Tech Tuesday–”Gimme a boost: 3 ways to make calls when your cellular signal is terrible”

Today for Technical Tuesday, we’re looking at an article featured on TechHive from Eric Geier. Check it out below!–

If you find yourself asking, “Can you hear me now?” it might be time to explore Wi-Fi calling, femtocells, or signal boosters.

In our increasingly connected age, it’s frustrating to find yourself in a place where the cellular connectivity is weak to nonexistent. And that frustration only magnifies when you have to struggle with poor voice quality and dropped calls in your very own home.

Geography, money, technology, and the different ways buildings are put together can all factor into why signals from the cell towers will never be perfect. Nevertheless, you have options for boosting that wimpy cell signal–or generating one yourself.

Use Wi-Fi calling (and texting)

Wi-Fi calling is one of the cheapest and easiest options to get calling and texting where you’ve got little or no cell signal. You just need a good Wi-Fi connection, whether that’s at home, in the office, or on a public hotspot. It’s similar to Voice over IP (VoIP): your phone call connects over the Internet.

The VoIP apps you’ll find when you peruse Google Play or the iOS App Store don’t fully integrate into the phone, however; typically, they require the use of another phone number and/or the person on the other line to have the same app. In some cases, you’ll even need a paid subscription to talk to anyone.

However, some wireless carriers offer an integrated Wi-Fi calling feature that uses your existing phone number and native dialing and messaging apps. Best of all, you won’t really know the difference between Wi-Fi and cell calling.

T-Mobile started offering Wi-Fi calling back in 2007. It’s supported on Android and Windows smartphones, and will come to iPhones soon as a feature of iOS 8. It works internationally as well, providing free calls and messaging back to the States when you’re traveling abroad.

I used T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling feature for nearly two years on my Samsung Galaxy II at my home, office, and when I was out of the country. Overall, I found it to be pretty useful, and voice quality was good provided I had a strong Wi-Fi signal and enough network bandwidth. I would have found it even more useful if I could enable Wi-Fi calling only for desired Wi-Fi networks, so that it wasn’t active on networks where I couldn’t be guaranteed of a strong signal.

Sprint just started offering Wi-Fi calling this year; it currently supports only a couple Android smartphones. The carrier doesn’t offer international Wi-Fi calling, but it plans to add that capability in the future.

I haven’t used the Sprint Wi-Fi calling, but from the looks of it, that carrier’s process differs from T-Mobile’s. First, you must initially register for the free service on your device. Then you select which Wi-Fi networks you authorize to use for Wi-Fi calling. That’s a convenient feature: you can enter your home, office, or other Wi-Fi network where you know you’ll have a great signal, and your phone will automatically use Wi-Fi calling when it’s connected to those networks.

Setup your own femtocell tower

Femtocell describes a small low-power cellular base station, offering coverage up to around 30 feet or 10 meters; it uses an Internet connection as the backhaul to the cellular network. It’s similar to Wi-Fi calling and VoIP, but femtocell uses regular cellular radio frequencies to communicate with your phone. It’s the closest thing to setting up your own cell tower. You can have no cell signal out in the middle of nowhere, but if you have a broadband Internet connection, you can setup a femtocell.

Although Sprint and Verizon also offer femtocell products, I was only able to get my hands on the femtocell provided by AT&T. The AT&T 3G MicroCell costs $200. (AT&T uses the term MicroCell, which usually refers to larger bases stations, but this device is technically classified as a femtocell.)

Setting up the AT&T 3G MicroCell was straightforward, but the self-activation method didn’t work for me; I had to call AT&T to get it activated. Then I could grant up to 15 AT&T 3G or 4G phones access to the MicroCell, changeable anytime via AT&T’s website. Of those authorized phones, AT&T’s femtocell supports up to four simultaneous connections.

