Complete Guide to Home Cell Signal Boosters

Powerful Signal answers your questions about cellular amplifiers for homes.

How a home cell signal booster works diagram

Updated July 20, 2021

It can be a challenge to find the right cell phone signal booster for your home. Powerful Signal is here to help you—here’s what you need to know to make the right decision.

Do I need a home cell phone signal booster?

There are several reasons why you might need a cell signal booster in your home.

  • The most common reason is to improve cellular voice and data in homes that suffer from dropped or missed calls and poor data performance.
  • You may get acceptable signal in your home, but you want to accommodate friends and family members who use different carriers and don’t get acceptable signal strength in your home.
  • A strong cell signal in your home will reduce your cell phone’s battery consumption. Cell phones use more power when they have to connect to weaker, more distant towers.

What will a home cell phone booster do for me?

A stronger cell signal in your home can:

  • Improve cellular reception throughout your home or in specific problem areas.
  • Improve your call quality and eliminate dropped calls and delayed text messages.
  • Increase your data speed for faster email, web browsing, and app usage.
  • Reduce your phone’s battery consumption.

How does a cell phone booster work?

There are four primary components in a home cell signal booster system:

  1. A cell signal booster.
  2. An outside antenna.
  3. An inside antenna.
  4. Coax cables that connect the antennas to the booster.

Let’s examine each component and see how it’s used:

The cell signal booster

weBoost Home Complete 470145/474445 cell signal booster The weBoost Home Complete cell signal booster for large homes

The cell signal booster is the heart of the system. It’s a two-way (bidirectional) amplifier that receives, amplifies, and broadcasts signal to and from cell towers (outside) and to and from cell phones (inside).

Different boosters provide different levels of power to cover apartments and small homes or large homes. As booster models increase in power and coverage area, they go up in price: The weaker the available outside signal and/or the more area you need to cover inside your home, the more powerful the booster has to be and the higher the price you can expect pay.

Most cell signal boosters have two ports—one for an outside antenna and one for an inside antenna.

The booster’s power supply plugs into a standard 120-volt AC wall socket. The booster is the only component in the system that requires electrical power.

A cellular booster has LED lights, an LCD display, or a smartphone app that tells you how it’s performing and if there are any problems that you need to address by changing the locations of the antennas.

The outside antenna

Directional and omnidirectional cell phone signal booster antennas Directional (left) and omnidirectional (right) outside antennas

The cell signal booster uses a donor antenna to send and receive signal from the cell tower.

You’ll usually mount the donor antenna on your roof, high enough so that it has an unobstructed line of sight to one or more cell phone towers. You can also mount this antenna on a pole or tower next to your home.

The donor antenna connects to the Outside port on the cell signal booster via a run of coax cable. You can bring that cable into the house through a vent, another existing opening, or a penetration point you create.

There are two different types of donor antennas:

  • A directional antenna (an LPDA, a Yagi, or a panel) points at a specific cell tower. A directional antenna is your best option if you only need to boost the signal from one carrier and you have a good line of sight to the cell tower, without hills, trees, buildings, and other obstacles in your path. Directional antennas provide higher signal gain with less noise, so they work best when outside signal is very weak or your carrier’s signal is being drowned out by another carrier’s tower that’s close to your house.
  • An omnidirectional antenna communicates with every cell tower in range within a 360° field of view. Omni donor antennas work best when you don’t have a direct line of sight to a cell tower or you want to boost signal for multiple carriers from two or more towers in different directions. Omni antennas don’t need to be tuned (adjusted until they receive the strongest signal), so they are easier and faster to set up than directional antennas.

For more help choosing the right exterior antenna, see our Knowledge Base article, “Should I use a directional or omnidirectional outside antenna?

The inside antenna

Panel and dome cell phone signal booster antennas Top Signal EDGE dome (left) and panel (right) antennas have high gain, multiple mounting options, and a modern design aesthetic.

The cell signal booster uses a broadcast antenna to communicate with cell phones and other cellular devices inside your home.

The broadcast antenna connects to the Inside port on the cell signal booster via a run of coax cable. You may need to pull cable through your home’s walls to get to the spot where you mount the antenna. (There are many YouTube videos that explain how to do that. You can also get help from a satellite TV installer, electrician, or handyman.)

The broadcast distance of the inside antenna depends on the antenna design, the power output of the booster, your home’s construction materials, the type and length of the coax cables, and if you split the signal to multiple antennas.

There are two types of indoor antennas. The layout of your home usually determines which type of antenna will give you the best coverage.

  • A panel antenna broadcasts signal in a specific direction with the signal pattern shaped like a teardrop. You’ll point the front of the panel antenna toward the area of the house where you want improved cellular signal. Panel antennas are usually mounted on walls, facing forward, although they may be mounted facing downward in some situations. Panel antennas work best when you don’t have access above the ceiling to mount a dome antenna or if you have a long, narrow area in your home where you need improved signal.
  • A dome antenna broadcasts signal in 360° circle, similar to the shape of a donut or an inner tube. Dome antennas are usually mounted in the ceiling at the center of the area where you need cellular coverage from the booster. They may be mounted above or below drywall or drop ceilings, as those materials don’t block cellular signal. Dome antennas are popular and practical; they are used in most commercial buildings and also work well in a home that has an attic or other access above the ceiling.

