rammed down my throat the first week I worked at Ericsson, but it's been ten years. Feel free to pile in with corrections!)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kqc7011 (525426)
      I use the Wi-Ex with a external Yagi antenna hooked up and it is pointed at the nearest tower which is 40 some miles away. I do have line of sight. It works. Used to have to stand on a table on the deck and hold the phone up. Now I can sit in the house and talk. I do not use it for data, never even checked if I could.
    • I second this, it works great. I used one for six months and my reception went from 0-1 bar to full 4 bars on the phone and perfect sound. The secret is to get the most possible vertical separation between the base unit and the antenna, because the system automatically adjusts gain until it gets feedback. So the further the antenna is away from the base unit, the more it can ramp up the gain, and the better it works. As long as you have an attic or something and some good shielded coax you're good to go. An
  • Purple Pill (Score:4, Funny)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:27PM (#31619368) Journal
    I think I heard something about a pill that will extend the range of your hardware...

    There was some drawback about a doctor and four hours though.
  • WokFi (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MarcoPon (689115)
    With home made parabolic reflectors made out of cookware! :)

    Stan Swan's WokFi site from New Zealand: http://www.usbwifi.orconhosting.net.nz/ [orconhosting.net.nz]
    Fast european mirror: http://exe64.com/mirror/wokfi/ [exe64.com]

  • I haven't found anything that is less than $200, but I have a product from http://www.wi-ex.com/

    It is a simple device, that takes some work to get installed correctly, but works for me.

    Even at $240, if you are going to be living there for over 2 years, it is less than $10 per month if you choose to look at it that way.

    Just comes down to how important is better cell phone signal to you in your basement?

  • T-Mobile (Score:3, Informative)

    by yelvington (8169) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:32PM (#31619430) Homepage

    If you get a Blackberry from T-Mobile, it will happily connect via Wifi. The technology is called UMA:
    http://www.umatechnology.org/overview/ [umatechnology.org]

    They may have other phones that do it as well. I don't know.

    No femtocell host [wikipedia.org] is required.

  • Unless you're hooked on a certain plan or whatever try other providers. I can get a solid reception on one carrier and extremely poor on all the others (but if I cross the street they're all full strength). Choice of phone does not seem to matter very much (regardless of the fibbing some do with the bars they show).

    OK so I'm from the UK and don't know how the US system works. Here there are several providers and they have their own towers (though some share some towers). Here it's also easy to get a free "p

    • There are four major network operators in the US: two use GSM (but with different 3G data frequencies) and two use CDMA (but while Verizon will supposedly activate a Sprint phone, Sprint will not activate a Verizon one). So smartphones are effectively locked to one carrier by hardware.

      Yes, this is sub-optimal in a lot of ways. Still, it's not without its compensations: all four operators' plans allow calling from anywhere in the US, to anywhere in the US, without any charges beyond airtime - no roaming,
      • by afidel (530433)
        Dude, almost every GSM smartphone on the market is quad band/triple band UMTS so they can use either US band as well as both bands in the rest of the world. It would cost the phone manufacturers more to do custom IC's and per customer stock then it does to do it this way.
        • Are you trying to say that there's a phone that will do 3G data on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US? Point me to it. I think you've mixed up triple/quad band GSM voice with the UMTS frequencies. (Example: Nexus One order page [google.com] where you have to choose an operator.)
          • by afidel (530433)
            All the current Blackberry's are 850/900/2100 UMTS compatible, so they don't have coverage in 1700/1800/1900 3G but they should get you 3G just about everywhere.
        • by babyrat (314371)

          Dude, almost every GSM smartphone on the market is quad band/triple band UMTS

          Dude...sorry can't use iPhone 3G on T-Mobile.

          Can't use the Nokia N900 3G on AT&T.

          The original Nexus One 3G can't be used on AT&T - they've just released a new version that will work on AT&T.

          Perhaps if EVERY other smarthphone could be used on both it would be almost...but I doubt that's the case..

  • Simple. (Score:5, Informative)

    by BronsCon (927697) <social@bronstrup.com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @06:39PM (#31619528) Journal

    Landline.

    If you're concerned that people might have to dial 2 numbers to reach you when you have no signal, set up a Google Voice number to ring both phones, then give out THAT number.

    Problem: solved.

    An added bonus -- you can configure GV to go straight to voicemail at certain hours. Get a goo night's sleep while still being contactable in an emergency (your phone is still on and anyone who has that number can be told to call it in case of emergency).

  • I get terrible reception inside my house so I ended up getting a Verizon wireless extender. So far it's worked quite well except all location stuff is screwed up due to a bug. It has to sit near a window for GPS reception but now I no longer get dropped calls. Later this year they're coming out with a new one that also supports 3G.

    Verizon offered me a discount but it was still $200. I also can take it with me when I travel. All it needs is an Ethernet connection.

    • Two questions: Can the guy in the hotel room next to yours get a signal thru your extender? And, can the hotel IT staff sniff said connection? What about the kid accros the hall running a rogue AP and transparent proxy?

      • by AaronW (33736)

        The data appears to be encrypted. You can configure it to allow only certain phone numbers. It supports up to 3 calls simultaneously and reserves a 4th for 911. If you restrict it then the only way someone else can use it is they receive no signal at all from my understanding.

