Choosing Antennas for Cell Phone Signal Boosters
Cell Phone Signal Booster Antennas Overview
When shopping for a cell phone signal booster, deciding on the right antenna can make the difference between better reception and excellent service. Please make sure to take into account the various types of antennas and the environment that needs service before purchasing your cell phone signal booster.
There are two types of antennas: external antennas and indoor antennas. An external antenna is placed outside the structure (home or office building) and communicates with an existing signal. Alternatively, an internal antenna only communicates with the user’s device and and the external antenna.
Antennas are either directional-based or omnidirectional. A directional antenna has a 45-degree area of coverage while an omnidirectional antenna sends a signal in a 360-degree radius. A directional antenna must face a specific direction in order for the user to receive the benefits of the signal boost. For example, an out door directional antenna must be positioned to face the incoming signal, and similarly, an internal directional antenna must be pointed in the direction where service is needed.
Conversely, the position of an omnidirectional antenna or dome antenna does not affect the antenna's ability to communicate with a network or device. An omnidirectional external antenna communicates with an incoming signal no matter the orientation of the signal, and an internal antenna provides a 360-degree radius of coverage in any area. For more information on how antennas operate and picking the right antenna, check out our detailed antennas section.
An antenna is a passive device that adds power to a cell phone signal by the simple process of redirecting the energy it receives from the transmitter. Cell phone signal booster antennas provide a cellular network with three fundamental properties: gain, polarization, and direction (beamwidths).
The strength of an antenna and the signal that it transmits depends on a number of factors. First, a cell tower must be in range in order to receive a signal. Second, the placement of an external antenna dictates how large of an area you’re able to cover inside of your home, office, or vehicle. Additionally the gain and size of the antenna affects the power and range. In order to maximizes the strength of your cell antenna, the antenna should face the direction from which the signal emanates.
Finally, the power and strength of the signal is affected by the coaxial cables that carry the signal to and from the cell phone booster. Cables carry the signal from the external antenna to the internal antenna, and if a weak cable is used, the signal loses strength per foot. When you require a stronger signal, make sure to use strong cables to increase the power of your cell reception.
Determining Antenna Signal Direction
There are a number of ways to determine the direction of the signal. Firstly, any service provider will have a map of the location of the cells in your area. Upon request, your cell phone service carrier will provide you with the necessary information.
Secondly, most cell phones are equipped with a setting that displays the signal strength. If you receive a low number, it means that the signal is strongest in that direction. This can sound confusing, however do not confuse a low signal number with having few bars. They do not indicate the same thing. A low signal number indicates the signal's ability to travel over greater distances and through denser object, while having two bars means that you are not getting the service you deserve. Set your antenna in the direction that the signal is strongest.
How to Test for Signal Strength Using a Cell Phone
In order to generate a strong cell phone signal, aim the external antenna in the direction of the best signal source. The most effective way to identify the strongest signal present would be to have one person stand next to the external antenna. Have that person rotate the antenna, turning it 45 degrees at a time. While this is happening, the second person should be watching the signal strength on the cell phone. The closer you get to zero the stronger the signal will become.
Gain is a measurement of power that is increased over a given area by adding an increasing the energy (power) to a signal being converted by an antenna. The gain derived from an antenna adds to a radio frequency signal (RF signal), providing a user with a significantly improved signal. Gain is measured in dBs, and per dB, the power increases in multiples of 3. The more gain an antenna gives off, the wider range of coverage that the antenna transmits.
Polarization is a property belonging to waves that oscillate with more than one point of reference. Polarization relates to the relative position of the radio wave with respect to the Earth's surface, and is defined by the structure of the antenna. Polarization does not dictate the direction of the broadcast. Rather, depending on how the antenna is mounted, the polarization will differ.
It is important to match similarly polarized antennas. For example, linearly polarized antennas should be paired otherwise the signal will be greatly reduced. Similarly, horizontal polarized antennas should be used with horizontal antennas and vertical antennas with vertical antennas. In essence, polarization explains how the radio frequency is emitted and is caused by the arrangement of the elements on the antenna.
While gain indicates the range of power and polarization represents how the RF is distributed, direction denotes the shape of the transmission pattern. For example, with directional antennas (link to this page), as the gain increases, the angle of the signal usually decreases. Although a directional antenna does not provide a signal to an entire area, the area that does have a signal is much stronger.
