Staying connected to family, friends and, as much as we hate to admit it, work, while you’re using your cell phone at home, office or vacation home is now totally dependent on having a usable cell signal.
This post explains why your mobile signal strength is weak and identifies which solution will be your best means of getting stronger cell reception in your home, vacation home or small office.
Why some buildings have weak cell signal
The cause for weak signal inside of a building can stem from a few different sources. As a general rule, anything between your cell phone and the cell tower will weaken the radio frequency (RF) signals that give your phone the ability to call, text and stream data.
Here is a list of things that block mobile signals:
· Non-Conductive Construction Materials have a moderate impact on your mobile connectivity. This includes materials that cannot conduct electricity: drywall, plastic matter, wood, glass and others will modestly impact your mobile connectivity but, in most cases, will not completely block a strong signal.
· Conductive Construction Materials have a significant impact on your mobile signal and these materials, like tin, copper, silver, aluminum, and others, have the ability to render a strong mobile signal completely useless.
· Organic Material can have a wide-ranging effect on your signal. Depending on the size of the impediment and its material makeup, these can either modestly dull or completely block a strong signal. For example, mountains, hills, large snow-mounds, dense tree or plant matter, bodies of saltwater (conductive material), and more can completely block a strong signal. On the other hand sparse tree or plant matter, small bodies of salt or freshwater, small or loose-packed snow piles and others may only moderately reduce the signal strength.
· Weather like fog, snow, rain, sleet, hail, dust, and more, can have a weakening impact on your signal. Depending on the density of the weather system and the distance the signal needs to travel, these can either dull or completely block a strong cellular signal.
· Mobile Tower Direction & Locations send a limited strength signal in a general direction. If your mobile device is further than the power of the mobile tower can reach or does not fall within the tower’s window of reception, you could receive a reduced signal or none at all.
· User Capacity is not infinite on mobile towers. As more simultaneous users send and receive signals from a nearby mobile tower, the less power the tower has to offer each user.
· RF Interference can be caused by being surrounded by other devices that emit an RF frequency that disrupts the signal you are using to make calls, send or receive texts, or stream data using a mobile signal. Naturally, this has a dulling impact on the strength of a usable signal.
Solution 1: Signal Booster
Signal boosters are a very common choice for most buildings. The defining requirement for a signal booster is that the building have a usable signal existing just outside or nearby to the building. Signal boosters capture that outside signal, amplify the signal’s strength and retransmit that signal within the structure. These are wideband solutions, which means they support all US, Canada and Mexico mobile network providers simultaneously. This includes Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Bell, Telus, Rogers Wireless, Sasktel, Bell MTS, Telcel and all others. Signal boosters support all voice, text and data signals for 2G, 3G and 4G LTE and support buildings as small as 5 square feet and up to just under 500,000-square-feet. Prices range from a few hundred dollars for a small or medium size space to over one-thousand for larger spaces.
Solution 2: Femtocells
Femtocells are often the go-to solution for customers who only need coverage for a few users in a small space and who all use the same mobile network provider. These are carrier specific solutions, so if you buy a Verizon femtocell anybody with another carrier will be unable to get cellular service. These are great for buildings that have no signal outside or nearby to the building but have a strong internet connection. These work by creating a mobile hotspot in your home that pulls from your internet connection. These cost between $100 and $400 and require a monthly fee on your internet bill, which varies from provider to provider. These are limited to four simultaneous users and the maximum coverage area on these is usually one or two small rooms.
Solution 3: Active DAS
Active distributed antenna systems (DAS) are most often used in very large buildings above 500,000-square-feet. These solutions require approval by any carrier that the system supports because Active DAS uses base stations and remote nodes that are connected directly to the carrier’s network. This being the case, these solutions are more expensive, require a substantial amount of time before installing, and, in turn, are typically the option of choice for very large buildings and businesses – think sports stadiums, very large hotels, casinos, and more.
Each of these present a great solution for a specific application. Let’s wrap it up with a simple summary of which mobile solution will be best for your building.
Choose Active DAS for very large buildings that have time, money and a high user count. Femtocells are best for small spaces with strong internet, no outside signal and very few users who are all on the same mobile network. Signal boosters for small, medium and larger spaces up to 500,000-square-feet that have a decent outside signal and need coverage for all carriers throughout the building.