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Cell Phone Signal Boosters: The Definitive Guide

Need a cell signal booster? This is our definitive guide on exactly how to find the right device.

Key Takeaways
  • This list is based on our real-world experience testing hundreds of signal boosters.
  • You might want to also consider MIMO antennas, particularly, if you are using AT&T 5G+, Verizon UWB, any flavor of T-Mobile 5G, as these services aren't supported by signal boosters due to FCC rules.
  • The absolute best consumer signal booster for homes and buildings that money can buy is the Cel-Fi GO X. With 100 dB gain it's the only booster that offers whole-home coverage when outdoor signal is weak.
  • If signal outside the building is strong, a cheaper booster (like the SureCall Fusion4Home) may be enough.
  • Buying a booster for your home is very different to buying a booster for a vehicle or boat.
  • The best booster for cars, trucks, and RVs on the move is the weBoost Drive Reach due to its high uplink power.

This guide has three parts:

We start with our product recommendations, but we also strongly urge you to read Part 2: The Signal Guide as well.

We're constantly updating this document to make sure it includes the latest products and what we learn from selling and installing these devices.

The last update to this guide was on April 1st, 2024.

When to use a MIMO Antenna Instead of a Signal Booster

If you're using a 5G Gateway, Modem or Router

If you're looking to improve 5G signal for a gateway, modem, or router, we strongly recommend considering MIMO antennas. MIMO antennas need to be connected directly to the device, but they perform better than boosters and will get you the fastest possible data rates.

If you're device is connecting on T-Mobile 5G

Unfortunately the US government's regulations for signal boosters haven't kept up with the latest 5G bands. As a result, no signal booster sold in the US is able to support T-Mobile's 5G bands (n71 and n41). However, a MIMO antenna connected to a 5G gateway can provide the fastest possible data rates to your devices.

Unsure if you're on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network or 5G network? Simply disable WiFi and look in the top menu bar of your device to see whether the symbol next to your signal bars says "4G" or "5G."

If your phone is connecting on AT&T 5G+ or Verizon 5GUW

Unfortunately the US government's regulations for signal boosters haven't kept up with the latest 5G bands. As a result, no signal booster sold in the US is able to support AT&T's 5G+ or Verizon's 5GUW (n77). However, a MIMO antenna connected to a 5G gateway can provide the fastest possible data rates to these devices.

Unsure if you're on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network or 5G network? Simply disable WiFi and look in the top menu bar of your device to see whether the symbol next to your signal bars show just regular "5G" or "5G UW" or "5G+".

Our Bestselling MIMO Antenna

Our high-performance QuadMini achieves the very fastest possible 5G data rates, even if you don't have line-of-sight to the cell tower. Our complete kit includes everything needed to connect to most 5G gateways, modems, and routers

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Where do you need to improve your cell phone signal?

Cell Signal Boosters For Homes & Small Offices up to 15,000 sq ft

The cell phone signal booster we recommend for homes and small offices depends on the signal strength outside your building. If you don't know the signal strength (measured in decibel-milliwatts, or dBm for short), outside your building, start by reading this part of our guide.

If you have strong signal outdoors of over -70 dBm, skip down to our recommendations for users with strong outdoor signal. If you have weak outdoor signal (less than -80 dBm), read on below.

If you have weak outdoor signal (less than -80 dBm):

If the signal is weak outside, then a booster's "gain" is the most important thing to pay attention to.

Gain is a measure of how much the signal is amplified. There are rules (set by the FCC) that limit how much any consumer signal booster can amplify the signal. For most devices, this is between 64 dB and 72 dB. However, "single carrier" boosters that only amplify signal for one network can go up to 100 dB.

Antennas also enhance a booster's "gain." Like a telescope that zooms in a distant object, a directional antenna can focus signal reception on a single tower and increase the signal strength.

If your signal outside is weak, then the best option is to use a single carrier, 100 dB gain booster with a directional antenna.

Our top pick: only boosts one carrier at a time, but offers 100 dB gain

If you have weak signal outside the building and only care about boosting one of either AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile, the best choice is the Cel-Fi GO X. The GO X is the only "single-carrier" cell booster that is approved by the FCC to offer up to 100 dB of gain. Since it's a single-carrier cell booster: it will only amplify the signal from one carrier's network at a time.

We have tested the GO X in dozens of different environments compared to competing devices from weBoost, SureCall, and others, and it always comes out on top. Whether it's speed tests, latency, or reliability - the GO is consistently the winner.

The higher gain of the GO X compared to other cell phone signal boosters makes it perfect for areas with weak outdoor signal. With 13 dBm downlink power, the GO X can also cover a relatively large area with improved signal.

A single indoor antenna kit should cover a home of up to 3,000 sq ft or an open space (e.g. warehouse) of up to 8,00 sq ft. A two antenna kit will cover a home of up to 5,000 sq ft or an open space of up to 15,000 sq ft.

Unfortunately, like every signal booster in this list, the GO X isn't able to boost T-Mobile's 5G bands for regulatory reasons.

In December 2023, CEL-FI released another GO product called the CEL-FI GO G41. The GO G41 doesn't differ much from the current G32, though CEL-FI intends to roll out a firmware update in mid-2024 to add more 5G support. It's meaningfully more expensive than the GO X G32 and we don't feel the extra benefits are worth the higher price point at this time.

To learn more about the differences between the GO X G32 and the G41, check out our blog post on Which CEL-FI Booster is Right for You.

Our favorite "broadband" signal boosters that work with multiple carriers

If you have weak outdoor signal and need coverage for multiple carriers, the best cell signal booster options are either the weBoost Installed Home Complete or the SureCall Fusion4Home. Both units are limited to the 72 dB gain limit set by the FCC, which will also limit the effective coverage area.

The weBoost Installed Home Complete offers a unique nationwide installation service in partnership with OnTech Smart Services. After purchase, you simply scan the included installation card to schedule a technician visit, often as soon as the next day!

