In the SureCall certified BDA or bi-directional amplifier training course details video below, we cover how to determine a solution for a building with low internal cellular signal, the importance of the site survey, basic installation techniques, and the benefits of becoming a certified installer. Furthermore, we detail what happens next, including our tier program and certification tests. Watch the video below to proceed, or continue reading below the video to proceed to learn more.
Before we can determine a solution, we must know what is causing the problem. So, what exactly causes weak cellular signal? Inside buildings, there are three main culprits that are causing this issue. The first is building materials themselves. Things like low E glass, metal, and concrete. The second is terrain. Things like mountains and valleys, but also the foliage outside of a building can actually absorb radio waves. Also the distance from the cellular tower. You could either be too far from the tower, or you could be too close.
Let us take a look at the main markets that SureCall boosters consistently succeed in. Each of these applications have different solution needs and different challenges to consider. Large buildings have things like elevator shafts, tall roofs nearby, cell towers as they are typically in densely populated areas, and E glass that keeps signals from reaching the inside of the building.
Schools and universities have smaller areas that still have a lot of simultaneous users. Buildings are typically made of concrete and they are spread out around a larger campus. Hotels have a high demand for indoor coverage enhancement but also have a high demand for aesthetics so placing internal and external antennas can be challenging.
Hospitals share the challenges of large buildings, universities and their own challenges. There're many areas in hospitals that might need no coverage because of sensitive equipment and often have concrete internal structures as well as elevator shafts. So, how do we help? We provide free to use service in order to configure system layouts for commercial applications above 10,000 square feet. Two key pieces of information we need are the detailed floor plan of the building or area that needs cellular coverage enhancement, and a completed site survey form or commercial installation questionnaire.
By complete, we mean we cannot accept answers like, "unknown" or see floor plans on this site survey. Provide a floor plan that includes approximate dimensions utilizing square footage. We understand that there're sometimes scales provided on the plans, but often the scaling is different because of the tools that we use to view the floor plans. Therefore, please include the approximate dimensions on the site survey form. Or call us with as many details as possible, so we can schedule a site survey at no cost to gather rest of the details.
If you wish to proceed to give us all details, we recommend utilizing a signal meter to record signal strength on the floor plan, both inside and outside on all sides of the building. It is imperative to include all local carrier signal strengths in dB to get accurate signal strength readings. We suggest using an RF signal meter because using your phone to read bars limits the accuracy of the reading. Bars only show your carrier signals, the portion of the RF spectrum you are on and always shows the strongest band, whether that be 3G voice or 4G data.
One of the big reasons you want to include all carriers is because our BDA's or Bi-Directional Amplfiers are wideband signal boosters. If there's a competing tower really close that is using the same frequency as your carrier, it is possible that the signal could be too strong coming into the booster and you won't see an increase in your carrier signal strength inside.
See few helpful links shown in video that we at SignalBooster.com have used in order to find out more information about the carrier networks in any given specific area. Both cell reception and open signal are tower search tools. Wireless advisor shows which frequencies the carriers are using, in a given location, and the specmap validates carrier blocks. You can see that the places in red on the map in video are areas where Verizon uses the B Block on the cellular network.
Look out for signals that are stronger than negative 65dB that may cause an overload in the booster and automatic gain reduction. Also look out for signal strength that is too poor. Anything lower than a negative 95dB may be too weak for the system to work to its full potential. We have to have some amount of signal getting into the booster before that signal can be amplified.
Our target starting signal is between negative 65 and negative 95dB. In video, you can see a side-by-side comparison of a bad site survey and a properly completed site survey. As you can see on the bad site survey, many of the answers state, "see floorplan". Once again, things like, "see floor plan", or "Unknown" are unacceptable answers and need to be addressed.
Another thing that helps with configuring a system is knowing where the customer is expecting to house the boosters inside the building. Please indicate this information on the floor plans themselves. Finding the outside signal strength is essential but with SureCall’s RF signal meter, it is an easy task. This is an essential site survey tool that detects signal from all carriers, has easy-to-follow instructions, is rechargeable and portable, but also produces reliable results.
An RF meter searches the signal strength for AWS, PCS, cellular and LTE frequencies. It includes adapters that allow you to plug the signal meter directly into your exterior or donor antenna but also at the end of your runs where you're expecting to put your interior or broadcast antenna. That makes this not just a site survey tool, but also a BDA system installation tool.
SureCall’s RF signal meter offers three distinct modes allowing you to inspect each frequency to eliminate all overload or limited signal issues prior to installation. Simply hold down the Mode button to toggle between modes:
- Mode 1 allows for signal readings to be taken by blocks within each frequency band.
- Mode 2 allows you to sift through each frequency band in 5 megahertz increments.
- Mode 3 provides an average signal strength for each full band by frequency.
Once the site survey has been completed and sent to us along with a copy of the floorplans, you will receive a suggested system layout similar to this one within three to five business days. Along with the configuration, you will receive a list of components and part numbers necessary to create a bill of materials.
Most of the time, the suggested materials will come in a kit. Things like coax cables, splitters and antennas will automatically be included. Now that you have a list of components and the configuration, let's take a quick look at the components in a booster system. Thecomponents that will come in a SureCall cellular signal booster kit are, the booster and indoor and outdoor antenna cables and a splitter. For multi antenna kits, a lightning protector is not automatically included but it is always recommended.
