null

Femtocell vs. Signal Booster: Which is Better?

2nd Oct 2020 by Wilson Amplifiers
Femtocell vs. Signal Booster: Which is Better?
Discover how femtocells and signal boosters can help improve your cellular signal and which option is better for your needs.

See complete cell signal booster kits for your situation:

Home / Small Office
Car / Truck / RV / Boat
Commercial Building

Do you struggle with poor cell reception, dropped calls, and unsent text messages? If you do, you’ve probably heard that femtocells and signal boosters can help solve those problems. Fortunately, they can, but they do so in different ways.

What is a Femtocell?

To fully understand femtocells (also known as microcells), let’s start with the big boys – macrocells. Macrocells provide radio coverage for cellular networks. They are served by high-power cell sites, such as towers, antennas, or masts. Basically, macrocells can provide cellular network coverage for large areas. But, many people still struggle with unreliable cell phone signal in their homes and office buildings. Things like building material, tall buildings, and terrain, can interfere with the signal.

Small cells are similar to macrocells, but smaller in size. Essentially, they take care of the small areas that macrocells struggle to reach. They consist of small low-powered antennas to improve the cellular coverage and capacity in smaller areas. There are three types of small cells: metrocells, picocells, and femtocells. Femtocells are the smallest type of small cell and operate on licensed frequency bands. They are low-power cellular base stations that require a high-speed broadband connection to improve cell phone signal in homes and small businesses.

They look similar to wireless access points (routers), but they work very differently. Routers create a local wireless network and femtocells create a local cellular network. Unlike routers, femtocells use your internet connection and convert it into a reliable cellular signal.


How do Femtocells Work?

Many people are able to get internet in their homes but struggle with poor cell phone signal and dead spots. Femtocells are designed to solve those problems.

They are typically provided by your cellular carrier. To create a cellular network, the femtocell will need to establish a connection with your cellular provider through a broadband internet connection. Most femtocell systems are compatible with cable, DSL, and fiber internet. They will not work with satellite or wireless internet.

An ethernet backhaul will be required to connect the femtocell to your router. After the device has been installed, you will have to register the phone numbers of the subscribers (mobile phones) that will be connecting to it. Many devices can be registered, but only 4-8 handset devices will be able to use the femtocell simultaneously. The other subscribers will have to wait for their turn.

When you make a phone call or send a text message, the signal travels through your internet connection, into a FEMTO gateway, and then it’s sent out to its destination. Essentially, femtocells are your personal mini cell towers. As a result, you will no longer have to rely on WiFi calling to avoid dropped calls and unsent SMS messages. But, like with all connectivity devices, you have to be within the femtocells range to maintain a reliable network connection. Typically, they provide a coverage area of 10 meters (32 feet), but it can vary based on the make and model. If 10 meters is not enough, you might need additional units to cover large indoor spaces.

The registered devices should experience a seamless handover when transitioning from the femtocell to macrocell, assuming reliable cellular signal is available. On the other hand, transitions from macrocells to femtocells can be challenging. If you’re on a call, your cellular signal will not transfer from the cell tower to your femtocell, potentially causing the call to drop.

However, there are two drawbacks to femtocells. Since they use your internet connection's bandwidth to create a cellular signal, you can experience speed slowdowns when the internet is in use and phone calls are being made simultaneously. Lastly, femtocells are carrier-specific. If you have the AT&T microcell and your family uses T-Mobile, they will not be able to benefit from the improved cellular signal.


Where can I Get a Femtocell?

Most femtocells are provided by your cellular carrier. To get one, you might need to go through a qualification process to make sure the device will work in your area.