OnTech's technicians use the Wilson Pro Cellular Network Scanner to optimize the outdoor antenna placement. Unlike other kits, this one doesn't include coax cable; instead, the technician brings and customizes RG6 coax on-site.

For those unable to install their own booster, the weBoost Installed Home Complete is a great choice. Or, if you're in a commercial space, consider the weBoost Installed Office 200 - the perfect solution for small to medium businesses looking to improve cell signal.

The Fusion4Home is a budget option, and you shouldn't expect to cover more than a few hundred square feet (or 1-2 rooms). We strongly recommend using the kit with a directional outdoor antenna and a panel indoor antenna–you can read more about why here.

If you have strong outdoor signal (4-5 bars):

It's frustrating: coverage outdoors is great, but your building materials prevent signal from getting into your home or office. But no need to worry - this kind of situation is actually where cell signal boosters work best.

When signal outside is strong, a cell booster acts similarly to a speaker system that is being fed by a strong feed from a microphone. It doesn't matter how much your voice is amplified – the maximum volume of the speaker system you've installed is much more important.

Speaker power is measured in Watts, but for cell phone signal boosters, the total downlink output power is measured in decibel-milliwatts (dBm). The most important cell booster specification when picking a booster for use with strong outdoor signal is the downlink output power, in dBm. The amplifier's gain-a measure of its amplification-matters less.

The maximum legally-allowed downlink output power for all cell boosters set by the FCC is 17 dBm. In our recommendations below, we recommend cell signal boosters that we've tested to have close to this maximum number.

A note on antenna choice: you can likely get away with using an omnidirectional outdoor antenna. This makes installation easier as you don't have to worry about pointing the antenna in the direction of nearby towers.

For smaller homes and apartments (under 1,500 square feet):

Our top choice for smaller homes and apartments with strong outdoor signal is the weBoost Home Multiroom. weBoost (formerly Wilson Electronics) are the market-leader in cell signal boosters, and we particularly appreciate their excellent technical support. The weBoost Home Complete uses 75 Ohm RG-6 coax cable with F-type connectors. RG-6 coax is easier to cut and crimp, and can be found at your local hardware store.

For larger homes and offices (from 1,500 to 5,000 square feet):

For larger homes and offices, we recommend using either the weBoost Installed Home Complete or the SureCall Fusion 5x 2.0. Both of these units have around 10 dBm downlink power, and can cover up to 10,000 square feet when used with 4 indoor antennas.

The Best Cell Signal Boosters For Larger Buildings (from 15,000 to 1,000,000+ square feet)

If you're covering a larger building, our team of solution engineers can save you hours of time by helping you scope the project. This consultation service is provided at no cost. Call us at (800) 761-3041.

If your building is particulary large (generally larger than 100,000 square feet), we also offer a turn-key installation service.

Installing cellular signal booster kits in larger buildings requires more careful consideration of the environment and outdoor signal levels, and you can save a significant amount on the total system cost by using couplers/taps to daisy-chain antennas. However, designing a daisy-chained system requires careful link budget calculations. Once you get in touch, we'll create a custom design for your building, utilizing the amplifiers and components that meet your coverage and budgetary needs.

That being said, we do have some recommendations on the types of amplifiers that make the most sense in larger buildings. Our top picks include the following:


The CEL-FI QUATRA EVO and QUATRA 4000c are the newest enterprise-grade products we carry. The technology is more advanced than any of the other large building cell boosters we sell: the QUATRA line digitizes cellular signal and distributes it via ethernet (Cat5e or better) cable. This dramatically increases the footprint they provide coverage for, while reducing cable costs and allowing the potential to reuse existing category cable runs.

The QUATRA EVO can deliver coverage for up to 2 carriers across its 4 bands (2 carriers with 2 bands each) or a single carrier across all 4 bands.

The QUATRA 4000c, on the other hand, can provide coverage for 3 carriers, as well as support for private 4G and 5G networks on the 3.5 GHz CBRS band.

The QUATRA EVO and 4000c use a single "Network Unit" (or NU) that has dedicated donor signal ports for each carrier and can support up to 6 "Coverage Units" (or CUs) which can be further expanded to 12 Coverage Units with the use of a Quatra Fiber Hub. With 6 coverage units, a single system can cover an area between 60,000 and 75,000 square feet. Power-over-Ethernet (POE) technology supplies power to each CU, conveniently sourced from their NU.

They offer up to 100 dB gain, which makes them ideal solutions for when the donor signal is weak (less than -80 dBm). Each Coverage Unit puts out up to 16 dBm of downlink output power - so installing a Network Unit with six Coverage Units is roughly equivalent to installing four to six "traditional" cell phone signal booster kits.

These products also have a robust remote monitoring and alarm system that allows users to monitor overall system health and get notified before end users ever notice an issue.

Verizon 4G LTE Network Extender for Enterprise

The Verizon 4G LTE Network Extender 3 for Enterprise (Casa Systems SM64-BLC) is an enterprise-grade femtocell (a type of small cell) that can improve coverage in an area of up to 75,000 sq ft for up to 200 users.

Instead of amplifying the outdoor signal, the Verizon 4G LTE Network Extender generates a fresh cell phone signal. It creates a secure VPN tunnel back to Verizon's network over a normal Internet connection. Since the unit generates fresh signal, no outdoor coverage is required in order to use this device.

The Verizon 4G LTE Network Extender for Enterprise is an excellent choice if you only need coverage for Verizon. Multiple units can be installed in the same building to expand coverage even farther.

There are two caveats, though: the unit requires both a fast internet connection and a GPS signal to work.

The Best Cell Signal Boosters For Cars, Trucks, and Boats

The FCC limits the gain of mobile amplifiers, which means that a mobile booster's effective coverage area is never very large.

Multi-carrier mobile boosters are limited to 50 dB gain, and single-carrier mobile signal booster kits are limited to 65 dB gain.

We've sold thousands of car, truck and boat signal booster kits, and our main tip is as follows: for best results, you'll need your phone to be essentially sitting on top of the indoor antenna. We recommend using a Bluetooth headset or your car's Bluetooth connection for actually making and receiving calls (it's safer, too!).

