Although television commercials make you want to believe that there is no solution to improving your cellular reception unless by switching providers, there are other ways. There are several different manufacturers of devices that can actually pick up your local signal, however weak, and rebroadcast it within your home, workplace, hotel room, etc.
What You Need to Know First
Before you go out and drop a couple hundred bucks on a cell phone booster, make sure you know what you need. There are different boosters according to the size of the area you want to improve cell signals in. There are also different types that are portable (for a car or boat) and some that are stationary. And finally, what frequency band does your cell provider transmit on?
Cellular vs. PCS Frequency Bands
Knowing what frequency band your provider transmits on is probably the most important thing to know first. There are several providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Alltel that transmit on the Cellular band, or 800 MHz. And then there are providers like Sprint (but not Nextel), T-Mobile, Metro PCS, Cricket, and Suncom that transmit on the 1900 MHz band. You can either get a Dual Band booster kit (especially if you are getting this for a public place), or ask your provider which band they transmit on if you’re not sure. There is a third band called iDen which Nextel and other walkie-talkie type phones use as well.
A cell phone booster that is completely wireless (no direct line-in to your phone to talk) will have three main components: an “outdoor antenna” that picks up existing signals, an amplifier to boost the weak existing signal, and an “indoor antenna” to communicate with your phone. Some of these components are often built-in to all-in-one kits, making antennas hidden. These systems are typically not quite as effective.
Outdoor antennas, which don’t necessarily have to be mounted outdoors (but it helps) come in different sizes and shapes, including the Yagi style and Pole style. Indoor antennas are often in the form of panel antennas for commercial-grade booster kits.
There are essentially two brands of cell phone boosters that I’d recommend. If you are wanting to improve cellular signal reception in a small area, like your house or a personal area in an office, I would suggest using a zBoost router. If you’re looking for a more serious commercial-grade solution, I would take a look at Wilson kits, which are bit of a higher cost point, but necessary for large areas with high volumes of calls.