How to Choose The Antenna For You

With all the jargon about signals, waves, and boosters surrounding this technology it can seem like you need to spend a few years studying these devices to understand them. Hopefully with this post we can demystify antennas, how they work and most importantly which one will work best for you.

Types of Antennas

There are two types of antennas commonly used for radio waves. Omnidirectional antennas can send or receive signal from any direction and directional antennas send or receive signals from one particular direction.

 

Omnidirectional Antennas

These antennas are the simplest type to install. This trade for ease of installation does require that you have a stronger base signal. Omnidirectional antennas are able to receive or send signals in a 360-degree window. You’re probably familiar with many kinds of these antennas; such as the whip antenna on your car or the “rubber ducky” antenna on your internet router.

An example of one of the kinds of antennas spoken about, a rubber ducky antenna.

Rubber Ducky Antenna

Directional Antennas

Directional antennas provide a much larger boost in signal, as the name implies directional antennas must be pointed towards the source of the signal you are trying to capture. While this can be complicated it greatly reduces the amount of interference from outside sources, strengthening the signal you receive that much more. Some of these antennas like a Yagi antenna are easy to orient (make sure the middle beam is facing the tower and the side beams are facing up and down). Other examples of directional antennas are panel antennas. These are becoming increasingly popular and are typically installed by just attaching to a wall with the outer panel facing the direction of the signal.

A Yagi antenna.

Yagi Antenna

 

What Antenna Is Right For You?

The first step in choosing an antenna is first establishing what your existing signal is. If you already have a relatively strong signal and little to no interference than an omnidirectional is probably your best bet. However if you need a big boost you’ll have to get a directional .

The second step is to consider the carriers in your area. If you have many carriers in your area then an omnidirectional antenna would be able to pick up signal from these carriers and boost your signal to the appropriate level. However if you have a singular weak signal than you should consider the directional antenna as it will allow you to focus on that one signal.

Third you need to consider how much distance you can keep between the antennas, if you are installing this on a roof with multiple antennas an omnidirectional antenna can cause interference with these other antennas. Typically you should keep 30 feet between these antennas. If your roof is more crowded you can avoid this issue by using a directional antenna and orienting it away from your other antennas.

In summary, the best application of an omnidirectional antenna is in an area where you already have some signal, you can rely on multiple carriers to boost your signal, and on a roof that does not have many other antennas. A directional antenna is best for situations in which you have a weaker signal and need to focus in on one cell tower,they can also be used when there are other antennas are on the roof.

Understanding Your Weak Signal

Weak signal is probably the primary reason why many of you are here right now. It’s important that we accurately diagnose your weak signal’s cause so we can help you. Let’s talk a little about some of the reasons you could be receiving poor signal and how to best fix them.

Interference From Other Signals

Many carriers use the same frequency to broadcast their signals from device to device. If you are close to more than one using similar frequencies they can often interfere with each other. This loss can create dead zones in places that would otherwise be covered and can be hard for the average user to predict. This is one of the main reasons for loss within sub urban or urban areas.

This can be easily fixed by using a directional antenna when you use your booster. The directional antenna focuses on acquiring signal in a single direction and cuts out a considerable amount of interference.

Distance From The Nearest Tower

Either you live in a very rural area or your carrier has just deemed it not economically advantageous to properly serve your region. This issue is created because your carrier’s tower is too far from you. Even though radio waves are very efficient and can travel large distances they can weaken over time. This makes it so the radios in the tower and inside your phone have a hard time reaching each other. Similar to how walky – talkies have trouble talking over large distances.

This is fixable by using a booster with a directional antenna as those provide the most boost to weaker signals.

Materials In Your Building

Everyone’s walked inside a building and had an immediate drop off in signal. This can be caused by either the building materials or by the dead zones from interference, but we’re going to talk about the issues created by materials. Many things that make good construction materials also cause interference to radio waves. Concrete, sheet metal, drywall, and wood block signals almost as well as they block out the outside world.

Most of the time you can use an omnidirectional antenna in these scenarios as you typically have strong signals outside of the building. However if you have weak signal outdoors than you’ll need to consider a directional antenna.

The Geography Around You

Similarly to how construction materials can block your signals natural barriers such as the ground or mountains and hills are very insular. If you live in a valley or behind a hill or mountain you will naturally have worse signal.