When comparing vehicle boosters, the most important specification to consider is the uplink power, measured in dBm.

Here's why: a booster helps maintain connectivity at the very edges of cell coverage, where your phone is barely able to connect. When you're far from the tower, it's the uplink that struggles. It's easy to see why: the tower transmits at a high power level with large antennas, but your phone has a much lower power transmitter. So while your phone can usually "hear" the tower just fine, your uplink signal back to the tower needs boosting. The greater the max uplink power rating of the booster, the louder it can "shout" back toward the tower.

Our Top Pick: the weBoost Drive Reach

The weBoost Drive Reach is the most powerful in-vehicle kit available. It offers significant uplink and downlink power as well as 50 dB of gain, the maximum permitted by the FCC for broadband mobile boosters.

It's so important though, we'll say it again: for best performance with a vehicle cell signal booster, you need to have your phone sitting directly on top of the in-vehicle antenna. To use your phone wirelessly, just connect via Bluetooth!

A Cradle Option: the weBoost Drive Sleek

In addition to weBoost's Drive Reach, we really like weBoost's "cradle" boosters. A cradle booster ensures that you always have your phone directly next to the booster's antenna. weBoost has a patent on this type of device, and while cradle boosters are limited to 23 dB gain by the FCC, performance is still considerably higher than other devices simply because of the way the cradle's antenna is kept ultra-close to the signal booster.

The brand new weBoost Drive Sleek 470135 is the latest in a long line of cradle boosters from weBoost. It's beautifully designed, with a number of aesthetic and functionality upgrades that make it our favorite car and truck booster. Due to the format, the Drive Sleek only works with one device at a time, and won't work with tablets or mobile hotspots. If you need something for those devices, consider the Drive Reach.

The Best Cell Signal Boosters for RVs

Losing mobile signal connectivity on the road makes long RV trips less fun – and arriving at a camp and finding you don't have usable cell signal can be frustrating. I was an RV owner for many years, so I've learned a thing or two about which units work best while on the road.

RV signal boosters are categorized by the FCC as "mobile boosters," which means multi-carrier, "broadband" amplifiers are limited to at most 50 dB in gain. This makes it difficult to cover the entire cabin of your RV with strong cellular signal while on the road. Instead, we recommend keeping the cell booster's indoor antenna directly next to either your phone or a hotspot device, and then using WiFi and Bluetooth to connect through that device for Internet access and voice calls.

The Best RV Signal Booster for Stationary and Mobile RVs

Our top recommendation for users category is the weBoost Drive Reach OTR offering up to 50dB of gain boosting 4G voice and data on all US cell carriers. It's a great system that has been deployed by hundreds of customers for use in RVs. The Drive Reach has three multi-device variants, powered by a vehicle power supply adapter: the Reach Vehicle, the Reach RV, and the Reach OTR. While the Drive RV is designed specifically for RV use, its clunky setup can make it harder to install and use than the Drive OTR.

Our Top Pick: the Best Signal Booster for Stationary Use

If you spend most of your time stationary at camp sites instead of on the road, we highly recommend installing a booster specifically designed for stationary RV's.

In particular, we highly recommend the weBoost Destination RV. With its included a 25 ft telescoping mast, directional antennas, and up to 72 dB gain, the Destination RV is designed to get above obstructions and provide the best signal available, even in weak signal conditions.

Systems built specifically for stationary use are allowed more gain by the FCC - between 65dB and 72dB (depending on the frequency), unlike the maximum 50 dB for the Drive Reach RV and other mobile boosters. The extra gain provided by the weBoost Destination RV allows for wireless coverage up to 30 ft away from its indoor antenna.

If you want connectivity while camped in remote areas, the weBoost Destination RV is the best RV booster available.

The Best Signal Booster for Boats

The weBoost Drive Reach Marine Kit is the best multi-carrier cell phone booster kit for boats on the market today. In our hands-on testing, we've found time and time again that it provides the best coverage when off-shore. We tested the Drive Reach both on small sailboats and huge passenger ships - and it consistently provides the best coverage.

The reason is simple:

When you're out on a boat, your signal gets weaker as you move away from shore. The reason the Drive Reach Marine kit works so well on boats is that it's been designed to have the highest uplink power possible (26 dBm!) and includes weBoost's tried and tested marine antenna. When you're at the edges of cell coverage, uplink power and antenna gain are what help you stay connected for voice and data calls.

Like all marine kits, the Drive Reach Marine is considered by the FCC to be a broadband, "mobile" booster kit and as such it offers up to 50 dB of gain, the maximum permitted by the FCC for broadband mobile boosters. The result of this lower gain number compared to "stationary" boosters is that it won't provide much of a coverage area - just a few feet at most.

We've sold thousands of signal booster kits for vehicles on the move, and our main tip is as follows: for best results, you'll need your cell phone or hotspot to be as close to the server antenna as possible. You may want to consider using a hotspot to rebroadcast the cellular signal as Wi-Fi if you need wireless cellular coverage for a larger area.

The Cellular Signal Guide: Essential Reading

Cell phone signal boosters can be quite complicated. Our goal in this section of the guide is to help explain how signal boosters work, how to pick the right accessories, and how to install your signal booster to get the absolute best performance.

We'll start with the basics, but as you read on, we'll get into more of the details of how to pick out the right booster and install it correctly.


