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AT&T Microcell & T-Mobile CellSpot versus Cell Signal Booster

AT&T Microcell or T-Mobile CellSpot are both are based on femtocell technology. Whereas cell phone signal boosters are based on a different Bi-Directional Amplifier (BDA) technology so they work differently. However, all of these are used to improve cellular coverage.

A cell phone signal booster amplifies a cellular signal existing outside, and that amplified signal can then be used by cellular devices indoors, while a femtocell (ATT MicroCell or Tmobile CellSpot) is essentially a cellular base station with a broadband Internet connection that creates a cell signal to cover a small area.

AT&T Microcells and T-Mobile CellSpots (Femtocells).

ATT Microcells or Tmobile Cellspots are based on Femtocells technology. When working, they are to be connected to the Internet. Thereby, they create voice over IP (VOIP) signal that can cover a small indoor area. Fem To Cell technology based AT&T Micro-Cell and T-Mobile Cell-Spot are sometimes offered by respective cellular service providers that call them by different names such as AT&T Micro Cell and T-Mobile Personal Cell Spot V1, CellSpot V2, etc. Cell carriers offer them as a solution in poor signal areas.

Pros.

  • Provides coverage anywhere from a single room up to large buildings.
  • May offer faster connections for data than typical cell signals.
  • Can provide cell signals indoors even if there is no cellular signal available outside.

Cons.

  • Can't pass a connection to a cell tower. If you're for example talking to someone using a microcell or femtocell connection inside a building and you step outside, the call will drop.
  • Need a high speed Internet connection.
  • All cellular devices need to be synched, or paired before they can be used with a fem-to-cell/ ATTmicro-cell.
  • Only cellular devices for your specific carrier will be supported.
  • Some internet bandwidth is used to operate.
  • Your cellular service provider may charge additional monthly fees for using the equipment.

Cell Phone Signal Boosters.

Cell phone signal booster systems operate independently of Internet and consist of 3 components:

  1. Outside (tower) antenna(s) that receives the signal.
  2. Signal amplifier(s) that boost signal strength.
  3. Inside (device) antenna(s) that retransmit the boosted signal inside a building or vehicle.

These boosters are bi-directional, i.e. when the phone or device transmits back to the tower, the process happens in reverse order. Signal boosters are very effective in areas with weak signal, or in buildings where cellular signals have difficulty penetrating.

Cell Phone Signal Booster Features.

  1. They are a one-time purchase devices and no monthly charges apply.
  2. The connection is maintained by a booster when a cell phone switches from receiving signal from the cell tower to receiving signal through the signal booster, and vice versa.
  3. A wireless booster generally supports simultaneous connections to multiple cellular devices.
  4. A signal booster amplifies signals for multiple carriers simultaneously and will boost both data and voice signals.
  5. Signal boosters help extend your device's battery charge.
  6. Various vehicle signal boosters are available.
  7. Depending on the system configuration, signal boosters can cover areas from a single room up to large buildings.

It should be noted that signal boosters do not create a cellular signals, but use detectable signals available outside.

Commercial Grade Signal Enhancing Installations.

Commercial grade versions of all these three type systems can be used for larger scale deployments such as in buildings with hundreds of thousands of square feet of coverage. However, the system design may be quite different due to different technologies being used. Installation time and cost may also vary greatly between the two depending upon unique requirements of such large scale installations.

Commercial systems would also require professional system installers that are certified to install such industrial or commercial grade signal enhancing systems. Read the blog post titled, Small Cell Installations vs Passive & Active DAS where "Small Cell" corresponds to "Femtocell" type systems such as AT&T Microcell and T-Mobile CellSpot and "Passive DAS" correspends to "Cell Phone Signal Booster" bi-directional amplifying systems (BDA systems).

Conclusion.

There are several important differences between a femtocell and a cell phone signal booster. Femtocell technology is used in various carrier supplied signal enhancing systems that require broadband Internet service to operate, and they work only for respective carrier's network. Carriers call them by different names such as AT&T Microcell and T-Mobile CellSpot. They do not require any signal outside building. On other hand, signal boosters do not require Internet access and they work simultaneously on all cell service carrier networks. They do require very minimal signal outside building so it can be amplified and distributed inside.