Comparing Antenna Booster Signals

by David Lipscomb
Antennas receiving distant signals often require boosting.

Antennas receiving distant signals often require boosting.

As we rely increasingly on wireless devices in our daily lives, the need for predictably high-quality reception becomes paramount. Wired devices such as digital televisions require strong signals for maximum viewing enjoyment. In all cases, antenna boosters carry the potential to turn otherwise borderline fringe signals into reliable feeds to our devices that we can count on.

Cell Phones

Cell-phone boosters come in home and automotive varieties. Car boosters are typically cradle-mount devices, using an roof-mounted external antenna. Boosters for residential and business applications also employ directional antennas mounted to the roof, pointing as accurately as possible toward local cell towers. These boosters re-transmit the signal throughout the structure, improving signal for everyone inside. Users of car cell-phone boosters should expect signal increases around 20 to 26 decibels in the 746 to 757, 776 to 787, 824 to 894 MHz or 1850 to 1990 MHz bands, depending on the carrier. Residential and business boosters operate in the 824-894 or 1850-1990 MHz bands, and users can expect 62 to 65 decibels of gain. Many home and office boosters offer variable gain to dial in the ideal amount of boost without inducing signal overload.

Wi-Fi Boosters

Wi-Fi boosters allow the range of wireless Internet and networking applications to reach fully into larger structures and the surrounding areas. Antenna-like boosters also serve to mitigate elements of the structure that pose problems to wireless reception, such as water heaters and metal beams. The term "booster" in this application is often synonymous with "extender," relaying the existing signal from the router to push it along. Wi-Fi boosters normally provide between 8 and 12 decibels of gain, with greater boost achieved using larger and more directional devices.

Television Preamplifiers and Amplifiers

Television preamplifiers boost signal directly at the antenna, prior to sending it along over the connecting coaxial cable entering the house. This allows what signal there is to be maximized in order to prevent further losses incurred due to normal electrical resistance along the line. Inside, amplifiers work to offset losses from use of splitters or longer coaxial runs exceeding 150 feet. Television preamplifiers usually provide about 12 to 30 decibels of gain in the VHF and UHF bands, depending on the model. Indoor amplifiers and distribution amplifiers typically offer variable gain, with some allowing individual gain adjustments per output. This is to prevent signal overload to televisions closer than others.

Booster Considerations

Remember that a booster cannot generate a signal that is not there. Below a certain threshold, boosters cannot provide much benefit. Ideal uses are when there is consistently low signal, with a single reception bar on your phone or with intermittent picture on your television. Wi-Fi boosters may increase the signal to areas you do not want, such as off your property or into public streets. Unless you are using proper security protocols such as WPA or WPA2, there is risk of a savvy hijacker intercepting your signals.

About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

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