  1. 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G NR
  2. Understanding Bars: They Aren't Just Signal Strength
  3. Understanding Bars: Causes of Weak and Noisy Signal
  4. Cellular Frequency Bands
  5. Should I buy MIMO Antennas or a Signal Booster?
  6. How a Cell Phone Signal Booster Works
  7. Do Cell Phone Boosters Support 5G?
  8. Measuring Signal Strength and Signal Quality
  9. Amplifier Specs: Gain and Downlink Power
  10. The FCC’s Signal Booster Regulations
  11. In-building Boosters: Choosing an Outdoor Donor Antenna
  12. In-building Boosters: How Many Indoor Antennas to Purchase
  13. In-building Boosters: Which Type of Indoor Antenna to Use
  14. This guide is too long, can you summarize it for me?
  15. Signal Booster Terminology

1 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G NR

2G, 3G, 4G LTE Signal Booster, and 5G Signal Boosters

Cell phone technology is typically released in generations; 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G all refer to cellular technologies released over the past 30 years. Here's a quick rundown of each technology:

  • 2G & 3G: 2G (GSM and CDMA) was the first widely adopted cellular technology, supporting basic voice, SMS, and data services, and was later replaced by 3G, which offered faster data speeds and was used for early smartphones.
  • 4G: The fourth generation of cellular networks was called LTE, and allowed considerably faster data rates and clearer voice calls. In recent years, 5G has become the predominant technology for data , with LTE still widely used as a fallback network.
  • 5G NR: The much-anticipated 5th generation of cellular networks began rolling out in 2018. The 5G standard is also called NR, which stands for "New Radio." 5G NR offers faster data rates, lower latency, and increased capacity compared to LTE. 5G NR comes in a few different flavors:

    5G DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) is 5G, but layered on the same frequencies used for 4G LTE. It offers only small benefits over 4G.

    5G NSA (Non-Standalone) is a sort of "bridge" from 4G LTE to 5G: devices connect on both a 4G band and a 5G band at the same time.

    5G SA (Standalone) is the truest form of 5G, and means the device is only connecting over a 5G network.

2 Understanding Bars: They Aren't Just Signal Strength

Signal Strength and Signal Quality can both cause low bars

Most people think the bars on their phone represent signal strength. But that’s not actually the case - signal bars are showing you two things:

  • Signal strength: A measure of the strength of the cellular signal when it reaches your phone (measured in dBm)
  • Signal quality: The ratio of actual source signal to the noise and interference also received by your phone (measured in dB)

Signal quality can limit the number of bars just as much as strength. Understanding this fact is really important for installing a signal booster correctly.

As we mentioned above, most cell networks utilize 4G LTE and 5G for both calls and data transmissions. In 4G and 5G networks, strength and signal quality are typically called "RSRP" and "SINR".

  • Reference Signal Received Power (RSRP): RSRP is a measure of a 4G LTE or 5G NR signal's strength. Strong signal is around -70 dBm RSRP or more, while weak signal is around -100 dBm RSRP or less.
  • Signal to Interference Plus Noise Ratio (SINR): SINR is a measure of a 4G LTE or 5G NR signal's quality. Clear signal has a SINR of over 10 dB, while low quality signal has a SINR of under 5 dB.

We'll show you how to measure each of these in the Measuring Signal Strength and Signal Quality section below.

3 Understanding Bars: Causes of Weak and Noisy Signal

There are four things that can cause you to see fewer bars and experience dropped calls and lower data rates. Often it’s not just one of these factors but a combination that causes weak reception at any particular location.

1 – Inter-cell Interference

Imagine two people are trying to talk to you at the same time from across a room. It's hard to follow what each person is saying - they keep talking over each other!

Exactly the same thing happens with your cell phone when there are multiple nearby towers.

If your phone is located between two or more cell towers, the other signal towers will act as "interferers" to the tower you're attempting to connect to, resulting in lower signal quality. Inter-tower interference is one of the primary causes of poor signal quality.

Because of their higher frequencies and denser cell deployments, 5G networks are especially vulnerable to inter-cell interference. Denser cell deployments result in more towers transmitting on the same frequency channels, which increases interference.

2 – Distance from the nearest cell phone tower

Cellular signal is weakened as it travels through space. If you’re very far away from the nearest cell phone tower, your signal will likely be quite weak. The cell phone’s internal radio will have a hard time “hearing” the cell tower’s signal (the “downlink” signal), and similarly, the cell tower will have a hard time “hearing” your cell phone (the “uplink” signal).

3 – Building materials/vehicle construction

Even if the signal outside the building or vehicle is strong, materials like drywall, wood, concrete, metal, and low-e glass can attenuate the signal, making it weaker inside a home, office, and vehicles.

4 – Geography and nearby buildings

In the same way that building materials block signal, your signal reception can be limited by attenuation from buildings between you and the nearest cell tower. Natural geography plays a part too: signal often can't be received in valleys or behind hills and mountains.

A signal booster can help no matter which of these is causing poor cell reception. However, if the primary cause of your signal issues is low-quality signal caused by inter-cell interference, your booster will need to be paired with a high-gain, directional antenna for best results.

4 Cellular Frequency Bands

Cellular service runs on a number of different bands that are licensed to the carriers by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). There are 4 main frequency bands used by carriers in the US. These four bands are supported by almost all of the boosters we sell:

Frequency (MHz) Verizon T-Mobile AT&T
600 b71
700 b12, b13, b17 b12, b13, b17 b12, b13, b17
850 b5 b5/b26 b5
1900 b2 b2/b25 b2
2100 b4/b66 b4/b66 b4/b66
2300 b30
2500 b41

5G bands by carrier

The different frequency bands that can be used for 5G are grouped into three categories: low-band, mid-band, and high-band/mmWave. Each category has advantages and limitations, which is why operators use all three bands to provide the best 5G experience possible.

  • Low-band 5G operates at frequencies less than 1000 Mhz. It offers the best coverage of all 5G frequencies, but the slowest speeds. Low-band 5G is frequently used in rural regions to give basic 5G coverage.
  • Mid-band 5G operates at frequencies ranging from 1000 to 6000 Mhz. It provides an excellent balance of coverage and speed and is commonly used in urban and suburban regions.
  • High-band 5G uses frequencies above 6000 MHz, as well as millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies. It boasts the quickest speeds of any 5G band, but has the worst coverage. In dense urban locations, high-band 5G is often used to provide ultra-fast 5G speeds for specific applications

These are the frequency bands that are available or will be available in the future on 5G by carrier:

Spectrum Frequency Verizon T-Mobile AT&T
Low-band 600 - 850 MHz n5 - 850 MHz n71 - 600 MHz n5 - 850 MHz
Mid-band 1.7 - 2.1 GHz n66 n2/n25 - 1.9 GHz
2.5 GHz n41
3.4 GHz n2
3.7 GHz n77 n77 n77
High-band 24 GHz n258 n258
28 GHz n261 n261
39 GHz n260 n260 n260
47 GHz n262

Unfortunately there's no one clear nomenclature for the different bands. However, if your phone is showing "5G UWB" on Verizon, or "5G+" on AT&T, it means you're connecting on mid-band or high-band spectrum, whereas a regular 5G icon means you're connecting on low-band spectrum.

