This is an article I’ve been trying to write for a long time. Why is it so hard? It should be a simple question. It all started with a routine request from a customer that simply said, “what’s the best cell booster you make?” The answer, it turns out, is a lot harder than you’d think.
First, consider the different types of boosters.
The best booster for you is the one that actually satisfies your needs. Those needs can be quite different. All cell boosters do essentially the same thing: They take in a weak signal from outside, amplify it and rebroadcast it inside. Then, they take the signal from your phone, amplify it and rebroadcast it to the cell tower. They do this over and over. But surprisingly, there are are many different kinds of cell boosters.
Single-user “cradle” boosters for vehicles
If you’re all alone in the car, you might want to choose a cradle booster like this weBoost Drive Sleek. A cradle booster clips onto the back of your phone and gives you great service for just that phone. It’s going to be the least expensive option, as well as the easiest to install.
Multi-user vehicle boosters
For a family, something like this weBoost Drive 4G-X is a great option. It boosts signal for everyone in the vehicle. It’s a semi-permanent install that most DIYers can do, but it might be best left to a professional if you’re looking for the cleanest possible look. Multi-user vehicle cell boosters come in many different shapes and sizes and can be outfitted for everything from a minivan to a big rig and everything in between.
SOHO cell booster
SOHO stands for “small office/home office” and it describes any situation where you’re in a small environment. Something like this weBoost Connect 4G is a good example. It’s designed for a DIY install where you need cell service improvements in an average sized home, or an office of similar size. It’s going to take a few skills and a few tools to install, but most people can do it by themselves without calling an electrician. In general, you’ll need to find a way to put an antenna up on your roof and run a wire into your home. Once you do, you’ll find that you have much better service inside than outside!
Commercial grade “DAS” boosters
Here’s where you can get serious. A booster like this Wilson Pro 1000C will flood a medium-sized office with great cell service. It’s designed to be professionally installed and it’s usually going to be part of a whole plan to improve cell service throughout a building. This may mean multiple antennas or even multiple boosters depending on the size of the installation. It’s also going to give you customization options you didn’t have with other boosters and can even be monitored from an app to make sure everything is running perfectly.
What brand should you choose?
Up until now I have been talking about weBoost and Wilson boosters. Both brands are owned by Wilson Electronics, one of the pioneers in the cell booster field. I personally like Wilson’s products because they are easy to install and they have a lot of options without making you feel like you’re overwhelmed. They also have a lot of refurbished boosters which are in “good-as-new” condition so you can choose to save a lot of money. However, there are other brands at Solid Signal and in most cases you can’t go wrong. Let’s take a quick look at them.
SureCall is Wilson’s primary competitor. I’ve been a fan of them for a long time as well because their products, even the low-priced ones, are incredibly well built. SureCall has one of the few boosters that can be installed without an indoor antenna, and they also have a super-powered booster kit that is designed to give you everything you need to boost an area of 80,000 square feet. You can’t go wrong with a SureCall booster. In many cases your choice of Wilson or SureCall is going to depend on your specific needs and which booster is at the right price for you.
Hiboost is a relative newcomer, only being here in the US for a few years. They’re a Chinese-made alternative that brings a lower-end price with a higher-powered booster. They haven’t proven themselves in the US but for many people the price is going to be too good to refuse. A lot of times, they’ll perform as well as something more expensive, but the long-term reliability isn’t known yet.
Smoothtalker focuses on boosters for permanent mobile installations. This Canadian-based company offers high-quality, durable boosters that can be configured for virtually anything you need. If you’re looking at equipping commercial vehicles, they might be worth looking at.
Cel-Fi comes to the cell booster space with an interesting idea. By using Wi-Fi to connect the two antennas in a system, they can bypass a lot of the regulations that apply to cell booster power. The result is an easy-to-install system that might work well for you. However, Cel-Fi products only work with one carrier at a time so they may not be for you if you are looking for something general-purpose.
One more consideration
Before you decide on a booster, there is one more thing to consider. Some older and less expensive boosters will only boost voice and 3G data. This may be a good option for you because you can save money, but in order to get good data service you’ll need to be connected to Wi-Fi. So will your guests. I’ve said that 3G-only boosters were a good choice in the past but today I think you really need a booster that covers 4G and LTE. That’s how people interact with their phones today.
Speaking of 3G vs. 4G, you might be asking yourself if any of these boosters handle 5G, the next upcoming standard in cellular. It will probably be 3-4 years before we see 5G boosters, possibly more. It’s a completely new technology that is nothing like the cell service we use today. It will take some time for cell boosters to catch up. That shouldn’t stop you from choosing the right booster today.
If this all hasn’t convinced you what to buy, there are several great ways to get more information. Fill out the form below, or just give our team a call at 877.312.4547. We’ll help you figure out which booster is right for you and even offer expert advice on installation! Solid Signal is the best choice for cellular boosters, and when you look at our selection, you’ll see why.