      • by jeff4747 (256583)

        It's a mini-cell tower. Not WiFi. If someone connects through it, they have to use their cell phone/celluar modem, which means anything they do is tied to the phone's owner, not the extender's owner.

        • The extender connects to the phone network via ethernet. If your connection comes via WiFi, then a nearby rogue AP could hijack it and sniff the traffic.

  • You can almost always talk them down to $150, and mine works flawlessly. Best $150 I ever spent. My (basement!) office now has great cell service, as does the rest of my house.
  • Shortly after Orange France started selling Wifi extenders and powerline transmitters, they pushed a new firmware for theire Livebox Sagem3202 and Inventel modems that significantly lowered signal power and then quality.
    The all in one box is required if you want to use the services you pay for.
    Guess why they pushed this Wifi power reduction and disabled any access to configuration about the transmission power despite these modems can have it tuned otherwise.

  • Go to hyperlinktech.com and get 2 antennas that match to the frequency used by your type of cell phone. One should be highly directional, preferably parabolic and the other should be omnidirectional or, preferably, something with sector coverage.

    Mount the highly directional antenna so it is pointed at the strongest source of signal for your phone, preferably with line of sight to the tower. Mount the sector coverage antenna so it is centered on the area you will be using your handset. I've heard having the

    • by aXis100 (690904)

      I know the technique (passive repeater), but I thought the losses were much worse than 3dB, eg closer to 20dB.

  • If what you're after is a cell phone extender, then I can highly recommend the Wireless Extender Cell Phone Signal Booster from SmartHome. They are NOT cheap (> $200 single band. >300 for the dual band unit). But, after laying my money down and running the wireless antenna up into my attic with the repeater system and antenna down in the basement, I can honestly say, I've got a better cell phone signal in my basement than upstairs on the main floor or even the second floor. Be mindful that you get

  • by lee1 (219161)
    If you have an iphone this [nytimes.com] might be useful.
  • get a wired telephone.
  • quiet (Score:5, Funny)

    by FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:32PM (#31620704)

    What have you done, or what alternatives are available to someone in such a situation?

    Enjoy the peace and quiet?

    • What have you done, or what alternatives are available to someone in such a situation?

      Enjoy the peace and quiet?

      Finally, an escape from those booty calls!

  • by Announcer (816755) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:46PM (#31621268) Homepage

    ...is called a "passive repeater". Essentially, it is two antennas, connected by low-loss coax. You install a Yagi beam antenna in a spot with good signals, and aim it at the tower. Run the coax into the area needing signal, and connect another antenna to it, there. There are no electronics to require power, so it will operate for as long as the antennas survive. Cost is minimal.

    The Yagi beam will give gain for both, receive and transmit. This has been done with TV antennas on opposite sides of a hill, to bring signals down into a valley.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      These frequently don't actually work that well except in cases where the problem is due to heavier-than-typical shielding.

      However, the active variants (such as the Wilson big blue bricks) are well regarded.

  • moving to a location where the cell signal is very poor [ ] looking at wireless extenders [ ] Sprint charges monthly, Verizon $250 up front, AT&T.... well they are AT&T...

    I think they're trying to rip you off. Use Google's product lookup service Froogle [wwwfroogle.com] and do a search for "cell phone booster". There are many types of signal extenders for cell phones from the $20 ones you stick on the battery - and I have no idea if they actually work or are about as useless as Headon - to inexpensive signal retransmitters that plug into the USB port for about $90, to standalone models for maybe $110 all the way to $190 devices and lots of choices.

  • Use vonage, set it to ring an IP phone at home as well as your cell phone at the same time. Then you can pick up whichever has reception/is convenient.

  • AT&T just announced their 3G microcell [att.com]. According to Electronista [electronista.com] it is $150.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:25PM (#31621556)
    I've found that linksys helpfully installs range extenders in many neighborhoods already. Sometimes I can pick up my WiFi across town! Just look for "linksys" in the SSID. It's a great service.
  • by commport1 (1530901) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:33PM (#31621650)
    Tsk, tsk - you should read slashdot more religiously. Already mentioned here: http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/09/12/30/231217/Boost-a-Weak-3G-Modem-Signal-With-a-Saucepan [slashdot.org] Give it a go, it'll cost you $0 if it works.
  • by Em Ellel (523581) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:09PM (#31621878)

    This may not work in every case - but if you have SOME reception in the house (as in the basement lack of coverage example) I saw something in the store the other day that I thought was a cool idea. Some of the current landline cordless phone systems now support being bluetooth clients. Basically you leave your cell phone next to the base (where you presumably have reception), and use any of the system's phones to answer or place calls.

    -Em

  • daisy chain the 2 routers together, you are bound to be in range of at least one of them.

  • They do sell extenders and repeaters. http://www.wpsantennas.com/residential-commercial-amplifiers-boosters.aspx [wpsantennas.com] While the full kits can get expensive, you can save money by getting just want you need antenna wise.
    • by TechwoIf (1004763)
      Forget to state the fact that this is a one time expense. No monthly charges. You can also get just two antennas and make a passive repeater. Put one high gain outdoor antenna pointed towards the cell tower and place a small antenna indoor connected to the outdoor one directly.
  • http://www.repeaterstore.com/ [repeaterstore.com]
    Seriously, did you even look? This is just the first site returned by a Google search for "cell phone repeater".

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