Can you hack a cell booster?

I guess, if you have enough skills, anything is hackable. But realistically you cannot hack a cellular signal booster. There’s no way for you to access the programming inside it, really. Even if you could find a way to use the test port that’s probably on every board, you couldn’t do anything. There’s no software to update, no internal settings to override.

Some more stuff to make this article longer

Seriously though, let’s talk about why you might think you want to hack a cell booster and what you could do instead. Cellular signal boosters are actually complicated computers. If you look at the things a cellular signal booster does, it’s pretty impressive:

  • Stays in constant communication with at least one outside cell tower
  • Stays in constant communication with all the cellular devices near it
  • Uses complex two-way amplification to enhance incoming and outgoing calls
  • Checks to see if there is too much amplification and reduces it if needed
  • Rebroadcasts incoming and outgoing signals at a consistent level

What’s really amazing is that a cell booster can do all these things instantly. It works so fast that you don’t detect any lag on the line. A lot of these calculations and adjustments are done about ten times a second. Keep in mind that a cell booster costs less than most laptops or phones, and it does all this stuff very well. It also does it reliably, without overheating or needing to be rebooted. Not bad, if you ask me.

Why can’t you hack a cell phone booster?

A cellular signal booster is an appliance like a refrigerator or microwave oven. Yes, it has a computer inside and that computer is programmed to do different things. However, there is no way to change the programming that’s inside it. The most common residential cell boosters have no storage at all. Even the fancy commercial ones only have enough storage for changes to basic settings. There’s no way to add an app or change the central programming of the thing. Just like your washing machine, you plug it in and it does what it does.

Why would you want to hack a cell phone booster?

I understand that cell boosters don’t always deliver the performance people need. Some people don’t buy a booster that’s powerful enough, or they live too far from the towers for the booster to make a difference. So they think if they could just crank up the power, it would work better for them.

In general this is not true. The FCC actually puts strict limits on cell booster power so that the entire cellular grid is protected. If you turned up the power too much you could overload the local cell tower or even bring down a large part of the network in your area.

This was a common worry in the early days of cell boosters and it’s the reason that every booster needs circuitry in it to make sure that doesn’t happen. Turning up the power may seem like a good idea, but in most cases it isn’t.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m sure someone with some “mad skillz yo” could do it. I just don’t think regular folks should even try.


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.