Cell phone extenders

Sean Sheedy sean at theSheedys.com
Thu Mar 19 16:55:39 CDT 2009

Terry Fox wrote:
> I'm looking for a little help regarding cell phone extenders/boosters.
> I presently have AT&T, and would like to keep it (due partly to my iPhone
> and partly to several relatives having it).  Unfortunately, the AT&T
> coverage in my neighborhood is fairly poor.  I can get a signal at a couple
> places just outside my house, but I get virtually nothing inside the house.
> Occassionally, I can get a signal here in the shack, but it's not reliable
> at all.
> I've come across several ads for extenders and/or boosters.  The most recent
> was in the Tiger Direct catalog.  They cost $200 to $1,000, or so, depending
> on type.  I would prefer something that works wirelessly, so both our phones
> would be OK in the house.  So, no amplifiers, preamps, or beam antennas
> wired directly to the phone.
> Has anyone had any experience with these units, and which ones are good and
> which are poor.  I don't mind putting a small yagi antenna in the attic, and
> putting the "base" near part of the house, such as the shack or the kitchen.
> The house is approx 4500 sq.ft, and mostly on one floor, so it sprawls.  I
> only need the phones to work in part of the house, however.
> Any comments/thoughts?
> Thanks.
> Terry, WB4JFI
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I do not have a specific product recommendation, but the bottom line is 
that with a weak signal outdoors, the workable area in which you can use 
your phone indoors will be very small and you will need to be sure you 
set up your antennas (read: distance and pattern) to avoid RF feedback.  
I have 1-2 bars outside and use a fairly complicated setup to paint the 
area immediately around where I sit at my home office desk.  This 
basically turns my cell phone into a desk phone at my home office and 
prevents dropped calls but offers no real indoor mobility.  (In fact, 
since I can't really go anywhere with the cellular phone, I have it 
wired up to a Plantronics headset via the audio jack for better 
handsfree sound quality.) 

To be able to move around in the house, I purchased a cordless phone 
that can use a cell phone as the "landline" via a Bluetooth connection, 
letting me move all about the house with the cordless handset while 
being able to answer and place cellular calls.  But I found that the BT 
connection would eventually drop and not re-establish, and the double 
vocoding resulted in fairly poor audio, so I have pretty much stopped 
using it.  I also use another booster with an EVDO card and EVDO to WiFi 
router for Internet access, but that is quite another story (starting 
with the tree it sits 65 feet up in.)

You might be able to increase the range with one of the high gain 
extenders, but it requires more distance between the indoor and outdoor 
antennas, and then you have to deal with cable loss.

To save a lot of money on the booster, consider getting it used through 
Ebay.  I picked up my EVDO booster from someone who had used it with a 
Treo 700P in their truck, and had since changed providers and no longer 
needed it.

And, as you've already found, there are two kinds, those that cable 
directly to a handset (and often require an RF cable and connector for 
that model phone) and those that use an indoor antenna to provide signal 
to an area.

Sean Sheedy AI4ID
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