AT&T Microcell Vs Cell Phone Booster: Who reigns supreme?
In a world of connected devices, distance continues to be the deciding factor on being connected. The distance from the closest cell phone tower, the nearest town, interstate, and WiFi. Losing signal in rural areas is something people are use too, but is there a solution, will the best signal booster work? The short answer is yes, most of the time. That’s what were going to discuss today with these interesting devices. Two devices, often confused with one another, yet operate vastly different. The AT&T Microcell, and a line up of sophisticated cell phone boosters.
An AT&T Microcell (click here for an example) can be pretty costly, but a cellular booster is equally as pricey for a similar package. You can buy cheaper boosters, but they don’t reach as far so your phone must be touching that style booster.
Why would someone need a cellular booster, or Microcell? If you made it this far you’re most likely aware that a Microcell produces signal for your phone. When in a low service area a couple things generally happen that’s frustrating.
- Dropped calls
- Slow data rates
- Low call quality
- Web pages failing to load
- Excessive buffering on videos
An AT&T Microcell can fix these issues, under the right conditions:
- Internet Access at your home (DSL, Cable, Satellite, Wisp, Fiber etc.)
- AT&T phones only need service
- Your internet connection is reliable, normally not an issue
One of the downsides to the AT&T Microcell is the requirement for a normal home internet connection. The way a Microcell works is quite simple in concept.
- Microcell connects into internet router
- Router is connected to your home internet
- Unit broadcasts a “cell phone signal” throughout your home
- Unit sends all information through your home internet
This creates the feeling of having cell signal, but you’re technically just using your home internet. There is nothing wrong with this, and it works quite well. However not everyone has home internet, or reliable internet. Let alone unlimited data, which is turning into another nightmare for consumers.
These work best in a setting with home internet, and absolutely no signal around you, or very little. On the flip side, you can get several of the benefits for free via WiFi calling, and WiFi. You’re still not connected to a cell tower though, if the internet at home goes out, you’re phone will no longer work.
Benefits of a Microcell:
- Strong cell signal coverage area
- Minimal Set up
- Works anywhere you have reliable internet access
- Boosts all AT&T signals
The short comings:
- Must have internet at home
- Only works on AT&T, no other providers
- Uses your home Internets bandwidth
- Paying “more” per month due to the internet requirement
Is there another option?
The alternative is to buy a cellular booster, or repeater. Unlike the device listed above, these take real cell signal, and boost it. This allows your internet connection at home to be complete separate of your phone. If the internet goes down for maintenance, your phone will still work. There are some requirements though, and this is what makes the decision on which one to buy.
- Requires some cell service (Read more below on this)
- Whole home units need installed
- Some fine tuning required on install
- Minor preparation required before aiming outdoor antenna
- Outdoor antenna mount (Fence post, J pole on roof, TV Tower etc.)
- A way to get coax cable into your home
The requirement for cell service is harder to guess than it would seem. If you have no signal, but you have it up the road a little, a booster will most likely get signal. I have gotten signal several times in a no signal zone without any issue. It’s all important to check multiple phones, because some phones pick signal up better than others.
With a booster, you have an indoor, and outdoor antenna. The indoor antenna re-broadcasts the outdoor signal after its been amplified. The stronger your outside signal, the further your inside signal will reach. Much like a normal cellular tower, the further away from the inside antenna you are, the worse the signal. Your phone will go from 4G (or less if in really bad area) to 3g, then to 2g or 1x depending on provider.
However your phone will be using the cellular tower, unlike with the AT&T Microcell. This can come in handy when your internet is out, your phone will still work like normal. It also allows you to continue using your cellular data without using the WiFi bandwidth. Many people use their phones as their primary internet, making a AT&T Microcell an extra monthly cost. Internet prices can be $30 or more a month, where a cellular booster has no monthly fee.
What are the benefits over the Microcell?
- Works on cellular towers
- Boosts all carriers, not carrier specific
- Boosts multiple devices, on multiple carriers at all times
- No internet required
- Can work where no internet is run, camping areas, remote locations.
The not so great:
- Install required for home boosters, could use mobile if needed
- Aiming antenna at correct cell towers
- Research on tower locations (Click here for instructions)
- Signal distance directly depends on outside signal strength at the antenna.
- Sometimes difficult to determine signal strength at antenna with phone.
Both devices above serve a purpose, and both can be used in certain situations. Many areas, either device will work depending on what carriers you have, cell tower locations, and home internet access. We have a number of helpful guides on installing a booster throughout our site which are linked with in the article. A typical person could install a booster if they don’t mind crawling on the ground, and running cable.
We have further reviews on the ins and outs of cellular boosters throughout our site, including reviews. Many of which are linked in this article. Hopefully you found this information helpful in your short journey to obtaining a quality signal. I strongly recommend reading our Weboost connect 4G review for home users. If you’re a more mobile user, I recommend our Weboost Drive 4G-X review. Those boosters will give a good feel on how a home, and mobile unit works.
Once you decide which style to get we have a great list on how strong each unit is for easy selection which can be found here. If you’re looking for a really quick way to choose, without all the “extra” information. Then clicking here will give you a quick list of each booster after you choose your carrier.