Check out the different femtocells provided by major cell phone carriers:

  • AT&T MicroCell: Unfortunately, this device has been discontinued, but it’s still worth mentioning. The MicroCell only supported 2G and 3G signals. To work, it was recommended that your broadband supported a minimum of 1.5 Mbps downstream and 256 Kbps upstream. A total of 15 devices could be registered to use the MicroCell, but only 4 devices could use it simultaneously. Through the MicroCell online portal, users could control which devices could connect to the MicroCell. The signal range approximated 5,000 square feet (40 ft). However, walls, furniture, and building material could affect the coverage area and the strength of the signal.
  • Verizon 4G Network Extender 2: The Network Extender enhances 4G LTE coverage and provides access to 4G LTE data, HD voice, and video calling. To do its job, it needs an internet connection with a minimum of 10 Mbps download speeds and 5 Mbps upload speeds. For optimal performance, 20 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds (or better) are recommended. They can cover areas up to 7,500 square feet (50 ft) and it can withstand up to 14 simultaneous voice calls. The only downside is that there is no way to control who accesses the device. Anybody who has Verizon can connect to the Network Extender and reap the benefits.
  • Sprint Airave 4: Sprint users who want an Airave to enhances LTE and voice coverage must qualify for it. The qualifications are based on specific account criteria to ensure that it will work for the customer. Not all locations are in the Airave’s coverage areas. Under perfect conditions, it can cover areas up to 5,000 square feet. If the coverage area is not enough, additional units can be used. A total of 8 wireless voice calls are supported simultaneously and 16 LTE simultaneous sessions. Similar to the network extender, any Sprint user can use the Airave and benefit from the enhanced signal.
  • T-Mobile 4G LTE CellSpot V2: The CellSpot creates 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE to improve indoor coverage, voice calls, and data speeds. Under perfect conditions, it can cover up to 3,000 square feet. It’s recommended to have a reliable internet connection with 2 Mbps download speeds (or more), 0.5 Mbps upload speeds (or more), and a latency/ping measurement of 200 ms (or less). The CellSpot supports up to 16 simultaneous users – 8 on 4G LTE and 8 on 3G/4G. Similar to Verizon and Sprint, there is no way to control who uses the CellSpot.

Femtocell Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Improves the quality of service in homes and small offices
  • Will work even if there is no cellular signal available
  • Can monitor the connected mobile devices through the femtocell’s online account (if the option is available)
  • Can improve battery life since the phone is not constantly searching for a cellular signal

Disadvantages

  • Are carrier-specific
  • Only work indoors
  • Can slow down your internet speeds
  • Calls do not transition from cell towers to the femtocell
  • They require DSL, cable, or fiber internet which is not available everywhere
  • Cell service providers may charge additional monthly fees for the device on top of an initial payment

What is a Signal Booster?

Signal boosters (sometimes referred to as cell phone repeaters) are FCC approved gadgets that work with any cellular carrier to improve voice calls, phone signal, and data speeds. They enhance 2G, 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE signals for better use. These devices are designed for homes, offices, and vehicles.


How do Signal Boosters Work?

Rather than requiring an internet connection, signal boosters use antennas to boost existing signal. They are made up of four components:

In short, they use the outside antenna to capture the weak outside signal, an amplifier to boost the signal, and an inside antenna to broadcast the boosted signal into the desired areas. In addition, they also work in reverse to improve the communication between your cellular devices and the cell towers.

To work their magic, booster systems require an existing cellular signal outside your home, office, or vehicle - even if it's just one bar. They can enhance the signal, not create it.

The location of the outside antenna is extremely important. Whether you have good or poor signal outside, you will need to set up the antenna on the side of your home or office that has the best signal. It’s recommended to install the antenna on the roof of your home, building, or vehicle. This way you can reduce the number of obstructions blocking you from the nearest cell towers.

With the help of coaxial cables, the outside antenna can route the weak signal to the amplifier for boosting. There are a variety of different amplifiers available; they differ in the amount of power they are capable of producing and how much area they can cover. Residential boosters can cover areas from 250 to 7,500 square feet and commercial boosters can cover areas up to 100,000 square feet.

After the amplifier has boosted the weak signal, it will pass it onto the indoor antenna. The indoor antenna will broadcast the amplified signal into the desired areas. As a result, mobile signal boosters will help improve dropped calls, slow data speeds, and unsent text messages.

After the installation has taken place, you don’t need to register the devices that will be using the booster. Also, phone calls and data streaming will seamlessly transition from the booster to cellular towers, and vice versa.