The direction or radiation pattern that the antenna provides is measured in degrees called beamwidths. Beamwidths indicate whether the antenna transmitted a 45-degree angle or a 360-degree radius. The redirection of this energy either provides more energy in one direction and less energy in all other directions, or disperses energy in all directions. When energy is dispersed in all directions, the cost is that it is spread at a reduced rate, meaning that the gain or power of the antenna is weakened.
The beamwidth is the angle of separation between the half power points (3dB points) and the main lobe which is the distance between the weaker radiation pattern and the strongest radiation pattern. Depending on the type of antennas, the antenna will have either a horizontal beamwidth or vertical beamwidth.
A directional antenna uses a vertical beamwidth because the physical structure of the antenna causes the pattern of coverage to be more focused and cone-shaped while an omnidirectional antenna has a horizontal beamwidth because the shape of the antenna forces the energy to disperse the signal in all directions.
Directional Antennas (Yagi Antennas)
If you are having a difficult time deciding which antenna to use with your signal booster, a directional antenna could be the perfect choice. As their name suggests, a directional antenna transmits and receives a signal in a specific direction, with the range typically being 45 degree angle.
Many users struggling with poor reception choose a directional antenna because it offers the most strength and its broadcast pattern is ideal suited to their area. Directional antennas are stronger because their beamwidth is focused in one direction as opposed to being dispersed in a 360 degree radios like an omnidirectional antenna.
For example, if you need to cover a long hallway with numerous adjacent room, an internal direction antenna will be able to provide the best service to that area. Similarly if you know the direction of the incoming weak signal, mounting an external antenna on the top of your room will enable you to receive and transmit the strongest signal to your network provider.
The most common directional antenna is known as a Yagi antenna. A Yagi antenna is a high powered antenna that can receive a signal from your network provider as well as transmits a signal from your signal booster. When installing an internal or external Yagi antenna, make sure that the area you are providing strong service to fits the projected 45 degree broadcast pattern of the antenna.
Depending on the location of the incoming signal or the landscape of the area, a Yagi antenna is an ideal directional antenna because it will receive and broadcast the strongest possible signal. A Yagi antenna is a dipole pole antenna, meaning that it is a directional-based antenna. As a directional antenna, in order to receive and transmit a signal, the Yagi antenna must face the direction of the incoming signal.
The Yagi antenna is comprised of a resonant fed dipole, with one or more “parasitic elements.” A parasitic element refers to the “reflector” and the “directors” located around the Yagi antenna. The reflector rests at the outside of the antenna and is the largest parasitic element. The directors then precede the dipole point on the opposite side of the reflector. A horizontal section that goes between all of the elements in the Yagi antenna is called the “boom.”
The Power Behind the Yagi Antenna
The power of the antenna originates from the “elements” surrounding the dipole. By adding “elements” of various lengths attached and spacing in the back and front of the dipole antenna, the performance and effectiveness of the dipole could be greatly increased and the pattern of the dipole RF energy could be sent in one direction.
Since the transmitter is using less power, the Yagi antenna is able to send and receive a stronger signal. Therefore, Yagi antennas are among the strongest external antennas, generating a higher signal-to-noise ratio than other antenna designs.
One way to think about how a Yagi antenna operates is to consider the parasitic elements like a normal dipole element except with a gap at its center called the feed-point. Instead of attaching the antenna to a receiver, the Yagi antenna is connected to a short circuit. This supports transmission line theory, which states that a short circuit reflects all of the incident power 180 degrees out of phase.
Parasitic Elements and Range of CoverageThe parasitic elements are an intensified version of the dipole element. Parasitic elements receive power and send that signal to a transmission line on a paired receiver, and a transmitter sends the same amount of power over the transmission line and back towards the antenna element.
Additionally, the differing lengths of the parasitic elements create the unidirectional function of the antenna. This is because the λ/2 modifies the phase of the element's current with respect to its excitation from the driven element. The unidirectional function and its direct impact on signal strength has allowed the Yagi antenna to become the standard outdoor stationary cell antenna.
Wideband antennas are a popular antenna that falls under the category of Yagi antennas. A wideband antenna essentially operates like most Yagi antennas except a wideband antenna has a slightly wider transmission radius. The wideband antenna has a 45 degree transmission radius and the signal is broadcast in a cone-like fashion. With a wider range of coverage, a wideband antennas offers you more flexibility when compared to other directional antennas.
Yagi antennas provide a wide range of coverage, operating at frequency above 10 MHz.. The Yagi antenna’s bandwidth can be extended using larger diameter conductors--among other techniques. Once the Yagi antenna is mounted and facing the correct direction, the signal is then sent from the Yagi antenna to the internal antenna, providing signal coverage to the user’s desired location.
