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The Science behind Cellular Amplifiers Simplified

on February 27, 2014

Amplifiers are being used everywhere in this age. But how many of the users truly understand what an amplifier is, and how it does what it does? Pretty much no one bothers looking up such information since the presumption is that it’s all too technical. Well you wouldn’t be far off in this case. The aim of this post is to explain how amplifiers work, in a manner simple enough that even a layman can understand. We are going to focus on cellphone amplifiers in particular though.

The Bare Basics

Let’s start with the actual definition of an amplifier. We use several amplifiers on a daily basis, yet most of us will be unable to explain what an amplifier is or what it does. In the most basic terms, an amplifier is an electronic device that boosts the power of an input signal. The amplifier takes power from a power supply and moulds it to match the shape of the input signal, albeit with a higher amplitude. The level of amplification of the input signal depends upon the power of the amplifier. The ratio between the input signal’s strength and the amplified signal’s strength is called ‘gain’. The higher the gain, the more powerful an amplifier is.

Cellphone Signal Amplifier

For example, when cellphone amplifiers are considered, the input signal is the one that the phone receives from the cellular tower. A cellphone amplifier boosts that signal to higher levels, resulting in improved signal reception. Once you receive boosted signal reception, call quality increases, data speeds are faster, dropped calls are reduced, etc. The benefits of a cellphone signal amplifier are considerable. Within the United States, various radio frequencies are used by cellular networks, thus choosing the right amplifier requires some understanding of how they work. That’s what we’re here for!

Why are Signals Weak?

One might wonder why the cellphone signals are weak in the first place. If cell phones catch signals and cellular towers broadcast them, there really shouldn’t be any need of amplifiers. Well, one would be right in asking such a question. While cellular networks are found on every corner nowadays, there are still several rural and sub-urban areas that do not have cellular towers from a particular carrier nearby. This results in weak signals for users of that particular telecom carrier. In metropolitan cities, cellular signal is often weak due to man-made obstructions like skyscrapers, tunnels, and bridges. Natural situations like storms also disrupt signals resulting in weaker signal reception.

How is the Signal Boosted?

Contrary to the workings of most other amplifiers, cellphone signal amplifiers do not form a new amplified signal. Instead, it repeats the original signal that is initially broadcast from cellular towers, after boosting it. Thus, cellular signal boosters are often referred to as ‘repeaters’.

The primary difference between cellphone amplifiers and regular amplifier is that, a boosted cellular signal is not created, but enhanced. A standard cellphone signal boosters consists of three main units: an outside antenna that catches signals from the cellular tower; an amplifier which receives the signal from the outside antenna and enhances it; and an inside antenna that broadcasts the boosted signal to your phone. This setup is not fixed in stone though, and can be modified to a large extent to fit customization and fine-tuning needs. Various accessories can be connected to the base 3-unit system to provide further amplification and control amplifier gain. Additional accessories are also often needed when going for large-scale boosting operations or vehicles with zero signal-loss tolerance, like ambulances.

Risks and Responsibility

As previously discussed, ‘gain’ is the ratio of the input signal strength and the boosted signal strength. One might think that the higher the gain, the better the amplifier; but this is only true to a certain extent. First off, using an amplifier that has a higher gain than you require is a waste of resources. This grants you no additional benefit. Secondly, if a cellphone amplifier has too much gain and is operating in relatively close proximity, it can overload the cellular tower. Once this happens, there could be severe consequences resulting in damage to the entire tower.

Currently, there are barely any laws that regulate amplifier gain; thus it is our, that is the consumer’s, responsibility to keep amplifier gain in check. To reduce unwanted gain, attenuation is important. This refers to the opposite of gain, that is, loss. Loss is essentially a reduction of signal strength and can be provided using various connectors and crimps. More advanced amplifiers often include components that can add loss to the signal on demand.

Amplifiers from obscure brands often come with exceptionally high gain in order to provide a more powerful amplifier. In addition to the risk of the cellular tower being damaged, radio frequencies that are broadcast from such an overly powerful amplifier can interfere with the emergency radio frequencies. Thus, to avoid such risks, it is always recommended to go with a reputable amplifier manufacturer.

The risks are not only to outside entities, but can be to your own cellphone signal boosting system as well. A common reason of amplifier system mishaps is that the outside and inside antenna is placed too close together. This results in the radio frequencies between the antennas to interfere with each other, ultimately causing a radio frequency loop. This leads to the entire system breaking down altogether.

Bottom-line

Without delving into the major technical details, here we conclude our possibly-a-tad-boring treatise on cellphone signal amplifiers. We hope that the reader extracts the necessary information from this post and goes on to make informed decisions regarding cellphone signal boosters. When considering a purchase decision, one needs to keep cellphone compatibility in mind, first and foremost. Safety is a close second.

To avoid risks and mishaps, one should consider buying amplifiers from reputable brands. In the US market, Wilson Electronics is possibly the most trusted manufacturer of cellphone signal amplifiers. All amplifiers from Wilson Electronics come with three lights: red, indicating risk of signal oscillation; orange, signifying risk of overload; and green which lets one know that everything is working as it should. One can’t go wrong with such amps!

For more information, visit wilsonamplifiers.com

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