There is some customization available in these kits and most of that has to do with the type and number of antennas included. So, let us take a look at some of our more popular consumer grade boosters and what kinds of applications they are typically used for.
For smaller applications, we have the Fusion5s. The Fusion 5s is an all-carrier voice and data cell phone booster with sentry remote monitoring capabilities. By using more than one system, you can cover six to twelve thousand square feet for 2G, 3G and 4G LTE. Some unique features of this booster includes separate lines for uplink and downlink which increases the number of simultaneous users to 680 per system.
It also has enhanced cellular and data reception for areas of 6000 square feet. It has adjustable attenuation dials for each band which is an industry exclusive, and also has the remote monitoring sentry system and lifetime tech support. This is a great unit for small businesses or businesses who are not expecting a lot of simultaneous traffic.
The Force5 is by far SureCall’s most popular booster for commercial applications. Some of its unique features include linear design which increases the number of simultaneous users to 100 plus per band. It provides all carrier enhanced cellular and data reception for areas of 20 to 25,000 square feet per booster.
Additional systems can be added for larger areas. It is carrier accepted. All you have to do is register the booster online with the carrier after purchase. It also has adjustable attenuation dip switches for each frequency on both uplink and downlink. Some ideal applications that the Force5 can be used on are universities, churches, hotels, hospitals and multi-story buildings.
The Sentry is an add-on to the Force5 and Fusion 5s that adds value to the product service offerings by allowing installers to remotely monitor and digitally attenuate the Force5 and Fusion 5s whenever an alert of any problem is received. It allows installers to quickly pinpoint malfunctions due to unforeseen changes such as newly installed cellular towers or repeater systems. It also immediately notifies installers or end users via email about booster failures or overpowering.
The Sentry remote monitoring system will send the registered user an email notification if the booster starts overpowering from too much incoming signal, or if the system is detecting oscillation or feedback from a lack of proper separation. One quick reminder about the FCC requirements associated with our boosters: All consumer-grade boosters must be registered prior to activation. The boosters will operate without being registered, but in order for the carriers to officially allow them to be used on their network, they must be registered online.
Here are websites of major carriers where you can register with the carriers. Registration is not needed for users in Canada. In addition to the consumer-grade boosters, SureCall also has industrial grade boosters available. Force 5 industrial solution is shown in the video. It is an 80dB wideband 3W booster for industrial applications. It provides all carrier enhanced cellular and data reception for areas of up to 80,000 square feet. Additional systems can be added for larger areas.
While it is FCC certified, it does require direct carrier equipment. It also has adjustable attenuation dip switches for each frequency on both the uplink and the downlink. Popular industrial applications include business complexes, parking garages, MDUs and carrier contracts. Each of the consumer grade boosters must be sold in a complete kit and these kits will give you options for both the exterior and interior antennas.
There are even options for using multiple indoor antennas. A big part of determining or suggesting a system starts with exterior or donor antenna selection. The Omni donor antennas are great for situations where the outside signal is sufficient but the inside signal is poor because of the makeup of the building. The Yagi donor antennas are best used in situations where there is poor outside signal to begin with, or if the needed carrier’s tower is far away.
SureCall offers two different types of interior or broadcast antenna selections. The dome antenna is used for covering large places on floors that have standard drop-down ceilings. The panel is used for tall ceilings, multiple floors as in a multi floor residence, and also long hallways. So far, we have identified the need for a solution and have a configuration and a bill of materials. Now we need to actually put the system in.
SureCall’s brand of enterprise signal boosters are unique in many ways. One of the advantages for installers is that they have dip switches to allow you to attenuate the uplink and downlink separately for each band. Each band has its own set of dip switches for both uplink and downlink. Each signal booster from SureCall is shipped at full gain and ideally should be set up to not need any attenuation.
Inline attenuators seen at the top right in video are also available to help regulate the incoming signal if it is too strong across multiple bands and the booster is overpowering. In smaller applications, the attenuation dials allow you to control how big or small the square footage is, that comes out of the broadcast antenna. This helps in shared business spaces or focused coverage needs. It also helps if you cannot get adequate separation between the antennas.
Antenna separation is key in creating a properly working system. On a typical 72dB booster, 50 to 60 feet is needed between the outside and the closest inside antenna, and that is a linear distance and not necessarily a cable run. We are trying to prevent the system from creating oscillation. There are many ways to do this but the easiest way is to make sure that the antennas have enough linear distance from each other.
Following section will focus on material dB loss, cable loss and the ability to combine systems. We will look at combining systems first.
First, it is possible and even common practice to need more than one system to provide the signal saturation in commercial applications. Since these bi-directional boosters are sold as complete kit with an outside donor antenna included, you can simply mount an outside antenna for every booster system. However, what if you need 5 systems or 10 or 15, you can easily combine multiple systems into a single outdoor antenna using a wideband splitter.
The video shows the configuration where we combined four systems into one outdoor antenna. You can add as many as 10 systems onto one outside donor antenna, but as these systems will always come in kits, you will have extra outside antennas when the job is done.
In the video we show a small office that was too big for a Fusion5s so we went with two Fusion5 kits. In industrial applications, you can use multiple industrial Force5 amplifiers to cover larger areas of square footage, but remember, the industrial boosters do require you to have carrier approval for the design and installation before you activate the system. We take care of this when you have us install your system.
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