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Cellular / cell phone repeater

- an overview or tutorial about cell phone / cellular repeater technology and how and where these amplifier repeaters may be used.

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Cellular repeaters of cell phone repeaters are sometimes also called wireless cellular signal boosters.

These cellular repeaters boost a cellular signal so that it can be received more easily. These cellular repeaters are often used to boost the cellular signal in areas where the signal may be weak, and they find particular usage in buildings such as homes and offices.

As poor coverage is often one of the key reasons for cellular subscriber churn, methods of improving coverage in localised areas represent a good method of overcoming some of the coverage problems. These can often be installed in homes and offices as personal cellular repeaters to overcome these coverage problems.

While personal repeaters offer good coverage solution for many operators, to date they have not been broadly deployed. Problems including device costs and the installation costs have been factors driving low adoption of cellular repeaters.

However with improvements in technology enabling the installation to be run by the cellular repeater itself, and requiring only a couple of cables such as power, etc to be made by the user - the installation of an external antenna would require additional installation - these cellular repeaters are now becoming more of a reality.

Cellular repeaters vs femtocells

There is a significant overlap in the applications for cellular repeaters and femtocells. For the user they appear to perform functions that are quite similar. However there are some criteria that would make one or the other more applicable for certain situations.

Aspect Cellular repeater Femtocell
Antenna A receive antenna is required to pick up the signal from the base station No antenna is required to connect to the network
Wired backhaul No wired backhaul connection is needed making cellular repeaters particularly attractive for rural and isolated areas. Normally the users broadband (Internet) connection is used to provide the backhaul connection to the network.

Cellular repeater basics

A cellular repeater may be considered as a form of bi-directional amplifier. They will receive a signal from the local base-station and then re-broadcast it locally within the users premises - house, office, etc. The signal transmitted by the cellular handset or user equipment is packed up by the repeater and rebroadcast to the base-station.

Typically a cellular repeater will utilise an external directional antenna to communicate with the base station. There will then be a downlead to the repeater unit itself which will contain the antenna for radiating the signal within the premises.

Many simple cellular repeaters only allow use by one cell phone, but others allow the use of multiple phones.

In order to reduce cellular interference and congestion, the cellular repeater will transmit and receive on the same frequency. While this does present some difficulties for the design, these can be overcome to enable this to be achieved.

By Ian Poole

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