Due to the antenna's power and strength, the Yagi antenna has become a favorite among the numerous users who want to receive the best service possible. When the antenna faces the incoming signal, no other antenna compares to the power you will receiver from a Yagi antenna. As such, a Yagi antenna will give you the strongest network advantage possible because a Yagi antenna produces the greatest incoming and outgoing signal.
If you have poor cell service, you know that locating a cell signal can be difficult. An omnidirectional antenna is the perfect antenna for picking up hard-to-locate signals and transmitting them in any direction. Omnidirectional antennas do not create a signal; they only boost a signal by increasing RF energy to a given radius.
Many users prefer omnidirectional antennas because they are easy to install and can pick up a signal in all directions. While it may service your entire area, it lacks the signal strength of the Yagi antenna because the signal is dispersed in all directions. These antennas provide a 360-degree horizontal radiation pattern and are best used when a signal is needed in all directions (horizontal beamwidth).
Living with weak cell reception is infuriating, however, a cell phone signal booster kit will provide you with a strong signal. Knowing how antennas operate and which antenna is suited for the type of area that needs service ensures that your signal booster operates at its maximum capacity. Whether you need an omnidirectional antenna or a directional antenna, the right antenna will make all the deference when installing your signal booster in your home, office, or vehicle.
Omnidirectional Antenna Broadcast Pattern
Due to the 360-degree horizontal pattern, an omnipresent antenna can be mounted anywhere. Omnipresent antennas can even be placed upside-down from a ceiling in an indoor environment. Also, the omnidirectional antenna’s design allows it to be attached to a variety of products.
Omnidirectional antennas radiate radio waves in every direction in a given area. However, the power of the transmission lessens with the angle above and below the plane. Additionally, as the plane approaches the axis, the transmission reaches zero. The radiation pattern has often been referred to as “doughnut-shaped.” The power of an omnidirectional antenna is measured in gains. The more gain an antenna has, the more powerful that antenna is.
Omnidirectional antennas operate by attaching either monopole or dipole antenna to one or two straight rod conductors on a common axis. This type of arrangement causes the antenna to be vertically polarized (polarization is how an antenna emits RF energy, and since the antenna is physically arranged in a vertical orientation, the relation to the rod creates the “doughnut-shape” pattern).
The 360 degree broadcast pattern makes the omnidirectional directional antenna the most versatile antenna on the market. Installing the antenna is effortless, as you don’t need to worry about finding the exact direction of incoming signal or figuring out how to provide a signal into a specific area. Simply set up the omnidirectional antenna and you are ready to start sending and receive a better signal. Whether you are using an omnidirectional antenna for your external antenna, internal antenna or both, your networking service will instantly be enhanced the moment you finish the installation.
With the advent of fourth-generation cell phone technology comes new challenges in getting your new cell phone to work properly for you. 4G, unlike its predecessors 2G and 3G (which are still in fairly wide use), operates on a different frequency signal. This means that if this new technology fails to provide you with the strongest signal you require because of dead zones, obstructions, or far proximity to a cell tower, a new 4G Antenna is the perfect solution to your problem. A 4G LTE antenna ensures that you are able to pick up a weak 4G signal, giving your 4G LTE cell phone amplifier the signal it needs to strengthened.
The main difference between a 4G antenna and the older 3G antennas is the frequency these antennas operate on. A 3G antenna cannot enhance a 4G signal because 4G service is broadcast on a different frequency. For example, Verizon’s 3G service operates on either 850 or 1900 MHz frequencies, while it’s new 4G LTE service operates on a 700 MHz frequency band. To enhance a 4G signal, a 4G-compatible antenna is necessary.
Types of 4G Antennas
The different types of 4G antennas are designed to work exclusively with each of the different 4G technologies in the United States today. There are several different 4G technologies: LTE (Long Term Evolution), AWS (Advanced Wireless Services), and WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), which is used mainly for Internet access.
Depending on the cell phone service provider you have, the 4G antenna you need will vary. For example, Verizon Wireless offers 4G LTE service, so you’ll need a 4G LTE-compatible antenna that is designed to communicate with Verizon’s cell towers which transmit signals over their 700MHz frequency band. On the other hand, T-Mobile offers 4G AWS service, which operates on much higher frequencies—either 1700MHz or 2100MHz.
