At SureCall Canada, we get asked a lot of questions from people who are thinking about buying a cell phone signal booster. This article provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Here's a summary of what's covered:
Why does my phone have trouble making calls?
Why is my phone dropping calls all the time?
Why does reception vary between phone models?
Do cell phone signal boosters really work?
Can a cell signal booster strengthen a Wi-Fi network?
Will a Canadian (or American) signal booster work in another county?
Is a directional antenna better than an omnidirectional one?
If you've thought about getting a cell phone signal booster but haven't taken the plunge yet, this information will help you make an educated decision.
1. Why does my phone have trouble making calls?
Quick answer: It's likely due to one of three things: tower overload, bad reception, or it's been a long time since you've restarted your phone.
Have you ever pressed the call button after selecting a contact but then it never starts ringing? It just stays there on the call screen, displaying the contact you chose, but the on-screen timer never starts? Canadians who live in areas with poor cell reception have likely experienced this many times. Are phone icons like these a familiar sight?
...then you probably live in an area with bad signal. Your call won't complete unless you have a certain amount of reception available. If this is a common occurrence for you, a cell phone signal booster is probably in order.
An overloaded cell tower can also be the culprit when it comes to dropped calls. Though this a less-likely diagnosis in rural areas, it does happen. But it's much more common in urban areas. Cell towers become overloaded when an abnormally large number of users are suddenly using the same tower. Stand-still traffic, concerts, and other similar events can be the cause. If you live in an area where your reception is affected like this on a regular basis, a signal booster would certainly help.
And finally, as is the case with the majority of consumer electronics, restarting the device solves the problem a great deal of the time. Smartphones are constantly receiving software updates, many of which directly influence reception quality. And most of these updates don't take effect until you restart your phone. So get into the habit of restarting your phone every couple of weeks.
2. Why is my phone dropping calls all the time?
Quick answer: Dead zones and tower overload are the two most common culprits.
Dropped calls are incredibly frustrating. The most common time for this to happen is while driving. You're talking on your phone, you drive through an area with bad reception (a.k.a. a dead zone) and the call drops. These are isolated spots where the nearest cell tower can't penetrate because of geography, building materials, or something else. Even in urban areas, these spots sometimes exist. Putting a mobile signal booster in your vehicle is the only way to combat this.
Some users experience dropped calls inside their own homes. They report that there are certain areas in their home where they can't go while on the phone because they risk dropping the call if they do. In these instances, it's usually caused by a “perfect storm” of external influences, including building materials, landscapes directly outside the walls, and weak cell signal from the user's particular network. Dropped calls tend to happen in basements.
However, if your dropping calls at random while standing still, that's a different matter. In these cases, the culprit is likely cell tower overload rather than a dead zone. We discussed cell tower overload in the previous section.
3. Why does reception vary between phone models?
Quick answer: This is due to differences in carrier coverage and phone design. Also, your hand might be blocking the phone’s internal antenna.
The largely unregulated nature of the cell phone industry is one of the main reasons its technological advances have happened so quickly in the last two decades. This also means that there isn't an industry-wide standard that phone manufacturers all follow when designing their devices. There are many different antenna configurations, operating systems, and aesthetic styles that consumers have to choose from. And it isn't any wonder that some are superior to others in certain ways.
Some manufacturers put more emphasis on performance. Others focus on connectivity. And some just want their device to look cool. Because of all these differences, some phones are simply built better and offer a greater signal capability. Read consumer reports, internet reviews, and online forums to discover what smartphone models are rated highest in overall reception quality.
Remember that every Canadian network has a different coverage map. In any given area, one network may have great signal where another network may have poor or no signal at all. With this in mind, don't switch networks without finding out which ones have good coverage in your area.
Also, make sure that you're not blocking the antenna with your hand due to the way you hold your phone. In the early days of mobile phones, this was a big problem because of where the internal antenna was located inside the phone. Though it's nowhere near the issue it once was, it hasn't gone away entirely. If you've switched phones recently and are having reception problems that you didn't have with your previous one and you're having trouble troubleshooting, consider doing some Google searches to see if other people have the same problem as you.
You’d be surprised to learn all the things that could be blocking your signal. And perhaps it goes without saying that a cell phone signal booster will solve all of these issues.
