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Choosing the Best Cell Phone Signal Booster for Your Home

A weak cell signal is frustrating, and it can happen anywhere. Dead spots aren't just a plague for people living out in the boondocks. When I lived in a small studio apartment near San Diego State University, I rarely had more than one bar of reception inside my apartment. I always dropped calls, failed to download apps and had incoming calls go straight to voicemail. Something was obviously blocking the signals from reaching me, because as soon as I went outside, the single bar of reception turned to five and everything returned to the way I expected. I could have avoided this with a cell phone reception booster.

There are two types of consumer mobile phone signal boosters   vehicle cell phone boosters and home cell phone boosters. Both versions boost your cell signal in the same way. An outside antenna receives a signal from a cell tower and sends the signal to an amplifier that emits the boosted signal through an inside antenna. The difference between the two types is the FCC regulations that cap the vehicle gain at 50 dB, which has a coverage area that will cover your vehicle but nothing else. Home cell phone boosters are less regulated and can have a max gain as high as 72 dB, which covers about 6,000 square feet.

Below are the criteria you should consider when choosing a cell phone signal booster for your home.

Needed Coverage Area
The first consideration for a home cell phone booster is the coverage area you need. Does your entire home suffer from weak signals, or is it a specific area? Are there areas where there is no signal? Cell phone signals often struggle to reach basements, and energy-efficient windows can nearly block signals completely.

There are home cell phone boosters designed for a single room or an entire house. The higher the max gain, the better the range. The best cell phone signal boosters for a home have a max gain of 72 dB with a range of approximately 6,000 square feet, but you can also get cell phone boosters that only cover the range of a desk.

Outside Signal Strength
Once you've determined how much area needs to be covered, you'll need to check out the strength of the outside signal. You'll want to walk around your property and even climb onto your roof to check signal strength. Wherever you find the strongest signal is where you'll install the outside antenna. If you live in a rural area where it's difficult to find a signal outside, you'll want to hire a technician or installer to test the signal strength, because they often have better knowledge of where the nearest cell phone tower is located.

Antenna Type
Unlike with cell phone boosters for cars, there are several different types of outside antennas to consider. They each require permanent installation, so it's important that you find the best possible antenna for your property and situation. An omnidirectional antenna is ideal for urban or suburban areas where the outside signal is strong but the inside signal is weak or nonexistent. This is because it can receive signals from all directions and has a short range. Its main objective is to pump the outside signal inside.

A directional antenna is ideal for rural areas where the weak signal is the result of being too far from the cell tower. It has a much higher forward gain than an omnidirectional antenna. The best directional antennas have a forward gain of 14 dBi, which is like the difference between binoculars and a telescope. It can see much further, but it has to be pointed in the right direction to be effective.

Cable Length
Home cell phone boosters have two coax cables. The longest one leads from the antenna to the signal booster, while the shorter one leads from the signal booster to the inside antenna. You want to keep the length of the outside cable as short as possible, because the signal strength decreases by up to 3.9 dB for every 100 feet of cable. When you consider that every 3 dB change in a signal represents an exponential increase or decrease, cord length is important.

Whether you live out in the country or in a studio apartment in San Diego, you don't have to live with the frustrations of a weak cell signal. A home cell phone amplifier is the best way to ensure that you have excellent call quality within your home at all times.