“Why doesn’t my cell booster work?”

…or, 3 reasons why a cell booster might not work.

Honestly folks, I love talking about cellular signal boosters. They’re such great technology, reasonably priced when you realize what you’re going to get, and about 96% of people need them at some point. And yet after all these years they still aren’t commonplace. I don’t know why homebuilders don’t just put them in when they build. They bring such incredible value.

Why you found this article

You probably found this article because you already bought a cellular signal booster and it’s not working for you. You’ve probably read that the tech is “bulletproof” and once you plug it in it should “just work.” Those things are true for sure. That’s what makes it so annoying when the booster doesn’t “just work” for you.

There are three really common reasons that a cell booster isn’t working for you. Depending on which rings true for you, the fix might be easy, or it might be a lot more difficult. Let’s dive in.

Reason #1: Antennas are too close

This is the most common issue. When you install the cell booster, you’ll be tempted to mount the antenna somewhere pretty low. Who wants to get up on a ladder and put that antenna up high? I know I don’t.

Ideally, your outdoor antenna should be 15 feet above your indoor antenna. This isn’t hard to do on a two-story home, but on a one-story home it’s going to be a huge drag. Besides, you were probably drawn in by pictures like the one above which show the outdoor antenna mounted on a vent pipe. That sounds super easy and you don’t have to pay for a fancy mount.

If you can’t get 15 feet of vertical separation, try to get as much horizontal separation as possible. If you’re a math whiz (or you have a kid at home who’s studying geometry) you can use the Pythagorean theorem to figure out how far away the antenna needs to be in order to get 25 feet of diagonal separation. Depending on the height of your roof, it’s going to be between 20 and 30 feet.

Reason #2: Booster is too small

It’s perfectly normal to look to save money. So, you might have bought a booster that really isn’t sufficient for your whole home. Booster manufacturers used to really rely on measurements like, “If you have a 1,500 square foot home you need this booster.” Most of them have moved away from being so precise, and there’s a reason for it.

Some homes have metal studs, flex conduit, and lots of wires. Others are made largely of wood and have romex wiring. Other than protecting your home from the big bad wolf, there’s another reason to know what your home is made of. Depending on the amount of metal in your walls, the range of any electronic device is going to be limited.

If you have great results in the room with the indoor antenna, and worse results just a few feet away, there aren’t a lot of options. You can put in a bigger indoor antenna. You can put in a bigger outdoor antenna. Or, you can sell the booster you have on eBay and buy the right one.

The folks at Solid Signal can help you choose the right cellular antenna from the thousands that we offer. Use our chat function, call us at 888-233-7563, or use the contact us link on SolidSignal.com.

Reason #3: There’s no signal to boost

This is the most frustrating. If you have “No Signal” or even one flaky bar outside, you may not have enough signal to boost. If you have an Android phone, there are a bunch of cell meter apps you can get for free. iPhone users have a “field test mode” but it’s less reliable than it once was. I don’t recommend it anymore. Just find a friend with an Android, they’re out there.

If your outdoor signal is lower than -115dBm (in other words, -116, -120, etc.) there just might not be enough signal to boost. If you’re not getting any signal at all, then a cell booster will not help you get signal. A cell booster can’t amplify a signal that isn’t there.

If you fall into this category, you can try putting the outdoor antenna up as high as possible and possibly upgrading the antenna. The folks at Solid Signal can help you choose the right cellular antenna and suggest a mast or tower to help you get it up high. Use our chat function, call us at 888-233-7563, or use the contact us link on SolidSignal.com.


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.