No carrier uses just one frequency band in any particular area. Your phone will automatically switch between the different bands depending on which band offers the clearest and strongest signal.

The most important thing to know about frequency is that the higher the frequency, the more easily the signal is attenuated . So, for example, a 2500 MHz signal has a much harder time penetrating a building than a 700 MHz signal. However, it’s worth noting that higher frequencies are able to transfer more data.

How does this affect a booster installation? Even after you install a signal booster, the higher frequencies will still be attenuated more easily. As a result, boosting signal on the 700 MHz band inside a building is typically easier than boosting signal on a higher frequency band.

5 Should I buy MIMO Antennas or a Signal Booster?

Signal boosters blanket a building or vehicle with improved signal, whereas MIMO antennas are designed to connect directly to antenna ports on a cellular modem or gateway.

These two solutions serve different use cases, but the end result is the same: better data connectivity where cellular connectivity is less than perfect.

There are two reasons why you might want to consider buying MIMO antennas instead of a signal booster:

  1. You want the fastest possible data rates. MIMO antennas get access to a great number of bands and utilize a greater number of antennas, so they typically result in faster 4G and 5G data rates than using a signal booster.
  2. You're using T-Mobile 5G. If you're connecting on T-Mobile's 5G network, MIMO antennas are your only option. Unfortunately the FCC's rules for consumer signal boosters haven't been updated to support T-Mobile's 5G bands, so the only option is to use a modem or gateway with MIMO antennas.

To find the right MIMO antenna for your gateway, check out our hotspot and router antenna guides.

Or simply start by visiting our most popular MIMO antenna, the Waveform QuadMini:

6 How a Cell Phone Signal Booster Works

How a Cell Phone Signal Booster Works

A cell signal booster (also known as a cell repeater) works by amplifying the cell phone signal being sent to and from your phone to the nearby tower. There are three main components:

  • Donor antenna: The donor antenna is installed on the roof, and sends and receives signal from the tower. For some buildings, it makes sense to use a directional antenna. Using a directional antenna lets you aim at a particular tower, which both makes that signal stronger and reduces inter-cell interference.
  • Amplifier: The amplifier (sometimes called a “Bi-Directional Amplifier” (BDA) booster, or repeater) amplifies both signals coming from the tower to your cell phone and signal going back to the tower. The amplifier is connected to the donor antenna and indoor antennas by coaxial cable.
  • Indoor antenna(s): The indoor antennas distribute signal to, and receive signal from, your cell phone. The two most common types of indoor antenna are panel antennas and dome antennas.

7 Do Cell Phone Boosters Support 5G?

Unfortunately, the answer to this is a little bit complicated …

Here's the quick, practical summary:

  • If you're on AT&T or Verizon, and your phone shows a "5G" icon next to your signal bars when you turn off WiFi, a booster will amplify that signal. However, if your phone shows 5G+ or 5G UWB, then a booster won't amplify that signal.
  • If you're on T-Mobile, no booster will amplify your 5G signal.

Let's dig into this a bit more:

When the FCC approves a booster for sale in the US, they authorize it to transmit within designated frequency bands. This means that once a booster is approved to boost a specific band, any 5G signal within the frequency range of that band can also be boosted.

It doesn't matter which flavor of 5G is being used: it could be 5G DSS, 5G SA, or 5G NSA, but as long as it's on a band that the FCC said can be boosted, then a consumer signal booster can amplify it.

However, the FCC hasn't updated its rules to support some of the newer licensed frequencies that carriers are deploying 5G on. So, some of the juiciest 5G spectrum can't be boosted by any of the boosters on the market today.

Those newer bands include just about every band that T-Mobile uses for 5G, as well as the mid-band n2 and n77 signal that Verizon and AT&T are using for the bulk of their mid-band 5G roll-outs.

8 Measuring Signal Strength and Signal Quality

As we explained in the Understanding Bars section, signal strength and signal quality both impact the number of bars you see on your phone. Take a look at our comprehensive signal testing guide, or here's a quick summary::

Signal Strength (RSRP):

  • On Android phones, download the SignalStream app. The signal strength, in decibel-milliwatts (dBm), is shown both when you take signal measurements under the "Measure" tab and also under the "Signal Info" tab.
  • On iPhones, you will need to access “Field Test Mode” to see your signal strength. On some newer Verizon iPhones it isn't currently possible to use Field Test Mode to get a signal strength measurement. Check out our guide to the iPhone Field Test Mode for more information-you may need to find an Android phone for testing if your phone doesn't support signal strength measurements.

Signal Quality (SINR):

  • Signal quality information is harder to access on some phones.
  • On Android phones: on some models the same SignalStream app will show signal quality. The signal quality, measured in decibels (dB), is shown both when you take signal measurements under the "Measure" tab and also under the "Signal Info" tab. Some phones do not show SINR and instead use RSRQ, a similar measure with a slightly different scale.
  • On iPhones, you’ll again need to access your iPhone's Field Test Mode to find this information. Again, SINR is not shown on some newer Verizon iPhones.

9 Amplifier Specs: Gain and Downlink Power

The two main specifications of an amplifier that we think you should pay attention to are “gain” and “downlink power.” Here’s a little more on each:

  • Gain is a measure of how much the signal is amplified, measured in dB. The larger the gain value, the more the signal from the donor antenna is amplified.
  • Downlink output power, measured in dBm, is the maximum signal that the amplifier can retransmit inside the building or vehicle. The maximum downlink output power sets the maximum coverage area of the system when the amplifier has enough signal.