WiMax is 4G technology that allows users to connect to the Internet in several ways. WiMax provides: a) mobile broadband connectivity across cities and countries, b) a wireless alternative to cable and DSL, c) data, telecommunications, and triple-play services, and d) a source of Internet connectivity as part of a business continuity plan. Because 4G WiMax antennas operate on a different frequency than either LTE or AWS, a separate WiMax 4G antenna is necessary to enhance a signal. WiMax 4G antennas must be compatible with a 2.5-2.7GHz standard frequency.
What a 4G Antenna Means to You
Since the 4G LTE network broadcasts on a different frequency than a 2G or 3G network, to boost your 4G LTE signal, you will require a 4G antenna that is calibrated to that specific frequency.For example, Verizon’s 3G network operates on 850 MHz or 1900 MHz while Verizon’s 4G LTE service is broadcast on 700 MHz. When you need to enhance your Verizon 4G service, only a 4G antenna that receives and transmits on this frequency band will be able to communicate with Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Please note that before you purchase a 4G antenna, you must know the frequency belonging to your 4G network, otherwise you will not receive an enhanced signal.The added power that a booster supplies (known as increasing the gain of your signal) gives you better Internet speeds, clarity, and cell reception. In order to for the signal booster to preform properly, an external antenna and an internal antenna are necessary for creating and maintain a strong network. It may be helpful to think of a signal booster system as a miniature cell phone tower that you have created in your own home, office, vehicle, or boat. When you want to improve the performance of your cell network, a cellular antenna adds power (gain) to your signal and creates an enhanced link between you cell phone and your cellular network. While the signal booster generates a stronger signal, the internal and external antennas are directing the communication between your phone, amplifier, and network.
An external antenna is a an outdoor device that converts energy (power) and transmits or receives electromagnetic waves. The outdoor cell antenna should rest at the highest point on the structure so it can receive the best signal. If once cannot reach that point, many external antennas are equipped to be installed near windows or inside of the structure to accommodate users that cannot reach certain highs.
External antennas are required to boost a 2G, 3G, or 4G network. In order to receive an incoming signal, the external antenna is placed outside the home, office, vehicle, or boat. The outdoor cellular antenna will then be able to communicate with the booster and indoor cell antenna in the home.Depending on the type of external antenna you are using, sometimes the antenna faces the direction of the signal and communicates with the signal through a specific frequency. An external antenna then relays the information that is sent to an internal antenna through cable wiring. There are two main external antennas: A Yagi antenna and an omnipresent antenna.
Indoor Cellular Antennas
Indoor Antennas provides a radius of enhanced cell coverage that is needed to increase your cell signal. The indoor antenna transmits the boosted signal it receives from the amplifier, which, without an internal antenna, would not be broadcast. An internal antenna also communicates with the external antenna when it sends the enhanced signal back to the cell tomorrow. The data is send between the antennas and the booster via a cable from the cell phone booster.
Depending on the internal antenna, service will be provided to either a specific area or an entire space. In this manner, the placement of an internal antenna is key for providing service to dead spots in the users home, office, car, or boat. Depending on the design of the building, you may require either a panel antenna or a dome antenna.
Indoor Signal Booster Antenna Types
A panel antenna is a directional-based antenna and sends a signal in a specific direction. A panel antenna must face the direction of the area that you want serviced. The power of a panel is measured in increments of energy called gain. Gain is measured in dBs, and increases in multiples of three. Consequently, the power and size of the radius of coverage is dependent upon the gain of the antenna.
Panel antennas provide the strongest indoor signal because the signal is focused to a specific point. However, an area outside the line of transmission will not receive the boost. Common placements of panel antennas are the corners of rooms or in the direction of a long hallway because it services the entire area.
A dome antenna broadcasts a signal in all directions. Dome antennas do not create a signal, they can only transmit a signal to an area by emitting an increase in RF energy. Since the signal is not focused, the strength of the signal is not as powerful as a panel antenna.
Due to the dome’s design, the dome antenna is vertically polarized. Vertical polarization is dependent on the physical shape of the antenna, and as result, produces a radiation pattern in the shape of a doughnut. The power of a dome antenna is measured in gains, with more gain equaling more power and a greater radiation pattern. Dome antennas are often used in situations where it is difficult to install an antenna.
Dome antennas are also preferred in contexts where a larger area needs to be serviced as opposed to a signal area. Dome antennas are best installed on the ceiling in the center of a room or building, as it will be able to send a signal in all directions.