Any update on a FirstNet cell booster? (Winter 2019)

FirstNet. It’s the cellular network for first responders. It’s a great idea, and it has already started to make a difference in areas where national disasters and man-made events come up. But while FirstNet is cool, it’s really just a cellular network like any other. That means there are dead spots, and there are areas where the signal could be improved by a cell booster.

The problem is…

…regular cell boosters don’t do anything with FirstNet. The entire point of a FirstNet is that it’s a dedicated frequency range. That rules out any consumer cell boosters. However, there are two FirstNet cell boosters designed for in-building use. They can be used alongside regular cell boosters and provide great coverage.

This is SureCall’s Guardian 4. It is the gold standard of FirstNet boosters. With 80dB of coverage and a solid industrial design, it’s going to help you get great cell coverage in a very large space.

Another option is the Cel-Fi GO Red. Cel-Fi uses different technology from anyone else in the cell booster market. By connecting antennas using network cable, they can use higher gain amplifiers and get better performance from a lower-priced device. Cel-Fi’s approach means that their boosters really only work for one band at a time but in the case of FirstNet that doesn’t matter. In fact it’s perfect.

Either of these boosters can exist side-by-side with other cell boosters designed for consumers. It doesn’t matter what brand you have, either.

But a mobile booster?

Earlier this year, I explained that there is still not a mobile booster designed for FirstNet. Unfortunately the answer is still the same and it’s not expected to change in the coming months. The issue is really with the FCC, not with the manufacturers.

All cell boosters transmit and receive; that’s sort of the point. That means they have to be individually certified by the FCC. This is the same problem that a lot of consumer devices have. The FCC is involved in all phases of the design and manufacture of something like this. Even before there is a formal application from the manufacturer, there are discussions back and forth about what the guidelines and limitations are. It takes time to engineer something that will work well in a mobile environment.

Keep in mind too that a mobile cell booster for FirstNet, while it would be cool, would only work within a vehicle. We’re not talking about bringing something in that first responders could use while in the field. That would require a portable cell site. That technology exists but it is a lot more expensive to implement.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.