Signal Booster Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Improves 5G, 4G, and LTE signals
  • Eliminate dropped calls, unsent text messages, and sluggish internet
  • Does not need a WiFi connection to work
  • Seamless transition between the signal booster and cell towers
  • One-time purchase, there are no monthly or reoccurring charges
  • Work with multiple cell carriers
  • Support multiple devices at once
  • Compatible with all cellular devices (iPhone, Samsung, LG, and more)
  • Are available for vehicles, homes, and offices
  • Can improve battery life since the phone is not constantly searching for a cellular signal
  • Standard two-to-three-year warranty on most signal boosters from reputable manufacturers.

Disadvantages

  • They don’t work in areas that have absolutely no signal
  • Installation can take some level of handiness

Should I get A Femtocell or a Signal Booster?

Deciding between a femtocell and a signal booster can be very difficult. After all, they both improve your mobile network.

Femtocells are highly recommended in situations where an internet connection is possible, but there is no signal outside. In situations where cellular signal is available, a cell phone booster will be the best option for multiple reasons.

  1. Rather than being carrier-specific, signal boosters can be used by multiple carriers.
  2. Multiple devices can use the signal booster simultaneously.
  3. Signal boosters are not restricted for indoor use; vehicle boosters are available to improve signal on the road.
  4. Phone calls will seamlessly transition from the cell towers to the booster, you won’t have to worry about dropping the call.

Here is a list of some of the best cell phone signal boosters for homes, offices, and vehicles:

Best Professionally Installed Signal Booster for Homes and Offices

weBoost Installed Home Complete Signal Booster Kit

Overview:

  • Superior cell phone service for your entire home
  • Up to 7,500 sq. ft. of coverage under best conditions
  • Up to +72 dB gain, with 24 dBm uplink and 12 dBm downlink
  • Multiple accessories for maximum coverage and customization (sold separately)
  • Complete home coverage for all carriers across multiple devices
View Details
SKU: 474445

The weBoost Installed Home Complete is the most powerful home booster we have. It can cover a large home with decent outside signal or a midsize home with weak outdoor signal. It can cover areas up to 7,500 sq ft with perfect outside signal. Most people will probably see a coverage area between 3,500 and 5,500 sq ft. However, if you live in an area with a very weak signal, you might get about 2,000 sq ft of coverage from it.

The best part of the weBoost Installed Home is that it offers professional residential installation. You won't have to stress about installing the signal booster yourself, nor trying to figure out what the best location for it is.

View Details

Best Signal Booster for Medium Sized Homes and Offices

weBoost Home MultiRoom Signal Booster Kit

Overview:

  • Up to 5,000 sq. ft. of coverage under best conditions
  • Up to +65 dB gain, with 21 dBm uplink and 12 dBm downlink
  • Up to +65 dB gain, with 21 dBm uplink and 12 dBm downlink
  • Complete coverage for multiple rooms or midsize home for all carriers across multiple devices
  • Outdoor yagi antenna and indoor panel antenna configuration, with stylish fabric front
View Details
SKU: 470144

The weBoost Home MultiRoom Signal Booster is the most popular signal booster. It's perfect for midsize homes and offices in urban and rural areas.

It can cover up to 5,000 sq ft if your outside signal is perfect. Most people will probably see a coverage area of 2,000 to 3,000 sq ft. If you live in an area with an extremely weak signal, expect much less coverage. The amount of coverage provided will depend on the strength of your outside signal.

It's important to note that the weBoost Home Multiroom Signal Booster is a DIY kit. If you were looking for a signal booster that can be professionally installed, consider the weBoost Installed Home Complete Signal Booster Kit.

View Details

Best Signal Booster for One or Two Rooms

weBoost Home Room Signal Booster Kit

Overview:

  • Enhances 3G, 4G, and LTE
  • Up to 1,500 sq. ft. of coverage under best conditions or 1-2 rooms
  • Up to +60 dB gain for 32X stronger signal
  • Works best for one room, apartments, and small homes
View Details
SKU: 472120

The weBoost Home Room Signal Booster is the most affordable signal booster; it’s great if you're on a budget. It enhances your signal in areas up to 1,500 sq ft if your outside signal is perfect. However, the amount of coverage provided will depend on the strength of your existing outside signal. Most people will probably see a coverage area of 200 to 500 sq ft.