Each of these specifications is important, but in different situations:

  • If you have weak outdoor signal (-80 dBm RSRP or less) your amplifier will be gain-constrained: If signal at the donor antenna location (on top of your building or outside your vehicle) is quite weak (less than -80 dBm RSRP), the most important factor is the gain of the amplifier. Even with all the gain of the amplifier, you’re not likely to reach its maximum downlink output power. Since the downlink output power limit will never be reached, thus getting the amplifier with the highest gain possible should be your main goal.
  • If you have strong outdoor signal (-70 dBm RSRP or higher) your amplifier will be downlink power-constrained: If the signal at the donor antenna location signal is strong, the most important specification is the downlink output power. In this situation you’re quite likely to hit the maximum output power of the amplifier, so focusing on the downlink output power specification of the booster is the most important factor.

10 The FCC’s Signal Booster Regulations

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the organization that regulates the use of cellular frequencies in the United States. In 2014, the FCC created new regulations that apply to all signal boosters sold in the US. The FCC created two sets of regulations: one set for “broadband” devices that amplify all cellular signals from all carriers, and another set for “carrier-specific” boosters that only amplify the signal of one carrier at a time.

“Broadband” booster regulations:

  • The gain of the amplifier can be no more than:
    • 64 dB for the 700 MHz band
    • 65 dB for the 850 MHz band
    • 72 dB for the 1900 MHz PCS band
    • 71.2 dB for the 2100 MHz AWS band.
  • The downlink output power of the entire amplifier system, including the losses from the cable, can be no more than 17 dBm.

“Carrier-specific” booster regulations:

  • The gain of the amplifier can be no more than 100dB on any band.
  • The downlink output power of the entire amplifier system, including the losses from the cable, can be no more than 12 dBm per 5 Mhz block.

Since the gain of broadband boosters is limited by the FCC, we recommend using a carrier-specific booster where possible if you have weak signal at the outdoor donor antenna location. At the moment, the only carrier-specific boosters are made by Nextivity. Their product line includes the CEL-FI GO X, QUATRA 4000c and QUATRO EVO.

11 In-building Boosters: Choosing an Outdoor Donor Antenna

Choosing the right outdoor antenna and aiming it correctly is one of the main ways that you can improve the performance of your signal booster. There are two ways that the right donor antenna can help:

  • Most donor antennas have some gain (measured in dBi). The antenna gain adds to the overall gain of the signal booster system you install. If you have weak outdoor signal, a high-gain outdoor antenna can increase the downlink output power of the system and increase your indoor coverage area.
  • Some donor antennas are directional. This allows you to focus in one direction and improve the quality of the signal being received by the signal booster system. This helps improve coverage and the number of bars you see.

Omni-directional Antennas

Omni” antennas, as they’re often called, work best when you have strong and clear outdoor signal. They’re considerably simpler to install than directional antennas, as they don’t need to be aimed – but you should make sure you have 3 or more bars of signal where you’re installing the omni antenna.

Directional Antennas

While directional antennas take a little more work to aim and install, we generally recommend them to anyone who has either weaker outdoor signal or in cases where signal is strong but noisy (low SINR and RSRQ).

Directional antennas can take a bit more effort to set up but the benefits are threefold:

  • The antenna's gain adds to your signal booster's gain - you can get up to 20 dB extra signal by using a highly directional antenna.
  • If the outdoor signal is noisy, it’s typically due to inter-cell interference – there are multiple nearby towers broadcasting on the same frequencies. A directional antenna lets you focus on one of the towers, and improve indoor coverage.
  • In some cases a broadband, multi-carrier booster’s performance can be affected by a “near-far effect,” where a nearby tower’s signal saturates the amplifier and prevents a weaker carrier’s signal from being amplified. A directional antenna allows you to focus the amplifier on a more distant tower and better balance the incoming signal.

Installing a directional antenna typically improves signal for one carrier without significant sacrifice on other carriers, as cell towers are often clustered in the same area, and the best direction usually benefits all carriers. While a directional antenna may slightly reduce signals from other directions, it still allows you to maintain excellent coverage from multiple towers on different carriers by aiming and equalizing the signals.

The Griddy

Our Griddy antenna is an ultra high gain antenna: ideal for when you're on the very edges of cell coverage or want to improve the quality of signal as much as possible.

Griddy covers a wide range of frequencies, from 600MHz to 6500MHz. This includes all the LTE spectrum and 5G bands like n71 and n41.

Griddy can either be paired with a signal booster, or multiple Griddys can be connected in a MIMO configuration directly to a 4G/5G cellular modem, gateway, or router.

However, one note: since Griddy is so directional, it's also tricky to aim. You need to get the direction right to within a couple of degrees for best results. For this reason, we only recommend Griddy if you have line of sight to the nearest cell tower.

How to Aim a Directional Antenna

Aiming a directional antenna for most broadband, multi-carrier boosters requires two people: one person outside aiming the antenna, and another person standing indoors, near the signal booster’s indoor antenna, taking signal measurements with each new location and direction. While it’s a little time-consuming, finding the right antenna location and direction can have a huge effect on your signal booster’s performance.

12 In-building Boosters: How Many Indoor Antennas to Purchase

Many of our in-building signal boosters come with options that include multiple additional antennas. So, how many antennas do you actually need? The answer’s a little complicated, but, generally: the more antennas you use, the better.

Signal travels much more easily through coaxial cable than it does through air or through walls and doors. By distributing the signal throughout the building via coaxial cable, you’ll see much more consistent coverage.

Now, obviously you don’t want to be installing hundreds of antennas – there's a point of diminishing returns. As a very rough rule, we recommend installing one antenna per 1,500 square feet of coverage for home and small office applications.

A more accurate answer needs to take into account the signal strength and clarity at the donor antenna location, the amplifier you’re using, and whether the space you’re covering is large and open or divided by walls. Generally, if your outdoor signal is weak or you’re using a weaker amplifier, you should use more antennas. If the space is more open and there are fewer walls, you can use fewer antennas. If you're unsure, well, that's why we're here: reach out and we can help guide you.

