Could you build your own cell phone signal booster and save money?

Here’s an unpleasant fact of life today. We rely on our phones, but they don’t work as well inside as outside. They never will. It’s literally impossible. The materials found in every single building block cell signals to some degree. And, as we strive for more and more energy efficiency, the problem will get worse. The same steps we take to stop solar radiation and outside air from coming in will also stop cell signals from coming in.

That’s why every home and office should have a cell phone signal booster. Cell boosters take signal from outside, massively amplify it and rebroadcast it inside. They also take your phone’s transmissions and pump them out more powerfully than your phone could ever do.

If you look at a cell booster as a 5-7 year investment that improves cell service for everyone who’s in the building, it’s incredibly worth it. But, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a cost to get a booster. It’s the biggest hurdle to getting people to buy one.

That’s why I’m often asked, can you build your own booster? The answer is no, and there are three really good reasons why not.

Reason 1: Technical

A cell booster is just an amplifier, right? That’s the simplest way of putting it. So you should be able to get a wideband amplifier like this one, hook it up to a pair of inexpensive antennas, and have it work, right? Wrong.

The first thing you would need would be a bi-directional amplifier. Remember, a cell booster doesn’t just pull in signal from outside. It also rebroadcasts signals from inside. Regular antenna amps only go one way. Bidirectional amps are out there, but they’re more expensive than cell boosters. And trying to use two amps, one in each direction, will cause more problems than you could imagine.

Then we come to the matter of antennas. I suppose it would be possible to take a TV antenna and turn it sideways. It would, well, “kinda” work. But cheap antennas aren’t designed for broadcasting so it wouldn’t work very well.

Reason 2: Legislative

The simple fact is that if you built your own cell booster, you’re creating an unlicensed broadcast facility. The government sort of looks down on that. You could be fined a lot of money, far more than the cost of a cell booster.

The laws and rules that govern broadcasting are there for everyone’s protection. If anyone could broadcast on any frequency for any reason, then the whole system would break down. Your neighbor could use the same frequencies for Wi-Fi that you use for TV antennas, and neither of you would get anything.

Sure, you could go through the licensing and approval process, but again this would cost you more than a cell phone signal booster. It’s just not worth it.

Reason 3: Armageddon

And this is what it really comes to. Let’s say you did manage to package a bidirectional wideband amplifier with a pair of antennas. You still wouldn’t have everything found in every cell booster. Today’s boosters have electronics that constantly monitor signal levels to make sure nothing is feeding back on itself.

You know about audio feedback. It’s that wailing sound when someone gets a mike too close to a speaker. The same thing can happen with radio waves.

If you broadcast too much power from a homemade cell booster, you risk setting up a feedback loop that could take out all the cell towers in your area. The whole system could get knocked out because of one bad amplifier. That’s why carriers were originally very opposed to cell boosters.

The only reason that cell boosters are allowed today is that they are practically feedback-proof. A booster will shut down if it’s not able to offer anti-feedback checks. It’s just that simple. Your homemade system won’t do that.

Bottom line here

Look, I know some of the people who read this blog are very talented engineers. I’m sure that some of you have enough talent to completely reverse-engineer a properly working cell booster. Some of you may even be willing to put it through FCC approval. But isn’t it just easier to shop for what you need from the great selection at Solid Signal?

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.