Metal buildings of all shapes and sizes - from barns and barndominiums to commercial warehouses - are notoriously bad for getting reliable cellular signal inside.
While outside cellular signals are generally reliable, getting signal inside a metal building becomes a chore, because metal is the most disruptive material when it comes to blocking and degrading cell signal.
Understanding How Cell Phone Signal Works
Cell phone signals are RF (radio frequency) signals nested between AM/FM radio and satellite communications & Wi-Fi in the electromagnetic spectrum.
It starts out strong from the source like a cell tower or cell site. But as it reaches miles in the distance to reach your phone, external obstructions like mountains, valleys, and tall trees and open air path loss weaken signal strength.
Generally outdoors, there is enough signal to make a call in open spaces. But inside a building, cell signal now must also push through walls, interior building material and other interference to make a call, send & receive texts, or use the internet.
That’s why people in the center of a building never get reliable reception with any carrier. They’re always running to the window.
How Cell Phone Signal Strength Should Be Measured
While the number of bars on your cell phone is a decent way to check signal strength, it’s actually subjective across phones, with no established standard.
How subjective, you ask?
There’s no industry standard. It’s up to the cell phone manufacturers to decide how much is 1, 2, 3, 4 or full bars on their phone. Multiplied by the number of carriers, that’s a lot of confusion. Even the difference between 4G and LTE is not well known.
What may be 1 bar on Verizon might be 2 on AT&T, 3 on Sprint or full bars on T-Mobile despite receiving the exact same signal and performing at the exact same speeds.
But luckily, there's a way to find out your true signal strength. It's called decibel (dB) reading. These are measured in standard power units of decibel-milliwatts (dBm).
Cell phone signal operates with a certain frequency: -50 dBm to -120 dBm.
-50 dBm is full bars. -120 dBm is basically a dead zone. The closer you are to - 50 dBm, the better your signal.
So what does this have to with building material?
Well, building materials basically subtract dB from signal when trying to enter a metal building.
The more it subtracts, the closer you get to -120 dBm, which translates to exceptionally bad cell service. Metal in particular subtracts up to -50 dBm!
Solutions to Improve Cell Signal Inside Metal Buildings
WiFi is the standard for wireless connectivity. However, having reliable in-building cellular connection is equally important. It reduces WiFi congested networks, and provides different sources to connecting to the internet in times of emergency.
If you live in a very rural area where WiFi connections are a challenge, cellular signal might be your best bet for connecting to the Internet at all.
IT managers and facility managers are now selecting cell phone signal boosters to improve their indoor cellular connectivity. Whereas building material subtracts dB to signal, cell phone signal boosters add dB to signal by amplifying or bypassing indoor building material.
Below are our top recommendations, ordered by the size of your metal building and your outdoor signal strength.
The Best Cell Phone Signal Booster for Small and Midsize Metal Buildings
- Up to 5,000 sq. ft. of coverage under best conditions
- Up to +65 dB of gain, with 21 dBm uplink and 12 dBm downlink
- Multiple accessories for maximum coverage and customization (sold separately)
- 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
The weBoost Home MultiRoom is our most popular cellular booster for metal buildings. The vast majority of customers who buy one for themselves find it to be the right fit for them, so it's usually the one we recommend first.
It's easy to see why it's so popular. It lies at the sweet spot of price, aesthetics, and efficiency, with a coverage range that usually works for most people. It features a drill-free installation with antennas that enhance your decor rather than ruin it.
It also features a higher uplink and downlink power than previous generations of weBoost home boosters, meaning it's more likely to work well in a weak signal area. That said, expect reduced coverage. It's really important to understand that 5000 sq. ft. will only be achieved in optimal conditions, and that 2000-3000 sq. ft. is a much more realistic estimate of your coverage - even less in a very weak signal area.
If you live in a very weak signal area, or have a really big metal building you want to cover, consider its sister product, the weBoost Home Complete.
- FREE shipping, no minimum purchase.
- 90 Day money back guarantee.
- Lifetime support.
The Best Cell Phone Signal Booster for Large Metal Buildings
- Indoor 4G & 3G coverage up to 35,000 sq ft
- Works for all phones & all US carriers
- Stronger & more reliable calls, text, email, and internet data
- Extended Dynamic Range to ensure continuous connectivity
- Simple wall-mount installation
- Up to +70 dB gain, +25 dBm uplink power and +15 dBm downlink power.
- Expansion kits available for large scale installations
- 50 or 75 Ohm variants
The WilsonPro 1100 is Wilson Electronics’s latest flagship for small buildings with up to maximum gain of +70 dB, +25 dBm uplink and +15dBm downlink power. XDR (eXtended Dynamic Range) technology makes it ideal for both extremely rural and extremely urban environments.
With that kind of upload power, it has greater reach than any other booster, allowing it to bring in critical signal from far-away cell towers.
- FREE shipping.
- 30 Day money back guarantee.
- Lifetime technical support exclusive only on Wilson Amplifiers.
Wilson Amplifiers: The Trusted Name in Boosting Signal
Active or passive DAS, which is the best solution for you? Wilson Amplifiers always has the answer. Depending on the size, scope, and situation, the experts at Wilson Amplifiers can tailor a custom solution for you in time, under budget, and professionally installed.
Services we provide:
- FREE floor plan analysis with detailed heatmaps & coverage expectations.
- FREE consultation adhering to your requirements and budgets.
- Equipment selection from only the best.
- Site survey from certified wireless technicians.
- Complete professional active and passive DAS installation & expert project management.
Contact us today to get the best solution for improving your 4G cellular signal indoors.