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Cell phone signal boosters (repeaters)  RSS feed

 
gardener
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Location: Middle Tennessee
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I'm curious if any fellow permies who live in rural areas with spotty at best cell phone coverage have tried or are using a cell phone signal repeater, and if they have good results with such a device. Reason I'm asking is my wife and I are moving to a rural area, and our cell phone signal (verizon) is weak. I get no signal inside the new home we're building and I need to walk down the driveway to get 1 bar of signal to make a call, and I would say 4 out of 10 calls are dropped. I must note that I have an old phone (it's not a smartphone). My brother, who does have a snazzy smart phone, can get a fairly reliable signal (also verizon) if he stands at the laundry room window to talk. If he ventures further into my 1200sq/ft house, his calls start breaking up, sometimes being dropped. No one gets any bars on their signal meter down in the basement.

I just spent a little time on the interwebs with lord google as my guide, and came across this: https://www.repeaterstore.com/products/cel-fi-go-x?variant=46280293834 but the one caveat is the almost $900 price tag. ugh. I can think of better things I'd rather spend $900 on, like new fence supplies...

What are other folks on permies doing to boost weak cell phone signals?
 
pollinator
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So our situation sounds quite similar.  Older Nokia "dumb phone", rural living with poor signal, metal siding on house which is great in all respects other than cell phone signals, and 'Tracfone' (Verizon tower) service.  I bought and installed a WeBoost signal booster and it does seem to help.  We are trying to transition away from the landline and I bought an Alcatel 'Big Easy' larger button somewhat-smarter-than-dumb phone, hoping it would have better base strength than my older phone.  Can't tell for sure....both work okay with the booster and better than without.  But I'm concerned about ditching the landline as I'm still getting some dropped calls which I find really stupidly frustrating with the technology at this point.  I think the WeBoost cost around $400.00 if i recall correctly....they may have it listed still on BestBuy's website.  Good luck!
 
garden master
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We have no cell phone coverage where we live.  Our son in law installed something that is probably what you are looking at.  Before that we bought an antenna that boosts the signal., like what you might put on your car.

When power goes off which can be often, we are left with the signal booster antenna so we purchased a backup battery so the repeater thing (if that is what it is) will have 30 minutes of power so we can call the electric company and who ever else we might need to call.

Our phone usually has lots of bars.

 
Posts: 524
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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1) Try cheap first. $900 sounds kinda weird.  I believe there are repeaters that work effectively for a lot less than $900

2) Do you have good internet (not dependent on your phone)? You can get modems/routers that you phone will connect with if the cell signal is low and the phone will then place all calls through the modem and over the net. Check with the cell companies as many offer a piece of equipment like this; the tech has been around for 5 years or so.

3) Verizon has one of the better coverage maps and their CDMA protocol has the longest range of any type of phone signal. Consider carefully before switching.

4) "http://howardforums.com/" is a trove of cell related info. If you spend a few hours there you should get a lot of good thought on the problem. They're not _all_ geeks, but be prepared to read carefully and exercise patience. It's easily the best one-stop shopping for cell info I have found.


Rufus
 
James Freyr
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Rufus Laggren wrote:

2) Do you have good internet (not dependent on your phone)? You can get modems/routers that you phone will connect with if the cell signal is low and the phone will then place all calls through the modem and over the net. Check with the cell companies as many offer a piece of equipment like this; the tech has been around for 5 years or so.


Rufus



Internet is another challenge we're facing. Last we checked, earlier this year in the spring, there were no high speed internet offerings. What I found even more interesting is Viasat satellite internet is unavailable in the area. wtf? I'm no tech geek and actually a bit of a luddite, but I thought satellite internet worked on whatever side of the planet is facing the satellite. I'm guessing that if we can get a decent cell phone signal at the house then internet through verizon may be our best option.
 
pollinator
Posts: 174
Location: northern New Mexico
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Howdy, I'm a techie.
Before I retired for health reason I installed wireless Internet for ten years. We are lucky to have a mom and pop WISP (wireless ISP) in the little town nearby. Since I'm qualified with photovoltaics,  computerie type stuff and an upcycler I built a 20 foot tower on top of the ridge between our home site and town. Is there a place where you can get up high on your property?
Brian
P.S. I thought maybe a picture might help.
Brian-Jackson-new-Tusas-tower-build.jpg
[Thumbnail for Brian-Jackson-new-Tusas-tower-build.jpg]
 
James Freyr
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Hey Brian!