4. Do cell phone signal boosters really work?
Quick answer: Yes, they most certainly do. But there must be an existing cell signal directly outside your home for the booster to work.
Signal boosters do not create a cell signal out of thin air. This is a common misconception. What they actually do is amplify existing signals. A cell phone signal booster is literally an electronic amplifier. It latches on to the signal outside the walls of your cottage and boosts it. Signal boosters don't operate using highly complicated technology when compared to other modern tech. It's relatively simple which is one of the reasons their success rate is so high. They're popular because they work very well, performing precisely as advertised.
To clarify, a cell phone signal booster will not solve any problems for you if there is no reception at your location. There has to be something - even a very weak signal - in order for the device to function properly. If you're out camping in a remote area where there is no signal whatsoever, there's no point in bringing a signal booster. It won't do anything for you.
5. Can a cell signal booster strengthen a Wi-Fi network?
Quick answer: No. However, you can use a signal booster and a data hub at the same time to amplify Wi-Fi.
Cell phone signal boosters amplify cellular frequencies, not Wi-Fi networks. If you have slow or spotty WiFi, a signal booster is not the solution. This misconception lies in the fact that most smartphones today have a hotspot feature that uses your data plan as a temporary (and usually slow) Wi-Fi connection. This is not a traditional Wi-Fi connection and does not function in the same way as your home internet.
However, there is an indirect way that a cell phone signal booster can assist in obtaining a stronger Wi-Fi connection. If you use a data hub (Telus, Rogers, and Bell One all have their own model) in tandem with a cell phone signal booster, it boosts Wi-Fi. We have another article explaining how this works. Click here:
6. Will a Canadian (or American) signal booster work in another county?
Quick answer: Yes, but not in every country.
As an example, the U.S. and Canada both operate on GSM 850/1900 MHz cellular frequencies. Any country that operates within these frequencies will have no problem using a North American cell phone signal booster. But there are other countries that operate a GSM 900/1800 MHz standard. North American boosters will not work in these countries.
Then there are countries that use both MHz standards depending on the area within that country. Our boosters may or may not work there. If there's a particular country that you're wondering about, call or email us and we'll let you know if you can bring your SureCall Canada cell phone signal booster with you.
7. Is a directional antenna better than an omnidirectional one?
Quick answer: It depends.
When you purchase a signal booster kit, it comes with three main components: inside antenna, outside antenna, and an amplifier. These outside antennas are sometimes called donor antennas. They're meant to be installed on the exterior of the structure, usually on the roof of the house or vehicle. These outside antennas come in two varieties - directional and omnidirectional - and they do not operate in the same way.
A directional antenna needs to be mounted in such a way that it's deliberately pointing in the direction of the nearest cell tower. This requires the user to discover where the nearest cell tower is in relation to their home (apps make this easy). If you don't point it in the right direction, it won't work properly or perhaps not at all. An omnidirectional antenna doesn't need to be pointed in any particular direction. It just needs to be mounted as high as possible. It has a 360-degree communication range, reaching any tower in any direction.
Additional, more technical differences exist. But for now, we're only going to address this main one.
Whether you need a directional or omnidirectional antenna is circumstantial. Here's a simple breakdown:
Use a directional antenna when:
- you discover that every nearby cell tower is in the same general direction from your house.
- the cell tower you need is really far away from your house.
Use an omnidirectional antenna when:
- one of the following describes where you live: closely surrounded by mountains or large hills, dense forest, or busy metropolis.
- someone living in your home with you uses a different cellular network (e.g. you use Rogers but your roommate uses Telus).
- you're setting it up on your car or RV.
All of this being said, we've found that in most cases, a directional antenna is a better choice than an omni. This is absolutely the case if you live in a rural area. Talk to one of our SureCall Canada reps to make sure you make the right choice before purchasing. Call us at (888) 389-5799.
Why Is My Phone Dropping Calls?
We’re hoping to save you some time and frustration by offering up answers to questions we hear all the time. More articles answering FAQs will be created soon. The more educated you are as a consumer, the better your decisions will be. Do you have a question that you think we should cover in a future article? Let us know in the comments. And be sure to visit our blog for the latest news and advice about cellular phone signal boosters.