on December 20, 2016 James N
In the world of telecommunications & networks, uplink & downlink essentially mean upload and download. Other terms such as upstream and downstream also apply.
For cellular devices such as smartphones & tablets, uplink and downlink pertain to the data speed and coverage we know as 3G, 4G LTE, and newer radio frequencies such as 5G.
Signal coming to your phone from the cell tower is known as the downlink. Signal leaving your phone back to the cell tower is known as the uplink. In a perfect world, you'd get blazing fast internet speeds with everywhere-you-go coverage.
However, there are times when internal and external causes interfere with your service and speeds.
Cell phone signal strength is measured in decibels (dBm).
From a signal level of -50 dBm to -120 dBm, cellular signal can range from great signal (-50 dB) to good signal (-80 dB) to average signal (-90 dB) to below average signal (-100 dB) to near dead zone (-120 dB).
This is the signal standard for all phones & cell devices, and for all carriers in North America.
In bar talk, -50 dB represents full bars, while -120 dB represents zero bars.
Most cell phone reception & service problems begin when signal strength ranges from -90 to -100 dB. Within the range between -101 dB and -120 dB, it’s possible to have working signal, but service is severely affected and spotty like a 101 Dalmatians.
It's important to know that decibels are measured exponentially. Even something as “small” as +3 dB represents 2x the power! Conversely, -3 dB means half the power.
This is the fragile nature of radio frequency, especially with cell phone signals. Check out the chart below to get a better understanding:
Everyone’s cell coverage is different thanks to factors such as carrier preference, cell tower distance, outside interference, building material, internal impediments, and user location.
Therefore, anything and everything can easily absorb, interfere, disrupt and block uploads & downloads from your cell phone.
FCC and IC approved enterprise cell phone boosters are legally capped at +70 dB of max gain, which potentially adds a lot of coverage and signal strength.
Although pro-grade boosters are capable of boosting up to +70 dB, because of the factors listed above, real-world results generally range from a +3 dB to +42 dB gain for a majority of users.
That's a minimum of at least 2x amplified 3G & 4G LTE signal.
This boosted signal leads to more powerful uplinks and downlinks, which leads to the two most important benefits of owning a signal booster: faster internet data speeds & more coverage.
Both provide a maximum downlink signal boost up to 12.5x. However, the key difference is in the uplink power.
With an average difference of +3.24 dB, the Wilson Pro 4000R is 2.11x more powerful than the Wilson Pro 70 Plus in the uplink power.
This translates to slightly more than 2x the coverage. The Wilson Pro 70 Plus provides coverage up to 50,000 sq ft. The Wilson Pro 4000R provides coverage up to 100,000+ sq ft.
Again, something as "small" as +3 dB or -3 dB can have discerning impact on coverage and performance.
Both provide the same downlink output; however, the Drive 4G-X provides +3 dB across all five bands (3G & 4G lTE) on uplink power.
This leads to up to 2x the reach to the nearest cell tower while on the road or out in the field, especially in remote off-the-grid areas when signal and carrier service is limited.
For more about understanding how to boost uplink & downlink cellular speeds with signal boosters, we have some recommendations:
Read our Definitive Guide on Cell Phone Signal Boosters & learn everything to need to know:
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