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Boosting the Cellular Signal, Inside? 38

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

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  • two solutions (Score:5, Informative)

    by austad ( 22163 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @05:52AM (#4757516) Homepage
    There are a couple of ways you can go about it.

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

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

    In all reality, you could probably build your own active repeater also, and base it on the design of one of those cable tv amps that work with cable modems, they boost both ways. Of course, you'd have to spend like $80 and rip the thing apart and figure out how to change the range that it works in.
    • Re:two solutions (Score:3, Informative)

      by Minupla ( 62455 )
      Also be aware that doing some of these things may place you in violation of FCC type compiance rules if you do it yourself, without appropiate FCC licening and testing. I am unsure of the rules and regs outside the ham frequencies, but you might wanna look into, to ensure you're under whatever the max radiated power for the frequencies involved. Having said this, there is a fair bit of home brew info for both active and passive repeater systems available, and the theory on that stuff should point you in the right direction for handling the shorter wavelengths (higher freq) involved in gigahertz frequency work.
    • Except he said he is with Verizon. They are CDMA as far as I know and not GSM. At least that's what the one phone I saw that had anything about the network on it said. Saying that, in my house, I have good reception. At work, I only have 2 lights, at home I have a full meter. I guess Verizon's service is better in my area then in some areas.
  • Sure ;) (Score:3, Funny)

    by Discoflamingo13 ( 90009 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @06:33AM (#4757593) Homepage Journal
    I think it's called a Faraday cage []. They have one on a building at MIT.
  • Similar problem. (Score:5, Informative)

    by blues5150 ( 161900 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @06:34AM (#4757596) Homepage
    I use my cell phone as my primary phone. My problem is that the reception inside my house is poor. The signal outside is a lot better. I Googled this cell reception idea a bit. The best site I found was Cell Antenna. [] The also have another site called Boat Antenna. [] which specializes in providing signal boosters for boats. The hardware is pretty much the same on both sites.
  • by KarlH420 ( 532043 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @06:47AM (#4757615) Homepage
    On my cell there is an antenna connector on the back. I hook up to it while in my car. It considerably improves the signal. I've tried the antenna inside, and it also works well. You should be able to purcase an antenna accessory for your phone.
  • I use my cell phone as my primary phone.
    If Wireless companys really want everyone using a cell phone as their primary phone, I think they'd better invest in manufacturing this type of technology.
    If I were you I would be calling Verizon about that.
  • Best. []

    Cheapest []

    This [] + Call Forwarding [] = Easiest.

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

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

  • gsm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zephy ( 539060 )
    I don't know if it'll work with your cdma style phones over there, but here in the uk some mobile operators will install repeaters for you (we in our offices use o2/cellnet for our mobile services, and since inside our building has poor reception , they installed a repeater ). I think it is fairly expensive though, but effective ( i get full signal strength inside a building that is essentially a block for most other networks' signal.
    • Not all phones in the US are CDMA anymore, although Verizon is. GSM is making a huge push alond with iDen (Nextel). iDen may not have the most exciting phones, but everyone I know of in business uses them because of the Direct Connect feature.
  • &mode=thread&tid=126
  • <sarcasm>Let them put a tower up in your backyard.</sarcasm> Seriously its quite possible that you live in an upscale neighborhood where people want to have the cell phones but don't want the ugly towers in their back yards.
  • Spotwave's SpotCell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mTor ( 18585 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @10:44AM (#4758515)
    Spotwave [] has a product called SpotCell and we use it at a building where I work. We had an absolutely awful cell coverage because our offices are really high up. After they installed one of the SpotCell devices, cell phones actually started to work again.

    Ask them for a demo!

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

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

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

  • I had the same problem. I switched to the "America's Choice" plan, which is a bunch of roaming agreements with other carriers, and now I don't have low signal strength in my house. Apparently I'm close enough to someone else's cell site that I'm "roaming" in my house. My bill actually went down, too.
  • by nbvb ( 32836 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @11:29AM (#4758917) Journal
    Get more people in your area to complain (nicely).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I wouldn't trust an engineer who thinks that.

      (First, output is output, and doesn't depend on where an observer is. Second, received power per unit collecting area does not decrease exponentially.)
      • OK, I guess I worded that wrong. Output _is_ output. What I MEANT to say is that one's exposure to RF drops off exponentially over distance....

        • What I MEANT to say is that one's exposure to RF drops off exponentially over distance....
          That was the second point that I addressed. The fall-off is not exponential. There's a reason it's called the "inverse square law."
  • First of all a repeater typically listens on one frequency and broadcasts on another. Your radio hardware needs to support the feature and your cell phone doesn't. Second. The FCC has extra special laws covering the cellular range of frequencies and screwing around or even owning the equipment to mess around will land you a nice felony conviction.
  • cell phones being used at the edge of their range don't really slam enough RF into my skull, so:

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

    weak signal?!
    beep beep --- whirrrrr

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