Coax cables

A cell signal booster system uses coaxial cables (often just called “coax”) to connect the outside and inside antennas to the cell signal booster.

There are many types of coax used with cellular boosters. Generally speaking, the longer the length of a cable or the thinner its diameter, the more signal it loses from the booster to the antenna. Higher cellular frequencies also have more signal loss over a given length of cable than lower frequencies. Because of this, the rule of thumb is use the shortest run of cable you need to get from the booster to the antenna. When possible, avoid having excess cable in your system.

There are two types of coax cable used with most home cellular booster systems:

RG6 coax cable RG6 coax cable
  • RG6 coax is used with 75‑ohm booster systems in smaller homes.

    You’re probably familiar with RG6—it’s the same type of coax that connects cable and satellite boxes to TV sets. RG6 is just over ¼″ in diameter (about 7 mm) and is terminated with ½″ (12 mm) F-male connectors.

    Because of its higher signal loss per foot compared to other types of coax, RG6 in cellular booster systems can only be used for short runs, usually no longer than 30 feet.

    RG6 coax cable is used with 75‑ohm boosters like the weBoost Home MultiRoom and the SolidRF Signal Plus. 50‑ohm boosters in this class, like the HiBoost Home 10K, use 200-type coax with N connectors, which has performance characteristics similar to RG6.

400 coax cable 400 coax cable
  • 400-type coax is used with 50‑ohm booster systems in larger homes.

    400 coax is thicker than RG6 at 2⁄5″ in diameter (10.3 mm). (Its 0.400″ diameter is where it gets its name.) Its thickness makes it more rigid, which means it’s harder to run around tight corners and to conceal from view. It’s terminated with 4⁄5″ N-male connectors (0.8″ or 2 cm) that are are sturdier than the F connectors used with RG6.

    The advantage of 400 coax is its performance—it has less than half the signal loss per foot of RG6. Because of its low loss, 400 coax is used with large home booster systems and in commercial buildings that require cable runs of 50 to 100 feet.

    400 coax cable is used by 50‑ohm home boosters like the Cel‑Fi GO X, SureCall Fusion5s, and HiBoost Home 15K. It’s also used with 50‑ohm commercial boosters that are sometimes installed in large homes, including the weBoost Office 100, weBoost Office 200, HiBoost SLT, and SureCall Fusion5X.

    75‑ohm boosters in this class, like the weBoost Home Complete, use RG11 coax with F connectors that’s similar in size and performance to 400 coax.

Will a cell phone signal booster work in my home?

Cell signal boosters have been available for many years and the technology is mature and reliable, so the answer to this question is probably.

There are certain conditions in which a booster will not work, such as:

  • There is no cellular signal in your area. A cell phone booster can’t amplify signal if there’s no signal to amplify.
  • The cellular amplifier doesn’t have enough power for the size of your house. If you expect to fill a 3,000-square-foot home with a usable cell signal, you’ll need a cell signal booster that’s designed to cover that much area. Be sure that your coverage expectations line up with the specifications of the system you buy.
  • The amplifier boosts the wrong frequencies. Make certain that the booster you purchase amplifies the frequencies your carrier is using in your area. For example, there are no consumer boosters that amplify AT&T’s band 30 (2300 MHz) or T-Mobile’s band 71 (600 MHz). (Check out this table to see what frequencies are amplified by cellular boosters.)

Purchasing the right booster for your home’s size and shape and the type and strength of available cellular signal is the most important factor in successfully fixing your home’s cellular signal problem.

Should I buy a 3G signal booster?

Until about 2014, all cell signal boosters were dual-band units that amplified the two bands of cellular frequency used by 3G networks (bands 2 and 5).

When 4G networks started becoming widespread, manufacturers began producing five-band systems that amplified the wider set of frequencies used by 4G LTE networks (bands ). These frequencies will continue to be used by new 5G networks.

Cellular carriers are in the process of shutting off 3G nationwide. Because 3G is no longer available in many areas—and soon won’t be available anywhere—we strongly recommend that you do not purchase a dual-band 3G signal booster. A 3G booster won’t amplify 4G or 5G frequencies.

To learn more, see our article, “Cellular Frequency Bands.”

Will 4G boosters work with 5G networks?

New 5G cellular networks will continue to use today’s 4G frequencies, so a 4G booster will amplify LTE frequencies used by 5G.

To learn more, see our article, “What Is 5G? Are Cell Phone Boosters 5G‑ready?

Call Powerful Signal at 866-912-3444

…or click here to contact us online. We can help you find the right cell phone signal booster system for your house, condo, apartment, or other residence.