What’s the Difference Between a Cell Booster and Antenna Amp?

It’s a good question since the words “booster” and “amplifier” are practically synonymous. Does this mean that a cell phone booster is a cell phone amplifier? And what about antenna amplifiers being antenna boosters? You could use the two terms interchangeably between both devices and be correct. In fact, some people do say “cellular amplifiers,” but “antenna booster” isn’t quite as popular. The similarity between these two devices is more than just a name. So, what is the difference between a cell phone booster and an antenna amplifier anyway? Since Solid Signal is an expert in both of these products, we’re more than happy to explain.

First Things First…

…Cell boosters and antenna amplifiers are similar as far as what they do. Both devices are designed to receive weak signal and amplify it. That’s the basic definition of the term “amplifier.” Maybe this is why Winegard, a popular TV antenna maker, named its popular antenna pre-amp the Boost XT. This 20dB device is used with outdoor HDTV antennas. It improves TV signal in installations that use splitters and long cable runs, like other antenna amplifiers.

You probably noticed that I referred to the Boost XT as a “pre-amp,” aka pre-amplifier. That’s one of the two categories that antenna amplifiers are broken up into. (The other is amplifiers, of course.) Pre-amps tend to be lower in “noise” and are designed to provide a boost from your antenna to the TV or first splitter. Amplifiers, aka distribution amplifiers, are generally noisier and are optimized for compensating for losses from splitters and long runs. (Don’t worry, we’ll explain the concept of “amplifier noise” in a bit.)

The Obvious Difference Between the Two

So, we’ve already established that the terms “amplifier” and “booster” are more or less synonymous. Now let’s look at how cell phone boosters and antenna amplifiers differ, starting with the most obvious. The names of both devices pretty much give this away, but in case you weren’t paying attention:

  1. A cell phone booster amplifies cellular signal.
  2. A TV antenna amplifier improves TV signal.

Yes, this is the biggest difference between the two but there’s another one. When you get a cellular signal booster, it comes with all the cables, two antennas, and all the mounting hardware you need. When you get an antenna amplifier, you just get the amplifier. That’s because it connects to the coax cables of your existing antenna installation. While these are notable details, the most important difference between cell boosters and antenna amplifiers is…

…A Matter of Direction

A TV antenna amplifier boosts signal as it comes in from the antenna and passes it down the line. This line eventually ends at your TV. The signal comes in from your antenna and it might pass through some taps or splitters along the way. No matter what, the ultimate designation is always the TV. For all intents and purposes, it’s a one-way street. Pretty simple, right?

Note: Technically, there are bi-directional antenna amplifiers for radio frequency but these aren’t for you. By “you,” I mean the average homeowner who watches TV. There’s no reason for you to have a bi-directional antenna amp because you’re not transmitting signal, only receiving it for your TV. Broadcast stations and facilities, on the other hand, regularly use bi-directional antenna amplifiers.

The Cell phone boosters you would use are two-way devices. They amplify the signal coming in from the cell phone tower and the signals coming from your call phone back to the tower. Since your cell phone booster is bi-directional, it’s doing both of these things at the same time. This allows these devices to handle many calls and/or data streams at the same time.

Two More Important Differences

TV antenna manufacturers make antenna amplifiers and pre-amplifiers. Since these companies understand antenna technology, it’s a no-brainer for them to produce amps and pre-amps too. Cell boosters aren’t made by handset makers or cellular providers, though. These devices are made by third-party manufacturers who have to create technology that works with the tech used by every cell phone company and wireless provider. Note: all the major carriers use different technologies.

Registration is also an issue for one of these devices, and that’s the cell phone booster. Yes, when you get a cell booster, you have to register that device with the U.S. government. Why? You can read all about it in another Solid Signal blog post. You don’t have to register your TV antenna amplifier with anyone. Just connect it to your installation and enjoy all that free local TV.

Not Everyone Needs an Antenna Amplifier

Sure, we’d love to sell you one of our many TV antenna amplifiers, but we won’t if your installation doesn’t need one. These devices amplify everything that comes through the line, including snow and static noises. If you’re installation doesn’t need an amplifier, all you’ll get is the boosted interference without the benefit of clearer channels. In most cases, amplifiers are a must-have for people with TV installations that use signal splitters and/or have long cable runs. The signal loss you get in these situations can be remedied with an antenna amplifier.

Everyone Needs a Cell Phone Booster!

We’re living in the wireless age where nearly everyone uses and cellular phone and other wireless devices. With these things being so popular, you’d think every place in the country would offer excellent reception, but that’s not the case. There still are some dead zones out there, but those aren’t the biggest reason you need a cell booster. So, what is?

Poor reception areas are what you need to be worry about. These are areas that should have good reception, and they’re everywhere. If you’re inside a building, the materials used to construct it can block cellular signals. When you’re outdoors, tall buildings, mountains, and even trees can block cell signals. So can driving through a valley, which is common in many places of the country. Why experience dropped calls and texts when a cell phone booster system corrects those things?

What’s the only way to get better wireless signal? Having a cell phone booster or, in some cases, a distributed antenna system or DAS. While there are no guarantees in life or cellular signal, one of these boosters is still the best way to ensure a clear line of communication. Best of all, you can get a cell booster for your home and/or vehicle. (We recommend both.) If you’re a business owner, a custom DAS solution helps keep your office connected.

The Most Important Thing They Have in Common…

…Solid Signal is an expert in both! Whether you need a cell booster, antenna amplifier, or both, we got you covered. You don’t have to be an expert in these things because we are. A member of our tech team can answer any questions you have and give you a product recommendation. If you’re interested in either of these amplifiers, aka “boosters,” give us a call at 888-233-7563. You can also fill out the form below and send it to us. Someone from our customer service department will get back to you in one business day or less.

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.