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I know a lot of people who don’t get good cell service inside of their houses, and yet get good (or great) service next to a window. Why does this happen? It could be the transmission power of your cell tower: strong enough for outside but not strong enough to get past the materials that make up your house. It could also be your phone: some are just better at picking up signals than others.
Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice to take a call without hovering by a window?
weBoost sent me their new EQO Cell Booster free of charge to try out. It’s supposed to pull in the signal from outside and amplify it, in a space up to 1,500 square feet. It works with all carriers, including multiple carriers at once. There is nothing to install on your phone. You just use your phone as you normally would, but with a stronger signal.
It was pointless trying it in my house, since I’m in one of those crappy situations where we don’t even have good reception by the windows, unless you get to a very high floor. If there’s no signal to amplify, this product won’t work. (We’ve actually improved our situation with a different weBoost product, which I’ll talk about in another post).
Instead, I tried it out at a more typical location, a house upstate where the service outside is great, but it diminishes inside.
The EQO includes a signal booster (that’s the part that goes near a window), a power supply for the booster, an antenna to send the signal out into your house, and a coaxial cable to connect the two. The booster and the antenna look very similar, so make sure you don’t confuse them!!
Finding the best spot
The first step when installing the EQO is to find out where your strongest signal is. You may just know from experience where that best cell spot is in your house, but putting your phone into Field Test Mode is a very handy way to know for sure. Most phones will show this as a negative number, but some do show it as a positive. Basically, the closer to zero, the better. Negative 70 is better than Negative 80. 60 is better than 75.
Once you’ve found the spot (usually a window) with the best reception, that’s where you put the booster unit. It plugs into a wall, and then you connect it via a coaxial cable to the antenna unit. It takes literally 60 seconds.
The cable is 15 feet long, allowing you to find a good spot in the area where you most need a boost. The two units have to be at least 6 feet away from each other, and they have to face in the same direction. The antenna has a keyhole slot for hanging it on the wall.
Measuring the boost
Once everything was connected, it only took a few seconds to see an improvement in signal strength. I did before-and after speed tests and signal strength tests in two different locations of the house (one downstairs, one upstairs).
Bear with me for this part, because there are math terms that might give you flashbacks to high school. But it’s easy, and it will help explain the number results.
The signal strength is measured in dBm, which is decibel milliwatts. The numbers are on a logarithmic scale, meaning that a negative 90 dBm signal is roughly ten times better than a negative 100 dBm. A negative 90 dBm signal would be 100 times better than a negative 110 dBm. Basically, every time you get 3 numbers closer to zero, you’ve doubled your signal. You can see why you don’t need a huge improvement in numbers to get an impressive improvement in signal strength.
The weBoost EQO claims that it can boost the signal by up to 32 times, which would mean that the signal strength number would need to get 15 closer to zero to see that improvement. For example, if you were starting with a negative 90 and ended up with a negative 75, you’re getting a 32 times stronger signal! A boost from negative 90 to negative 81 would be an 8 times stronger signal. Even just going from a negative 90 to a negative 87 would double your signal.
When I first walked into the house I did a field strength test, and the result was negative 103 dBm.
I spent quite a bit of time going around the house to find the best spots for the booster, so by the time I was ready to set it up I took another dBm reading, and it had gone up to negative 107.
I did a speed test before turning on the EQO, and the internet speed on my phone clocked in at 10.15 Mbps (megabytes per second) download speed, and 1.55 Mbps upload speed.
After plugging in and connecting the EQO, the signal had gone down to negative 94 dBm. That meant we were getting a signal that was more than 16 times what it had been without the EQO!
I ran the speed test again, and while there was a small improvement in download speed, the upload speed had almost quadrupled. Impressive.
Next I moved upstairs and repeated everything. All of the numbers started out better, which was not surprising since generally everyone gets a better signal upstairs.
After turning on the EQO, the download speed actually went down a small amount, but again there was a great improvement in upload speed – it more than doubled. The signal strength more than quadrupled.
The cons? The look of the units, their size, and the cord that connects the two. The good thing is, just because the units have to be at least 6 feet apart, that doesn’t mean that the antenna has to be 6 feet into the room. You could place them 6 feet apart on the same wall, both facing out, the booster on a windowsill and the antenna on a book shelf, with the cord hugging the wall.
The cost could also be seen as a con, since the cheapest I’ve seen this for is $349. But if you constantly drop calls inside of your house, or it takes 90 seconds for Facebook to load on your phone, the cost would probably be worth it.
After running these tests there’s no doubt in my mind that the weBoost EQO works. If you have this particular problem, the EQO could be your solution.