Use a repeater to boost low cell signals

If your home or office offers some trace of a cell signal, you can amplify or boost it with a repeater. Though the exact solutions vary, all typically consist of either putting a repeater near a window or an antenna on the roof where the cell tower signals are the best. The repeater then amplifies your signal, acting as a middleman between the cell towers and nearby phones.

For this article, I got my hands on three repeater options–an indoor solution from Cel-Fi along with repeaters from zBoost and Wilson Electronics that should be mounted on a rooftop or in an attic.

Cel-Fi offers signal booster solutions for various wireless carriers, each selling for $575. By tailoring each of its products for a particular carrier, Cel-Fi says it can offer better performance. For this article, we looked at the Cel-Fi Signal Booster for AT&T, which consists of two units–a window unit that you place where you have the best cell signal and a coverage unit that you place in a central spot where you want the boosted cell signal. The window unit communicates with the cell towers and then wirelessly connects to the coverage unit that links up with nearby cell phones. It’s a pretty quick installation process, with no cables needed other than the power adapters. Having two units is convenient, too: you can place the coverage unit in the middle of your desired coverage area, rather than next to your Internet connection like you would have to with a femtocell.

zBoost offers a variety of indoor and outdoor signal boosters. I tested the $350 ZB545, which supports up to 3G with the 800 and 1,900 MHz frequencies from all major carriers (except Nextel). It consists of an outdoor omni-directional antenna that you can mount where the cell signal is the best (attic or roof), coaxial cable, and an amplifier unit you place inside. That can complicate installation, but the omni-directional outdoor antenna makes it easy to place since you don’t have to figure out which direction to point the antenna.

Wilson Electronics offers a variety of building, vehicle, and M2M cell signal boosting solutions. I tested the $550 DB Pro 4G Directional solution, which supports up to 4G LTE in the 700, 850, 1700/2100, and 1900 MHz bands and works with all U.S. cellular carriers except Clearwire. It consists of an outdoor directional antenna that you can point where the cell signal is the best in the attic or on the roof, coaxial cable, and an amplifier unit with adjustable gain controls. It’s the most complex to install of the three products I looked at, but it’s all the most advanced, thanks to the directional antenna and manual gain controls.

All three boosters worked well, delivering similar results. All three gave me about the same indoor ranges and delivered comparable quality during test calls. Still, each solution has some pros and cons.

Nomophobia Giveaway!

We’re at it again! This week we’re giving away a Sleek cell phone signal booster AND a Visa giftcard! All you have to do is visit endnomophobia.com, watch the video, and tell us in the comments below if you are a nomophobe!


Don’t forget to share with your friends so they can win too!

Have a great Friday, and look for the winner to be announced on our Facebook page next Friday (8/8)!

#tbt

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to give away another Sleek 4G cell phone signal booster! Who wants it? All you have to do to be entered to win is tell is in the comments section below, or on Facebook, what this is, and what year it debuted.

Happy guessing!

 

Wireless Wednesday–”Wilson Electronics Continues Record of Producing Industry Leading Cellular Signal Boosters – Recognized with Three New Industry Awards”

ST. GEORGE, Utah–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Wilson Electronics, LLC (www.wilsonelectronics.com), developer of North America’s top-selling line of cellular signal boosters, announced today that three of the company’s products have received awards for outstanding innovation.

“It is my pleasure to recognize the DataPro as an innovative solution that earned Wilson Electronics the 2014 M2M Evolution Product of the Year Award”

  • The DataPro (now called the Signal 3G) cellular signal booster received the 2014 M2M Evolution Product of the Year Award from M2M Evolution Magazine, the leading publication for the machine-to-machine (M2M) industry segment.
  • The CI 570 (now called the Pro 70) cellular signal booster received the InfoComm Best of Show Award.
  • The DT4G cellular signal booster received the Communications Solutions Product of the Year Award.

The DataPro cellular signal booster is targeted specifically for M2M installations. Built to integrate with modem installations, it provides a strong, reliable cellular signal that ensures successful M2M data transfer for all North American 3G networks.

