The Ramblings of Two Microsoft .NET Developers, TFS, and Visual Studio ALM Guys --- "Yes, we are both named Ed."

Boosting the Cell Phone Signal in Your Home with zBoost



It’s been a little quiet around here for me because I’ve been in the process of moving to Charleston, SC.  I think I’m settling in well and have a little more time off before I start my new Visual Studio Team System consulting job at Notion Solutions.  So far Charleston and James Island has been really great.  Lots of great stuff to do including restaurants, the beach, and lots of parks.  As much as I love Texas, it’s really good to live in a costal city.

I just moved into my new homeCharleston Home and if you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that the only thing that has been tough in the new house is the cell phone reception and Wi-Fi signals inside.  If you’ve ever had that problem, you know it can be a real headache.  (If I haven’t called you back it’s probably because I don’t even know that you have called recently :) !)  I really think they put metal mesh or steel plates in the walls and between the floors when they built this house!

I believe @willia4 says it best:

image

The hunt was on to solve this problem and a few friends had suggested a newly available product called zBoost that creates a cell zone inside your home.  I was quite skeptical but after starting to look it seemed to be a realistic possibility.  After visiting the local Radio Shack and not finding it, I decided to look online and found it on Amazon.  A good thing about these products is that they also work with multiple phones & devices inside so you don’t have to worry about it only helping one device at a time.

 

I spent some time comparison shopping  between buying direct and several online electronic shopping sites and noticed that Amazon had the best deal and about $100 off of retail.  Be careful about which one you order since there are three different models.  Two of the models only work with one set of frequencies but the model I chose is the “dual” frequency model that will work with both spectrums and nearly all the cell phone frequencies in the US.  If you order the single-frequency models you’ll save about $100 on other sites but Amazon had the dual-frequency model for the same price as the single-frequency models!

Cell-Phone Frequencies

  • PCS 1900 MHz: Sprint and T-Mobile
  • CEL 800 MHz: AT&T and Verizon
  • For more information about the cell phone frequencies used in your area, check out:  Wireless Advisor

Installation

So the one thing that you’ll notice immediately (and the only thing I didn’t like about it) is that there are a lot of requirements for the installation to get it working well.

  • To capture the best signal, place the Signal Antenna as high as possible and position it vertically, keeping it at least 2 feet away from any metal.
  • The location of the Signal Antenna should be at least 15 feet higher than the Base Unit Antenna.  (If this is not possible, maximizing the horizontal separation between the two antennas is advised.)
  • If you have extra slack in the cable leftover, don’t let it be near the base unit.  Find the middle point in the line and collect the slack there.
  • Put the base unit closer to the middle of the house and avoid putting it next to an external wall. 
  • Before permanently fastening or bolting the antenna, be sure to check the signal strength in that spot using your cell phone and checking out how many bars you get.  That’s the most you’ll be getting from the cell zone created around the base unit inside.
  • Be sure to use the dedicated coax cable that they provide in the box instead of using the existing coax cabling that may be already installed in your house. For one, the cable provided in the box is RG-6 coax instead of RG-59 coax which is most often used for the TV coax cabling installed in houses.  RG-6 provides lower signal loss than RG-59.  The other more important factor is that you need a dedicated run between the antenna and the base unit so that the signal is not being shared for other things as the TV coax cabling is used in a house.

 

Attempt #1

The first attempt was to attach the antenna to a rafter in the attic and then run the coax to the base station in one of the rooms upstairs.  The initial installation check worked out well and the lights on the base unit ended up being happy.  Cell phone reception upstairs was just great.  As I started walking downstairs, I quickly noticed the signal drop very similar to what I had been seeing with my wireless router signal loss downstairs.  I swear there must be some steel plates between the floors that is causing some problems.

This wasn’t going to work.  At home, I end up spending most of my time downstairs in the living room, master bedroom, kitchen, dining room, etc.

Attempt #2

Honestly, just take this route.  It’ll take some more time and possibly put you in some danger but just bite the bullet.  You’ll definitely appreciate the result in the end!

I decided that the base station needed to go downstairs and probably in the living room where the signal needed to be the strongest since I spend the most time in that room.  So the best solution available was to attach the Signal Antenna to the roof, run the coax cable down the side of the house and then up through the floor of the living room, and put the base unit in the living room closer to the middle of the house.  Thankfully there was already a hole drilled through the living room floor so the cable was just run through it.

Bingo – the signal was amazing downstairs.  Five bars  in the living room and four bars everywhere else downstairs.  Interestingly, going upstairs now there are three bars.  I don’t know the explanation but I’m just really glad it is all working!

 

More Powerful Antennas Available

If you feel the need to turn the juice up, you definitely can with the optional accessories and better antennas available that help you expand the coverage zone to nearly 10,000 feet.  They are available on the Wi-Ex site or through Amazon.

 

And before anyone thinks that I actually installed this, I’ll just stop now and thank my friends (specifically Nathan) for helping out.  I’m not really the “handy” type of guy so it’s helpful to have friends who are :)  So here’s to five cell phone bars in the living room now…

 

Take care,

Ed Blankenship

Posted in


Thursday, August 01, 2013 3:35:18 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Thanks for the information. Keep on writing.
Name
E-mail
(will show your gravatar icon)
Home page

Comment (Some html is allowed: a@href@title, b, blockquote@cite, em, i, strike, strong, sub, sup, u) where the @ means "attribute." For example, you can use <a href="" title=""> or <blockquote cite="Scott">.  

[Captcha]Enter the code shown (prevents robots):

Live Comment Preview