Fortunately, the home site is on a hill, so I at least have that in my favor. Since I wrote my last post, I looked on the internets for cell phone tower maps. There is a verizon tower about 4 miles away, and another one farther away in the opposite direction, which doesn't mean much to me since I don't know how far a signal from a tower can go and be useful. I'm assuming that's the one I'm making calls from.
 
Rufus Laggren
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You may find more leads about your local coverage on the howard site.

I believe that, given clear line of sight, it's barely possible that with a good dish antenna you could use that tower 4 miles away. But the issue might be more a legal question, the FCC type, if the tech is available. IAC, the antenna mounting would have to be take-no-prisoners rock solid. Directional antennas pack a lot of punch when they're built, installed and aimed properly. But it _would_ take serious effort, care and some skill to install a long haul link like that properly.

Another sort of similar avenue, maybe, would be to get rights to a spot to place your own wifi to cell bridge near the tower and then aim your antenna home antenna (a wifi antenna) at your bridge and make the long haul as a wifi signal. I think that works, but I have never used that tech myself so you would need research. Also a little social engineering to secure a place for your gear and antennas somewhere near the cell tower. The gear would go in a couple little boxes mounted with the antenna; you would need power 24/7, although if you got ambitious, you could install a UPS up there also.

Just  some ideas. The satellite link would probably be easiest if it becomes available.


Rufus
 
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edit: ah, it sounds like reliable internet isn't available where you are. I guess this won't work for you then.

This isn't what you were asking for, but I think it is better. I use wifi for calls and texts when at my parents' place in the backcountry, and overall it is far cheaper and more reliable.

Either get the cheapest smartphone that supports wifi calling and use that once your house is built, or port your (smartphone only, sorry your dumbphone can't do it) number to google voice for a one time fee of $20. Then install the google voice app on your phone and set it to default for all incoming/outgoing calls over wifi, plus texts. This is all via the internet, so no minutes or data plans enter into this so the lack of cell phone bars doesn't matter so long as you are at home.

You can actually drop service on your phone at this point if you want, or keep it for when you are in town and have better reception. You can also downgrade to some cheap red pocket $5/month plan if you just want cell tower service every now and again, while mostly relying on your GV/WiFi calling/texting.
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
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Location: northern New Mexico
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I don't know if you got this issue worked out or not.
You may have seen these products in this review. Wow, yes  they are pricey  best-cell-phone-signal-boosters
Brian
 
James Freyr
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Before going the cell phone signal repeater route, I took the plunge and bought a new phone. Let's just say I was a hold out and late to the smart phone game. I got a motorolla, the others seemed overpriced to me. I've always been reluctant to get a smart phone as I didn't want another distraction. I must admit that this new smart phone is a handy tool, being able to do things that I would otherwise have to be at home sitting at the computer to do. Much to my delight this phone works waaay better than my old phone out on the farm. I no longer have to walk down the driveway to get a signal to make a call. I can make and receive calls within the house, and haven't dropped a call so far. There's still no signal in the basement, which is fine as I won't be living down there. I wonder if my old phone didn't work well in the country since it wasn't even 3G and was a 1X signal (whatever those are). This shiny new phone is 4G lte (whatever that is) and works pretty well at the farm which is really helpful when a delivery guy is lost and can call and reach me instead of me getting 3 or 4 voicemails 30 minutes later that start off concerned and ramp up to a frantic and irritated driver that can't find my driveway.

As far as cell phone signal goes, I still only get (generally) 1 bar, sometimes I get 2 sporadically, and once in a while I pull the phone out of my pocket to find no bars, so the signal is still weak at the house, but this new phone has indeed been a huge improvement as far as having a phone that works reliably.

 
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