Knowledge Base

Should I use a directional or omnidirectional outside antenna?

Top Signal TS220971 LPDA directional antenna and Top Signal TS220971 omnidirectional cylinder antenna A directional LPDA antenna (left) and an omnidirectional cylinder antenna (right)

To send and receive signals to the cell tower, a cell phone signal booster requires an outside antenna (sometimes called a donor antenna).

A directional antenna needs to be pointed at the cell tower you wish to use. Directional antennas usually have superior gain and signal-to-noise characteristics, but they need to be tuned (adjusted until they’re receiving the best possible signal).

An omnidirectional (or omni) antenna can communicate with multiple towers in any direction. Omni antennas are easier to set up because they don’t have to be tuned.

Use a directional antenna when…

  • You have a clear line of sight from the antenna to the cell tower(s) and all needed towers are off in the same direction, or
  • The cell tower is very distant, or
  • You’ve tried an omni antenna and you need more gain or less noise.

Use an omni antenna when…

  • You don’t have a clear line of sight from the antenna to the cell tower, or
  • You’re in an area with mountains or dense forests, where the weak outside signal is reflecting off of natural objects, or
  • You’re in an urban/city environment, where the strong outside signal is reflecting off of buildings, or
  • You need to acquire signal for two or more carriers and their towers are off in different directions.

In most cases an omni antenna is the best choice because it’s easier to set up and doesn’t require tuning. Your situation, however, may work better with a directional, as long as you have a clear line of sight to the tower.