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“Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

Signal boosters and femtocell devices help bring your outside signal indoors

Have you ever been on a call inside your home and moved to another room only to have the call dropped? Do you have a designated spot where you have to stand in order to get reception? Do you have to go outside in order to place or receive calls?

Are the words, “Can you hear me now?” a daily part of your life?

If so, you may be excited to read about some devices that could potentially make your cell-phone signal more reliable. There are two basic types of solutions currently available: signal boosters and femtocell devices.

It should be noted that a signal booster doesn’t work by magically producing a signal where none is available. If you’re in a “dead zone” then a booster probably won’t help you much. However, if you get signal outside your home, but not inside, or if you get signal on the main level but not in the basement, then a booster could solve your problem.

Signal boosters work by capturing the stronger cell phone signal from the outside wireless network and amplifying the signal inside, thus improving your wireless coverage. In other words, they bring the signal from the outside to the inside.

Probably the most widely known signal booster on the market is the zBoost device by Wi-Ex (www.wi-ex.com). The zBoost appliances range in price from $169 to $399 and can be purchased directly from the website, as well as from several online retailers.

Femtocell devices work in an altogether different manner. Unlike signal boosters, most femtocell devices can be purchased directly from your wireless provider. A femtocell is a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in a home or small business. It connects to the service provider’s network via broadband (such as DSL or cable.) A femtocell allows service providers to extend service coverage indoors, especially where access would otherwise be limited or unavailable.

So femtocell appliances work like signal boosters, but you may have better success with them because they are not entirely dependent upon the strength of the cell signal. They do have one drawback though. You must have broadband Internet service for a femtocell device to work, and while the device is active you are using a portion of your broadband bandwidth.

Each wireless carrier has a different type of femtocell device associated with its particular service.

AT&T offers a 3G MicroCell appliance that promises enhanced indoor coverage of up to 5,000 square feet. There is no additional monthly charge for using the device, but it does require a 3G wireless phone, broadband service and a computer with Internet access for online registristration.

Sprint has a femtocell device called Airave. Like AT&T’s appliance it promises a coverage area of 5,000 square feet, but does have monthly fees associated with use. Sprint charges a fee of $4.99 per month per Airave unit with the option to add single-line unlimited calling for $10 more per month. If you want to add unlimited calling via the device to multiple lines, then the fee jumps to $20 per month.

Verizon also has a femtocell device they call the Network Extender. There is no monthly fee associated with service. Verizon promises 100 percent compatibility with all Verizon wireless phones, and even with some of its competitor’s handsets.

For details regarding femtocell appliances specific to your carrier, contact your cell service provider directly. Each provider has particular coverage areas for the devices, and you should make sure to ask if your home is included in that coverage before purchasing.

 

Written and compiled by Ed VanHoose 217-241-7941 evanhoose@aiec.coop

 

 

 

© 2014 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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