Posted by: Craig Mathias
cellular, cellular coverage, cellular repeaters, repeater
I think I mentioned this before, but I’ve got fairly poor cellular coverage where I live. This is frustrating for obvious reasons, but also because it’s not like I’m off in the wilderness – rather, I’m in the suburbs of Boston and only about a half-mile from the Mass Pike. Things should be better. I’ve got acceptable coverage from Verizon, assuming I’m outdoors or on the second floor of my house, but AT&T and thus iPhone service – nada. But there is a solution here that’s pretty easy, although not a slam dunk – it’s called a cellular repeater.
A repeater is a device about the size of a Wi-Fi access point that has a small antenna on the case, and then a connection for a larger antenna that is installed via a length of coax cable. Basically, it’s an intelligent booster amplifier, and some of these are actually (mostly, anyway) carrier-independent. In other words, they work with essentially any handset, voice and data, and transparently. Install the repeater, power it up, and you’re done. Coverage problem solved.
That installation part, though, might take some doing. You know that antenna at the end of the length of coax? You really need to separate it from the base station by a good distance, and you might want to hide that cable and antenna if aesthetics are a concern. This might require professional help. But it shouldn’t be too much of a job, and the repeater itself sells for a very reasonable $200-300, depending upon model and where it’s purchased, of course. I’m at present using the zBoost YX-510, and, yes, testing shows that I could indeed now get an iPhone if so inclined. I think I’ll wait for a Verizon iPhone anyway, since I’m already a Verizon customer, or perhaps the Nexus One, again from Verizon, when it’s available. More on handsets later.
You do not, by the way, require the approval of your carrier to install a repeater. Their use is governed by FCC regulations, so you’re in the clear here. There are also no recurring fees.
Many have noted that another reasonable approach to solving the coverage problem is the use of femtocells. I disagree, and I’ll cover these next time.