Cart 0

What is a Cell Phone Service Extender?

Aug 20, 2021

There're a number of solutions for bad cell phone signal, including network extenders, range extenders and cell phone extenders. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, these're actually different technologies. In this article, we will take a look at these technologies, what they do, and the pros and cons of each.

Network Extenders.

Network extenders are also known as femtocells and microcells. They work differently than signal boosters as they work by creating their own cell signals and then routing all the cellular data and calls over high speed internet, rather than the cell network.

A network extender can be bought from carriers, and will work with only that carrier's signal. If there's absolutely no outside signal, but an internet connection is available, network extenders are a great option.

It should however be noted that network extenders can't be used with satellite internet as these have too much latency (delay). An extender also needs to be located close to a window as it uses a GPS device enabling the carrier to determine the location of an extender.

Besides the fact that that network extenders only work for a single carrier, another major drawback is that there's often a handoff problem between the extender and the local cell tower. This results in dropped calls when exiting or entering the building where the network extender is installed.

Range Extenders and Cell Phone Extenders.

A range extender and a cell phone extender are basically synonyms of cell phone signal boosters. Cell phone signal boosters take a weak, existing cell signal from outside, amplify it, and then broadcast the boosted signal to areas inside homes, businesses or vehicles.

Cell phone extenders, or signal boosters need atleast a minimal amount of usable signal outside where an external antenna is mounted and is able to capture from nearby cell tower, or else the booster won't have anything to boost.

While range and cell phone extenders are certified to be used by all major carriers, the carriers don't sell them. They are however widely available through specialty stores, like

Network Extender and Cell Phone Extender Comparison.

Network, range and cell phone extenders each have specific advantages and disadvantages, and some will be great for specific situations whereas others are not. The comparison table below will allow you to easily determine the differences between the device types.


Network Extenders

Cell Phone Extenders

Works without existing signal.

Boosts existing outside cell signal.

Works for all carriers simultaneously.

Doesn’t need broadband Internet.

Doesn’t have cell tower handoff problems when entering or exiting buildings.


Cellular amplifiers and femtocells are both used in a situation with limited cellular reception, but their operation is very different.

Femtocells (or microcells) are cellular base stations that use broadband Internet connections to create cell signals that will cover a small area.

Signal boosters amplify background cellular signals and make the boosted signals available to cellular devices for use.

All About Cell Phone Signal Boosters.

Cell phone signal booster systems consist of three main components:

  • An outside antenna that picks up signals from cell phone towers;
  • A signal amplifier that boosts the signal's strength;
  • An inside antenna that retransmits that amplified signal inside a vehicle or building.

Cell phone signal booster systems are considered "bi-directional amplifiers" (BDA). When a phone sends back to the cell tower, the process described above is repeated in the opposite order. A signal booster is very effective in an area where the signal is weak, or in a building where cellular signals have difficulty penetrating.

  • Signal boosters don't need Internet to operate.
  • Signal boosters strengthen the signals of multiple carriers and boost data and voice.
  • They are available as end-user kits in retail box for DIY self-installation. Basic installation skills may be required.
  • They are purchased once-off and have no monthly charge.
  • Vehicle installation models are available.
  • Wireless signal boosters often support concurrent connections on all different carriers of numerous cellular devices.
  • Signal boosters assist with conserving a device's battery charge.
  • Signal boosters maintain a connection while a cell phone switches between receiving signals through a cell tower to receiving signals through a signal booster, and vice versa.
  • Depending on the model used, they are able to cover areas from single rooms up to large buildings. Multiple booster kits can be used to expand to practically cover limitless square footage indoor coverage.

Signal boosters however do not create cellular signals. They use detectable, existing signal to work.

All About Microcells or Femtocells.

Femtocells are connected to the Internet and then create a VOIP (voice over IP) signal that can cover a small indoor area. Cellular service provider sometimes supply femtocells to assist users that have problems with poor signal.


  • Femtocells can't pass a connection to a cell tower and call will drop if you move between the range of the tower and the femtocell. An example of this would be when you leave your home/office or enter it from outside.
  • Femtocells need a high speed Internet connection to operate. It uses from alloted Internet data transfer gigabytes allowed for usuage within your broadband internet subscription plan from your local Telco.
  • Femtocells need cellular devices to be synched, or paired, to the cell before they are able to use the femtocells' connection.
  • Femtocells only support cellular devices for a specific carrier.
  • Femtocells use internet bandwidth to work.
  • Additional monthly fees may be charged to use the equipment from your mobile service provider.


  • Fem-to-cells may offer faster connections for data than typical cellular signals do.
  • Femtocells provide cell signals indoors, even if there is no cellular signal available outside.
  • Femtocells can cover anywhere from single rooms to large buildings. Small coverage units may be plug and play but large coverage units require professional installation by certified installers.


It makes sense to use each type of device in specific scenarios. Knowing what the differences are, will assist in selecting the appropriate solution for your unique circumstances. Please contact us for any assistance you need - We're here to help!

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

  • If I understand this right, network extenders are good for situations where you can’t get any type of signal. I know that cell phone boosters won’t work if no cell signal exists. Thus you get a network extender in those cases and a cell phone extender when there are weak signals.

    Tyler Reading on
  • Thank you. I feel like I finally understand the difference between network extenders and cell phone extenders (boosters). I’m not in the market for an extender but I am for a cell phone booster. Inconsistent signals have been bothering me for the last few years and with the ‘rona making things crazier, I want a reliable cell phone.

    Logan Daniels on
  • I never would have known about the different things affecting cell phone service extenders. The pros and cons section answered most of my questions and I know I can contact and ask with whatever other questions I have. That’s important when I’m dealing with technical items I’m not well-versed in.

    Cathy Byrne on
  • This explained a lot to me about the differences between network extenders and cell phone extenders. There are differences and the differences are important to understand. I need the best cell phone booster I can get because I have problems getting a consistently strong signal where I live. I would want a cell phone extender as opposed to a network extender.

    Alan T. Crowden Jr. on
  • This is a new one for me. I’ve run across a lot of articles about cell phone boosters for cars and portable phone boosters that you can switch between your car and home, but I’ve never heard about cell phone service extenders until now. If I understand this right, they’re just another name for phone boosters. Also, I was amazed by what this article taught me about microcells and femtocells. I didn’t know it was possible to create signals for your phones. That’s good to know because I do know that phone boosters won’t create a signal out of thin air.
    Barney Howell on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.