If your signal is really bad you’ll need to use a directional antenna with your amplifier to ensure that you receive, if you already have a moderately strong signal you can use an omnidirectional antenna to boost you up to where you’d prefer.

Let’s Talk Signals

The Basics of Signals

Let’s start where you always should, the very beginning. Signals are a kind of wave, which means they are a transfer of energy. Now energy can be many things, for example your microwave oven uses waves “micro”waves to be specific to cook things via the transfer of heat energy. However in this case we are talking about how radio waves transmit data through the air. Now there are a few key things to understand about waves moving forward, first of all their frequency is very important to your cell phone. Frequency is the amount of crests of the wave that pass through a point at a given time. This is important because while higher frequency waves can carry more information they have a harder time going through things such as buildings, cars, or even people.

 

A diagram showing how radio signals are transmitted between antennas.

 

Why It’s Important

As we discussed in our discussion about the different carriers not every signal is equal. Some provide higher quality connections, for example 4G LTE signals are better quality than 2G. Also as carriers operate on different frequencies and bands some have a hard time reaching every location. Even using a booster doesn’t change the fact that higher frequencies experience much quicker loss, so keep that in mind as well.

Tips & Tricks

You probably got here because you’re sitting at home with a booster in front of you and you can’t make heads or tails of the manual that came with it. So here are our first set of tips and tricks to help you piece this together.

1. Have you tried turning it off and on again?A power button.

This sometimes frustrating tagline of the tech support profession is only so overly used because it often works. So seriously, try turning it off and on again. But maybe not before you’ve checked the other basics like making sure all your connections are snug.

 2. Check the distance and orientation of your antennas.

Most antennas require about 20 feet of distance between them otherwise their radio waves can disturb each other. That’s 20 feet in a straight line too. It’s also important to make sure that if you are using any kind of directional antenna that you aren’t pointing them towards each other as this will also create that disruptive interference.

3. Double check that your outdoor antenna is in the best location.

The signal strength you’re receiving indoors is directly correlated to the strength of the signal your outdoor antenna is getting. So make sure you have that outdoor antenna high up and in a clear area. One of the best ways to find where the antenna will receive the best signal is to change the way your phone shows you how much signal it is receiving. This is done by entering field test mode by simply typing  *3001#12345#* and pressing call Now check around 5 locations to see where you are receiving the best signal. Remember the best signal is going to be the negative number closest to 0. Place the antenna here.

 

One of the tips showing how when setting up a signal booster one should check multiple locations for the best possible reception.

 

 

If you need to cut some tree branches do it as that could make a pretty big difference in your end result. Also remember that while yes this is some expensive equipment it was made to last outdoors. Don’t be afraid to leave it exposed to the elements, so don’t stick it inside the attic or the chimney. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by sheltering it.

4. Don’t be afraid to use the cable.

Coaxial cables are much better conductors of radio waves than air. Mostly because there are no obstacles inside the cable unlike air which competes with walls, doors, and other things. Of course we know it is expensive so don’t use it like wallpaper. It’s also important you use high quality cables, copper or gold wiring will provide less loss so try to make sure the ones you purchase have that.

These four tips and tricks will help you with not only installing but optimizing your signal boosters.

Cell Phone Signal Boosters

Cell phone signal is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity every day and while networks are becoming more comprehensive there are always pesky “dead” zones that you can’t seem to get signal in. Or you sometimes head out to a rural area outside of your carriers range. If you’re on this site than you’re probably interested in signal boosters to fix this.

What Signal Boosters Can Do About It

Now with powerful boosters even large, dense, and highly populated buildings one can get adequate or even exceptional signal where previously you struggled to get a single bar. Even taking a cross-country road trip no longer has to disconnect you from your network as powerful and small boosters that you can take with you in your vehicle have become readily available. There’s no reason to wait for your carrier to expand anymore as now you can just boost their signal to you.

 

A kit that includes all components of a cellphone signal booster. The outdoor antenna, indoor antenna, the amplifier, and a length of coaxial cable.

However as with most new technology it can at times be difficult for the average consumer to install these themselves. And while some brands offer home installation sometimes either because of convenience or cost that simply is not an option. Have no fear though, following our helpful guides we can set up your booster with most of the hair still on your head. And if you are still having trouble with any step of the process we will happily help connect you to a professional installer.