How can a cell phone signal booster work with all carriers?

Your phone can’t do it. Your hotspot can’t do it. It seems like it should be impossible for a cell phone signal booster to work with any US carrier. It sounds even more impossible for a cell phone signal booster to work with multiple carriers at the same time. And yet we say it a lot when we talk about Solid Signal’s great selection of cell phone signal boosters. The answer’s surprisingly simple. Let’s dive in.

Your phone could do it… if…

Practically every phone made today will work with practically any carrier. There are exceptions, usually less expensive phones. But if you have a current model iPhone, Galaxy, or any common higher-end phone, it has a chip in it that will let it communicate with any US carrier and most of the ones in other countries. It’s just easier for manufacturers to create one phone that works in as many situations as possible.

So why can’t you use any carrier? You can, but it will cost you. You may remember the old term “roaming” from 20 years ago. It was a problem before there were nationwide cell carriers. You rarely hear it today because most carriers cover the entire nation. So, carriers include software that doesn’t let you make calls on other US carriers. Generally you can make an emergency call on any carrier, though.

If you go to a foreign country, you’ll generally roam on their network, and it will cost you a lot. So it’s good that you don’t roam on US carriers for the most part.

If you want to permanently move to a new carrier, it’s not hard if you have an unlocked phone. Your carrier can unlock your phone for you and will generally do it if you ask them. More expensive phones are generally sold unlocked. Unlocking means that the phone is allowed to operate on any carrier you want as long as you have a SIM card for it.

How do cell boosters do it?

The trick is that your cell booster is an amplifier, not a phone. It’s not making calls or taking them. It’s not creating data requests or satisfying them. A cell booster acts as a bridge between your phone and your carrier, providing a stronger signal.

There are only a few ranges that phones use to communicate with towers. While there are about 40 very specific “bands” in use, each for only one carrier, they’re grouped together in several ranges. 4G and LTE phones work on either 700MHz, 850MHz, 1700MHz, 1900MHz, or 2100MHz. 5G phones add 600MHz and 29,000MHz. All those “bands” are within one of those cell phone ranges.

Cell phone signal boosters are licensed to amplify the entire range, not just the frequencies from one carrier. So if T-Mobile is using some frequencies and AT&T is using others, as long as it’s within one of those five LTE ranges your booster will work with them.

Because entire ranges are being boosted, everyone using their devices gets the benefit. There is a limit to the number of people who can use the same booster. It depends on the booster but in most cases it’s so high that you’ll never reach it.

What about 5G then?

As I write this in early 2022, there aren’t any boosters that work with the 600MHz or 29,000MHz ranges used by 5G. The good news is that you can still get a boosted 5G signal. All the major carriers are transitioning away from 3G, which was the standard before LTE. 3G used some of the same frequencies as LTE. Those frequencies are now being used for 5G. So, you may not be able to use every 5G frequency but you won’t notice because you’ll use the frequencies your booster can access.

Get a cell phone signal booster and start reaping the benefits

Cell phone signal boosters take signal from outside and bring it inside. They eliminate the problems caused by walls, doors and even energy efficient windows. They can blanket your entire home or business with great cell service, no matter which carrier you use. To find out more, shop the great selection at Solid Signal or call us! When you call 888-233-7563 during East Coast business hours, you’ll get someone who really understands cell phones, signal boosters, and other equipment. You’ll get a caring person in our US corporate offices who wants to make sure you get what you need. Give us a 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.