13 In-building Boosters: Which Type of Indoor Antenna to Use

There are two main types of indoor antennas: dome antennas and panel antennas. Many of our kits are available with the option to choose which you want.

Dome antennas

You should use dome antennas when:

  • The area you are looking to cover is not thin and narrow (e.g. a hallway).
  • You are able to access the space behind the ceiling.

Since the cable for a dome antenna emerges from the back of the device, you need to have access to the area above where you’re installing a dome. For example, if you’re installing in an office space with removable ceiling tiles, dome antennas are the way to go. Similarly, if you’re installing in the top floor of a house with an accessible crawl space or attic above, dome antennas can easily be installed.

Dome antennas distribute signal equally in all directions, and should be installed centrally to the area you’re looking to cover. If the space is long and narrow, then a panel antenna may be a better choice

Panel antennas

You should use panel antennas when:

  • The area you are looking to cover is long and thin.
  • You are not able to access to the space behind the ceiling.

Panel antennas are typically mounted on walls. The coax cable pigtail usually comes out of the bottom of the antenna, meaning that you don’t need to make a hole in your wall to install the antenna and connect a cable. For that reason, we recommend using panels when you’re not able to access the space behind the ceiling.

Panel antennas focus signal in a beam. Typically the beam is relatively wide (around 45 degrees), but some specialty antennas are narrower. The generally beam-forming nature of panel antennas makes them ideal when you’re trying to cover a long and thin area.

14 This Guide is Too Long, Can You Summarize It For Me?

Sure :)

  • If you need help, pick up the phone and call us. We'll help you get a kit customized for your application. Our phone number is 1-800-761-3041 and we're available from 6:00AM to 5:00PM PST, Mon-Fri.
  • All calls are now made over LTE rather than over 2G or 3G and are starting to transition to 5G.
  • The signal bars you see in the corner of your phone aren't just showing the signal strength: they're also showing the signal quality. Before buying a booster, it can be helpful to find out what the signal strength (RSRP) and signal quality (SINR) values are outdoors. More here.
  • Each cellular carrier uses a combination of bands in different areas. Lower frequency bands (700 MHz and 850 MHz) penetrate buildings more easily, so we recommend focusing on amplifying them. More here.
  • 5G can be categorized into two types: Standalone (SA) 5G and non-standalone (NSA) 5G (which shares 4G bands and infrastructure). Current 5G is mainly of the NSA type.
  • The two most important specs to look at for a booster are gain and downlink output power.
    • If your outdoor signal is very weak (less than -80 dBm you should focus on the gain specification.
    • If your outdoor signal is strong (higher than -70 dBm) you should focus on the downlink output power specification .
  • The FCC sets limits for the allowed downlink output power and gain for signal boosters.
    • The maximum gain for "broadband," multi-carrier boosters (products from Wilson, weBoost (formerly Wilson Electronics), SureCall, etc.) is 64 dB to 72 dB (depending on the frequency) for stationary or in-building use, and 50 dB for mobile or in-vehicle use.
    • The maximum gain for "single-carrier" boosters (products from Cel-Fi) is 100 dB for stationary or in-building use, and 65 dB for mobile or in-vehicle use.
  • If you have a weak outdoor signal (less than -80 dBm), you should use a single-carrier booster from Cel-Fi if one is available.
  • If your outdoor signal is strong (higher than -70 dBm), a "broadband" multi-carrier booster from Wilson, weBoost, or SureCall is a better choice.
  • Outdoor antennas (for buildings):
    • If the signal on the roof is both strong and high quality (you should see three or more bars) on all the carriers you want to boost, an "omni-directional antenna" should be just fine.
    • If the signal is weak or low quality, a "directional" antenna like a yagi or a log-periodic antenna is best. They're a little more complicated to install, but worth the effort.
    • Griddy is a highly directional antenna with up to 26dB of gain, making it excellent at combating interference and noise. It's best used with a booster for weak or poor-quality signals. It can also enhance LTE/5G router signals and provide faster internet when used in MIMO setups, requiring either two or four Griddy antennas.
  • MIMO antennas:
    • MIMO antennas connect to LTE or 5G routers with cellular SIM cards and work by utilizing multiple data streams. If you want the fastest data rates, MIMO antennas connected to 4G/5G modems or gateways are often better than boosters. Check out our hotspot and gateway antenna guides here.
  • Indoor antennas (for buildings):
    • If signal outside is good, you should install about 1 antenna per 1,500 square feet of coverage. If you have multiple floors, make sure each floor has its own antennas.
    • Panel vs. Dome antennas: A panel antenna can be installed on walls. Dome antennas must be installed on ceilings. If you have ceiling tiles or crawl-space, you can use dome antennas. Otherwise, use panel antennas.