“It is my pleasure to recognize the DataPro as an innovative solution that earned Wilson Electronics the 2014 M2M Evolution Product of the Year Award,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “I look forward to seeing more innovation from Wilson Electronics in the future.”

Wilson Electronics President and CEO Bob Van Buskirk added, “While many consumers are unaware of the impact of M2M, this growing and significant wireless application continues to play an increasingly important communications role in our daily lives.”

The CI 570 is a high performance indoor cellular signal booster, designed specifically for custom integration applications. The CI 570 is designed to work with all US cellular carriers’ networks and technologies, and can support multiple simultaneous connections with all cellular enabled devices.

The InfoComm first annual Best of Show Awards honors outstanding products exhibited at the InfoComm Show, such as Wilson Electronics CI 570.

“Wilson Electronics is committed to innovation as we lead the industry with new and groundbreaking products that effectively boost cellular communications when they are challenged by a weak and unreliable signal. This award is a valued recognition of our commitment to product leadership,” Van Buskirk said.

The DT4G is designed to provide enhanced multi-room signal coverage in apartments, homes and offices. Benefits include fewer dropped connections, fewer no-service “dead zones,” faster data rates especially on 4G devices, and improved cellular battery life due to the reduced cellular device power required for connection.

TMC, a global, integrated media company, awards Communications Solutions Product of the Year Awards to those products they find integral to the marketplace.

“Congratulations to Wilson Electronics for receiving a 2014 Communications Solutions Product of the Year Award,” said Tehrani. “The DT4G has demonstrated true innovation and is amongst the best solutions that facilitate voice, data and video communications brought to market in the past twelve months. I look forward to continued excellence from Wilson Electronics in 2014 and beyond.”

Tech Tip Tuesday

Happy Tuesday! Today we’ve got a couple questions from the Technical Support Department that we’re looking at. Keep reading!–

Q:  I was in the Uinta mountains at Mirror Lake and had a camp host ask me about my antennas. I explained they were for a cell phone booster but they were not picking up any signal at the moment. He then told me he had guy that stayed there at the camp ground who had a Wilson antenna, and that he was picking up a signal. He said the antenna was kind of a triangle shape. I currently have an Omni Directional Building Antenna and a Dual Band Panel Antenna (301135/301155/304447).

A:  This antenna will not work when your RV is in motion. However, if you would like to turn your booster off while you are in motion, you can use this antenna with most systems. You will need to make sure you have the correct cable and connector with it. We recommend contacting Customer Support to determine the best options for your booster.

Q:  Will the trucker antenna work better than the magnet mount antenna the comes with the mobile amp?

A:  The trucker antenna and the small magnet mount antenna have very similar gains since the mini magnet was upgraded a few months ago. Also, it depends on what frequency range you are looking for. We recommend contacting tech support to discuss the antenna gains.

Q:  What antenna is a good upgrade for the Sleek 4G?

A:  The 4″ magnet mount antenna is actually one of the strongest options at this time. It has been upgraded recently to be much stronger than it was previously.

As Always, Customer Support and Technical Support are always here to help. We are happy to discuss any situation to make sure you have the best for your personal situation. You can reach us by leaving us a comment below, or on our Facebook/Twitter, or by calling/emailing us at (866) 294-1660 tech@wilsonelectronics.com.

#tbt winner

We have a winner! Congrats to Jeff Geer who has won our Sleek 4G for his answer on our July 3rd #tbt post! Congrats Jeff! Just message us at twhite@wilsonelectronics.com to claim your cell phone signal booster.

#tbt

Happy Thursday! Can you believe the week is almost over?! We can’t.

In the meantime, want to win a free Sleek 4G cell phone signal booster? We thought so…

All you have to do is comment below what YEAR you think this record player is from. That’s it!

Also, don’t forget to check out http://endnomophobia.com/ for free SWAG, CASH, and of course…SIGNAL BOOSTERS :) Just spin the wheel and share with your friends to be entered!