UPDATED: Should you choose a “Dual Band” cell booster?

You’ve finally decided to jump into the world of cellular signal boosters. You’re finally tired of dropped calls and slow data. I don’t blame you. You might be entering your ninth month of working from home, and communications is key. As we keep moving forward into the future, we all want to feel like there’s some reliability and constancy in our worlds.

What is a “dual band” booster?

Of course you want to choose right the first time. The problem is it’s a little confusing when you are trying to choose a cell booster and some of them are labeled as “Dual Band.” Some don’t say that they are single, dual, or 5-band, and that can make it hard to feel like you’re making the right choice.

The term “dual band” is falling out of favor because there isn’t a cell booster out there that doesn’t handle dual bands, unless it’s specifically designed for just data. Dual-band is the bottom of the line now, designed for voice and 3G data. It’s like you know how no one advertises “2G” anymore? It’s because everything does 2G. In fact, everything does 3G. It’s just a question of whether it does 4G, LTE and 5G. That’s the real question. So “dual band” isn’t really a selling point.

The bottom line here

None of the major players sell “dual band” boosters anymore. They’ve all transitioned to boosters that support the five major bands. If you see a “dual band booster” sold, it’s either old stock or it’s from a vendor that hasn’t caught up. I don’t recommend anyone purchasing a “dual band” booster anymore.

The confusing nature of bands

By the way, the whole idea of “bands” is more than a little confusing. While we refer to boosters than can do 4G and LTE as well as voice as “5-band” or “quad band” that’s not technically true. If you really want to be very precise there are about 12 bands in use for cellular communication in this country. Some of them are right up against each other so they’re often treated as one single wide band. But it’s not really like that. It’s going to get even more confusing because we’re going to see even more bands opened up for cellular communication and while that won’t necessarily mean you need a new booster, it is going to make the nomenclature a little confusing.

Things have gotten even more confusing in the last year, unfortunately. In the past, carriers used one set of frequencies for 3G and voice, and another for 4G and LTE. 5G wasn’t a concern. But now, things are changing. All the major carriers have announced plans to turn off their 3G services in the next two years. At the same time, frequencies that were used for 3G will be used for 4G and LTE. 5G is shoehorned in anywhere they can find a place.

In the original vision for 5G, it was going to be restricted to a set of frequencies all on its own. But, as 3G continues to go away, other frequencies are reused, some of them for 5G. That’s good news for booster owners, because if your carrier does at least some 5G on a band your booster already supports, you’ll get better 5G coverage.

How can you know what frequencies are being used?

Well, the unfortunate thing is, on a daily basis you can’t. There really isn’t an app you can use to see what frequencies are in use by your phone. You can use this article to see what frequencies your provider uses for 3G/voice, 4G/LTE, and 5G. You can compare that with the frequencies listed when you choose a cell phone signal booster.

Remember at this moment, most of the cell boosters won’t work with most 5G. AT&T and Verizon do use their older frequencies for some 5G, but there’s no real resource that will help you know which areas are served by newer frequencies and which ones are served by older frequencies.

The best thing to do as I write this in 2020 is to simply not worry about 5G. Yes, it’s an awesome thing and yes it’s going to get more important as time goes on. However, it’s going to be years before there are boosters that cover the 5G frequencies. Unfortunately, it’s going to be tied up in the FCC, for a while. If you want to wait several years for a booster, that’s ok. Personally I’d get a good booster now from Solid Signal and enjoy it in the meantime.

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 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.