More and more people are dropping their home phone landlines and just using their cellphones to communicate. This might seem like a great money-saving idea, but there are some drawbacks you need to think about, as I explain in this valuable Tip. However, one drawback I haven’t covered yet is a problem with cellphones themselves. How strong is your provider’s cell signal INSIDE your home?
Do your calls drop out, text messages get stuck and never send or perhaps your Internet browsing slows to a crawl? I’ve heard of some people who have great reception in some rooms at home and virtually none in others. Someone else had excellent coverage with one provider, but then switched carriers for a new plan. Only then did she find out that her new phone rarely connected inside her home. If you are going to use your cellphone as your primary phone, you really need better reliability than that.
Some buildings seem like they were designed to block your reception. It might be a particular room, a certain spot or anywhere you stand. There’s not much you can do about poor reception when using your phone at the store or work, but at home you don’t have to put up with it.
That’s why I researched ways you can actually boost your cellphone signal inside your home. With a stronger signal, you can feel free to walk from one room to another while talking or be confident that your text messages will actually send. Before you decide to dump your landline, see if these ideas will work for you to ensure you have dependable cell service at home.
I’m going to give you three options for fixing this problem. However, one thing you should do first is call up your cellular provider and let them know about your situation.
They might have a solution, but even if they can’t fix it, you’ll want it documented as an ongoing problem. That way when it comes time to buy some of the hardware I’m going to talk about, they might give you a discount or even cover the cost. In the worst cases, you might have a case to break your contract so you can switch to a carrier that can provide a suitable signal in your home.
Also called a “repeater,” a signal booster does just what it says. Put the unit in an area of the house where you have a good signal, like near a window, and it will boost the signal to the rest of the house. Some repeaters also come with an external antenna you can mount outside for a better signal.
Your carrier might have a booster it sells (or that it can give you for free to correct its lousy service), however there is a catch. That booster usually only works with that carrier’s signal. So if you have family members or visiting friends who use another carrier, and they also have a weak signal, this won’t help them.
A third-party company like zBoost or weBoost makes boosters that do work with multiple carriers. However, you’re probably going to have to pay for this out of pocket. On the lower end, these gadgets set you back about $200. Plus, if you want higher speed 4G coverage, count on those booster price tags bumping up to $400 or more. However, 4G is mainly an advantage only if you use your phone for Internet connections. But if you have Wi-Fi at home, you can use your home Internet connection on your phone and not need the more expensive 4G booster.
On the surface, a femtocell, also called a “microcell” (AT&T) or “network extender” (Verizon), sounds similar to a booster. You stick it in your house and it broadcasts a strong cellular signal. The difference is that the femtocell needs to plug in to your router so it can use your Internet connection. That’s how it connects your phone to the carrier’s servers.
The upside is that a femtocell will work in an area where you have absolutely no signal at all. So it’s good for rural locations or an apartment surrounded by high-rise buildings. Just note that it doesn’t work well with satellite Internet.
The downside is that if you get one of these from a carrier it will only work for that carrier’s phones. And in this case, third-party options that cover multiple carriers are practically non-existent.
Plus, anyone who uses that carrier can also use your signal, even if they’re strangers just walking by. Their calls will go through your Internet connection, possibly slowing down your own traffic like streaming movies or other downloads. With Verizon, you can set priority numbers so you always get service first, but other people could still be leeching off your Internet connection.
Also, unless the carrier gives it to you for free, femtocells will cost you about $250 or so. Fortunately, there’s another option that’s about to make them obsolete.
You may have a Wi-Fi wireless network already set up in your home, and hopefully you’re already using it for home Internet access on your smartphone and tablet. It’s a smart way to save money on your cellular data plan and avoid overages.
Wi-Fi can also make calls and send texts using apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Apple’s iMessage and other third-party messaging apps like WhatsApp and TextPlus. So if you don’t have a signal, it’s no worry.
Of course, that means your friends need to have those same apps as well. However, carriers and manufacturers are now exploring seamless Wi-Fi calling.
T-Mobile, for example, has Wi-Fi calling on its latest phones (and you can activate it on some older models). When you have a poor signal, it will automatically switch over to a nearby open Wi-Fi network so you won’t even notice. Expect AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to start offering this soon.
You can also switch to a phone system like Republic Wireless that has Wi-Fi calling as a main feature. Republic Wireless offers incredibly low-cost plans because it mostly relies on Wi-Fi for calling and texting and only uses cellular when Wi-Fi isn’t available. Again, the switch is seamless.
Calling over Wi-Fi means you need a Wi-Fi network. Click here to always know the closest free Wi-Fi.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.