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Give your cell phone signal a boost for better reception

Bad reception can ruin a good phone conversation, and getting a good signal in some areas can be really challenging. Cell phone boosters amplify the signal to help mobile devices keep working and communicating in weak or dead zones.

These boosters range in size and deployment, usually designed for a home or vehicle, and built with antennas and amplifiers to boost reception. They aren’t a cell phone accessory you install on your phone, but they can work with a variety of different phones and carrier services.

How do cell phone boosters work?

Various obstructions can hinder wireless reception, including buildings, trees and hills, though distance is one of the biggest. This is why some rural areas further away from cities and towns have weaker signals. Cell phones show signal strength as “bars” on the screen, but in numerical terms, it is calculated by dBm (decibel-milliwatts).

A booster acts like a repeater, with the amplifier adding power (or gain, as it’s known in this case) to spread out in any direction. The outside antenna receives the signal coming from a cellular tower, and also transmits back to it, both with extra power coming from the cellular repeater. An inside antenna, usually placed inside a vehicle or attached to a phone, pulls in the amplified signal for nearby devices.

Reception improves because the cellular repeater amplifies the signal so that it can be rebroadcast to the inside antenna. Cell phones within the booster’s range then benefit from boosted reception indicated by additional bars. Some vehicle boosters include cradles to house the phone for a more direct boost.

What kind of signal boosters are there?

Not all cell phone signal boosters are built for the same settings. A booster for the home may be necessary if indoor reception is often poor or weak, leading to dropped or choppy calls. Some building materials can impact signal quality. Older buildings with thicker bricks or a lot of steel and concrete can block signals from coming in with the same fidelity as outdoors.

Using a signal booster in the home can amplify reception to reduce latency and dropouts when talking on the phone. No more missed calls or delays when trying to reach out and touch someone.

Vehicle signal boosters keep reception going on the road, where driving in more remote areas might make it harder to catch a good signal. They can work in any passenger vehicle, but also work just the same for fleet vehicles. If you have an RV or boat, you can find a signal booster made for them as well.

What technology do cell phone boosters support?

All cell phone signal boosters, including those from weBoost, SureCall, Smoothtalker and other vendors, work with current network technologies, like GSM, UMTS, CDMA, HSPA+ and LTE. They also support a wide range of frequency bands those networks work on, helping boost signal strength further.

That means they will work with all major cellular carriers in both Canada and the United States. There may be some band restrictions limiting compatibility with certain carriers, like Freedom Mobile, though newer model boosters have fewer issues that way.

What cell phones do boosters work with?

The type of phone you use doesn’t factor in to how well the booster can work. Whether it’s an iOS or Android handset doesn’t determine the level of compatibility. The same is true when using a booster while roaming in the United States. Boosters amplify the signal across the spectrum, be it 2G, 3G or 4G LTE.

Boosters are flexible enough to work with older cell phones, so they don’t only apply to current models. If you have a handset supporting any current wireless carrier, you should be able to enjoy additional gain whenever the booster is on.

Want more info? Check out some of our resources on the Best Buy blog:

How to buy a cell phone

Cellphone Buying Guide