15 Signal Booster Terminology

  • Radio frequency (RF) – Radio frequency is any frequency used to transmit a wireless radio signal, which includes cellular signal, WiFi signal, and regular FM and AM radio.
  • Downlink signal – the signal sent from the cell phone tower to your phone.
  • Uplink signal – the signal sent from your cell phone back to the tower.
  • The FCC – The Federal Communications Commission, the government organization responsible for regulating use of the airwaves (and signal boosters) in the US.
  • Gain (dB) – Gain is the measure of amplification. The higher the gain, the more the signal is amplified. Gain is typically a positive dB number, and it’s measured on a logarithmic scale. 0 dB gain means no gain. 10 dB gain equates to 10 times the signal strength, but 20 dB gain is 100 times more signal, and 30 dB gain is 1,000 times more signal.
  • Antenna gain (dBi) – Antennas also have gain, but they don’t “amplify” signal. Instead, they focus on sending and receiving signal in a particular direction. dBi is also a logarithmic scale. An antenna with 0 dBi signal doesn’t focus the signal at all, whereas an antenna with 10 dBi signal receives and transmits 10 times more signal from a particular direction than other directions.
  • Attenuation (dB) – Attenuation is the weakening of signal over distance, or as it passes through building material. Attenuation is measured in dB, and is typically a negative value (signal gets weaker). -10 dB attenuation is a 10 times weaker signal. -20 dB attenuation is a 100 times weaker signal.
  • 3 dB – As mentioned above, dB is a logarithmic scale, and 3 dB is exactly half the power. Most splitters have around 3 dB attenuation – they split the power coming through a coaxial cable in half.
  • DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) is a 5G deployment technique that allows 4G and 5G users to share the same spectrum band by dynamically allocating spectrum resources to either 4G or 5G users based on demand.
  • SA (Standalone 5G) is a deployment mode that uses a dedicated 5G core network. It is the most advanced deployment mode and offers the best performance however it requires carriers to replace their entire core network which is expensive and time consuming.
  • NSA (Non-Standalone 5G) is a deployment mode that uses existing 4G core networks to provide 5G service. This allows carriers to deploy 5G in a quick and efficient manner without having to to replace their entire core network.
  • Signal strength (dBm) – A wireless signal’s strength is measured in dBm. Similar to gain, the signal is logarithmic. 0 dBm is 1 milliwatt, or 0.001 Watts; 30 dBm is 1 Watt; -10dBm is 0.0001 W, or 0.1 milliwatt.
  • Coaxial cable – Coaxial cable is a special type of cable designed to carry radio frequency (RF) signal. It typically has a copper center conductor, some sort of shielding, and an outer conductor.
  • Donor antenna – The donor antenna in a signal booster system is the antenna typically placed outside the building or vehicle and that communicates with the cell phone tower.
  • Indoor antenna – The indoor antenna in a signal booster system is the antenna that is installed inside the building or vehicle and that communicates with your cell phone.
  • Omni-directional antenna – An omni-directional antenna is an antenna with low antenna gain that receives and transmits signal in almost all directions equally.
  • Directional antenna – A directional antenna is an antenna with more gain, and that focuses receiving and receiving antenna in a particular direction. The three main types of directional antenna are “panel,” “yagi,” and “log periodic” antennas.
  • MIMO - MIMO stands for "Multiple Input, Multiple Output." It's a technology used in wireless communication systems, including Wi-Fi and 4G/5G cellular networks. MIMO involves using multiple antennas at both the transmitter (input) and receiver (output) to improve the efficiency and performance of wireless communication. Read our full MIMO antenna guide.
  • Dome antenna – A dome antenna is a type of indoor antenna that is typically installed in the ceiling of a building, and transmits signals downwards.
  • Panel antenna – A panel antenna is a type of antenna that can be installed as a donor antenna outdoors or indoors on a wall, and transmits signal outwards in the direction it is facing.
  • Lightning surge protector – A device that protects your home and signal boosting equipment in case lightning hits the donor antenna.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do signal boosters really work?

Yes, they do! Signal boosters amplify both the signal being received by and sent from your phone, resulting in stronger signal. And if you use a directional outdoor antenna, you can also improve your signal quality as well.

Will a signal booster increase data rates?

Yes, a signal booster will almost always help you increase your data rates, whether it's for a hotspot or a phone. That being said, your data rates depend on a number of factors, and boosting signal strength is only a small part of the equation.

Data rates for 4G and 5G networks depend on the following factors:

  • Signal strength: but only up to about -90 dBm RSRP. Signal stronger than -90 dBm won't increase your data rates.
  • Signal quality: the higher your SINR, the higher your data rates. That's why it's critical to use a directional outdoor antenna with your booster and aim it properly to get the best data rates.
  • Tower congestion: there's not a ton you can do about this, and it will likely fluctuate over the course of a day. The more users connected, the lower your data rates.
  • The number of connected bands: 4G LTE and 5G devices can connect on multiple bands simultaneously. The more bands you're connected to, the better. A booster can help amplify weaker bands from outside so you can get the best data rates.
  • Your phone or hotspot: Generally, the newer your hotspot or phone, the better the data rates you'll see. Devices are constantly adding new features to improve data rates. If you're using a device that's more than 2-3 years old, it's probably time to upgrade!

What causes bad cell phone reception?

There are three things that can cause bad cell phone reception: weak signal, low-quality signal, and congestion on the cell network. You can fix each of these with a signal booster. Weak signal can be amplified by the booster and a directional outdoor antenna can be used to improve signal quality.

By amplifying the signal of higher frequency bands and making them available to your devices, a cell phone signal booster can also help you overcome tower congestion. Higher frequency bands travel less far and penetrate buildings less well, so they are generally less congested than lower frequency bands.

What causes dropped calls?

Dropped phone calls are almost always caused by either low signal strength or low signal quality. Phone calls are transmitted in almost exactly the same way as data. By increasing your signal strength and signal quality, you'll be able to boost both your cell service and your data rates.

What is the strongest cell phone booster?

The booster with the highest gain is the Cel-Fi GO X for buildings. With 100 dB of gain, it amplifies cell signal more than any other booster on the market today. However, it only works with one carrier at a time.

Gain isn't the only measure of a signal booster: downlink output power matters too. If you have a strong outdoor signal, downlink output power is more important than gain. There's a lot more competition here, devices from SureCall, weBoost, Wilson and HiBoost all have competitive downlink power levels.

If you're in a vehicle, uplink output power is the most important measure. The weBoost Drive Reach is the clear winner here, with more uplink power than any other booster on the market.

Are cell phone boosters worth it?

The answer here really depends. But consider: how much did you spend on your last phone? How much do you pay annually for your cell service? Chances are, your household spends thousands of dollars a year on cell service already. Spending money on a signal booster to make sure you're getting reliable coverage and the best data rates is worth it for many people.

Is there an app to boost cell phone signal?

No, there's no such app. If you see apps that claim to boost your cell phone signal - stay clear. If there were something you could do via software to boost your signal, your phone would likely implement that change. The majority of apps that claim to boost your signal are scams, and you'll be able to see their poor reviews.