It's a great option if you live in an apartment, dorm room, or condo. The weBoost Home Room is a good starter kit if you have decent outside signal. It will improve your call quality and reduce dropped calls in certain areas. However, it doesn't cover the whole home and it's not a strong performer in rural areas with poor cell signal. If you live in an area with a weak signal, it's very unlikely you will see the results you want and should consider an upgrade to the weBoost Home MultiRoom.

View Details

Most Powerful Multi-User Signal Booster for Vehicles

weBoost Drive Reach Signal Booster Kit

Overview:

  • Boosts Talk, Text, and Data
  • Amplifies multiple cellular devices across all major US carriers
  • Works in extremely rural and remote areas
  • Up to 50 dB Gain
View Details
SKU: 470154

The weBoost Drive Reach Signal Booster is our most powerful in-vehicle cell phone signal booster. With its increased uplink output, users can access towers that are 2x farther for twice the signal strength – signifying an increase of almost 5dB in uplink output power. Since your cell phone signal will be able to reach further, it will help eliminate dropped calls, improve call quality, and data speeds.

The kit comes with a mini outside magnet mount antenna to pick up the signal. A low-profile interior antenna (usually Velcroed to the driver’s seat) to broadcast the signal inside the vehicle. It's designed for cars, SUVs, trucks, and RVs.

View Details

Best Value Signal Booster For Vehicles

weBoost Drive Sleek Cell Phone Booster Kit

Overview:

  • Boosts Voice, Text Messages, 3G and 4G LTE Data
  • Designed for a Single User
  • Up to +23 dB Gain
  • Adjustable Vent Cradle
View Details
SKU: 470135

The weBoost Drive Sleek Cell Phone Booster Kit is one of the most economical boosters available for a single user. It uses a magnetic vent mount and when paired with a Bluetooth headset, it really shines for regular talk, text, and hands-free navigation. The smartphone has to be in the cradle to get maximum signal boost. With the new design, wider smartphones and small tablets can fit in the cradle.

View Details

Most Powerfull Signal Booster for RVs, Trailers, and Campers

weBoost Drive X RV Signal Booster Kit

Overview:

  • Boosts Talk, Text, Internet, and Data
  • Up to +50 dB Gain
  • Amplifies multiple cellular devices across all North American carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and more)
View Details
SKU: 471410

The weBoost Drive X RV Signal Booster is a powerful signal booster for RVs, trailers, and campers. It can be used while driving and while stationary at the campsite, so it only requires one easy installation.

The signal booster reaches farther to and from cell phone towers and bypasses any material obstruction. You will have better call quality and better data speeds.

Keep in mind that the antenna for the Drive X has less range and power than the stationary option. If you spend most of your time in one location, consider the weBoost Connect RV 65 Cellphone Signal Booster

View Details

Contact Us

Wilson Amplifiers is a leading provider of cell phone signal boosters, devices that amplify 4G & 3G LTE for any phone with any carrier for home, office, or car. We’ve boosted over 10,000,000 sq ft of signal for homes, buildings, and vehicles across America and Canada.

  • Free consultation (ask us anything) with our US-based customer support. Email: (sales@wilsonamplifiers.com). Phone: 1-800-568-2723.
  • Free shipping. Usually ships same day.
  • 90-day (seriously) money back guarantee. You want to make sure you're satisfied.

Our goal is simple: keep people connected. Ask us anything and we'll be glad to help.

The Wilson Amplifiers Advantage
FREE SHIPPING
No Minimum Purchase
90-Day
Money-Back Guarantee
LIFETIME
Technical Support
Get Better Signal Contact Our Experts
Mon-Fri 8am – 6pm CST
Back To Top

Questions or Comments? Contact Us.