Raising the Bar on Cell Phone Reception
Boosters Solve Weak Signals and Dropped Calls
Zombies may be all the rage, but being in a dead zone is no fun when it comes to your cell phone.
In a phone culture like Los Angeles, dropped calls can mean lost opportunity. No matter how fancy your smartphone, if you don’t get a strong enough signal, you are not connected. For Angelenos who depend on their cell phone, Robert Galeano is the answer man. His Canoga Park-based company, Cellular Outlet, has found a niche in raising the bar on signal strength — by installing booster antennas.
“A dead cell zone can occur right in the middle of an urban area. Most of my customers use their cell phones as their only phone. They rely on their cell phones to do business, so connectivity is a must for them and dead zones can seriously impact their productivity and quality of life,” said Galeano.
Dead zones can occur due to buildings, hills, and even dense foliage. There are also many surprising causes of poor reception, such as tinted glass windows made with metal oxide, and heavy concrete walls – and even the commonplace lath-and-plaster and stucco walls of many Los Angeles dwellings – that signals can’t penetrate.
Of course, the distance between a cell phone and the nearest cell signal repeater also affects a signal, which is why Galeano’s business is especially robust in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, were civic groups have opposed installation of cell towers due aesthetic and safety issues.
Galeano says he is aware of the concerns people have regarding the presence of towers and dangers of radio frequency, which is why he explains to customers that boosters do not increase radio frequency radiation any more than normal use of the cell phone, when it’s resting against your ear. He stresses that, “Boosters are a safe, legal, and cost effective way to eliminate dead zones.”
Unlike the eyesore of a cell tower in a tony neighborhood, the booster antenna is discreet. The booster has three main components: An external antenna, which mounts on a roof; a small signal amplifier, which is placed inside the house in a closet, garage or equipment room; and an internal antenna, which can be mounted unobtrusively on a wall. In the case of a very large house, more than one internal antenna may be needed. The three components are connected by coax cable.
The booster only serves one household. The external antenna receives the weak signal and sends it through the cable to the amplifier inside the house. The signal is amplifies and sent through the cable to the internal antenna, which sends the signal around the house. The booster can improve signal strength by as much as 20 times. Galeano also installs boosters made for cars that work in a similar manner.
Booster don’t require a telephone line or Internet connection, and users do not need to register their phones to the booster, so even guests in a building with a booster benefit from improved cell reception. A booster can be used by multiple people who are using multiple types of cellular devices and accessing service from multiple cell carriers – all at the same time. The boosters are usually carrier agnostic, but with the new 4G services there are some differences, so an installer will need to know who your cell provider is.
The initial investment for the booster system – such as the popular Wilson Adjustable Gain Signal Booster — is around $2,600 for a large home with three antennas. The installation should be done by a professional and takes about three hours. There are no subscription or maintenance fees. Professional installers like Galeano generally include at least a year’s service agreement in case there are any problems, which are rare since the system needs little to no upkeep, similar to a telephone or cable installation.
Boosters can be installed in just about any building – apartments, multifamily dwellings, hotels, hospitals and businesses. All antennas, splitters, cable and boosters can be concealed inside an attic or basement, except for the approximate 6” by 4” outside antenna that goes on roof. If there is no basement or attic, cable can be run on the side of a building and penetrate a side wall. A booster works best if the outside antenna is on the roof, but if needed an antenna can be installed on a terrace or a ledge or even on the side of the building as long as the antenna is pointed in the direction of the strongest signal, which the installer can determine.
The booster’s performance is unaffected by weather, unless the weather actually causes a power outage or interferes with the cell tower’s ability to transmit and receive signals.
While Galeano serves an A-list of clients whose names he keeps confidential, he says you don’t have to be rich and famous to have a cell booster.
“Anyone who has a weak cell phone signal and suffers through a lot of dropped calls can benefit. We have many clients who are parents who stay at home with their children and want to make sure their cell phones work in case there is an emergency,” said Galeano.
Galeano, who is ranked as Los Angeles’ top installer of the Wilson cell signal booster, says his business has expanded exponentially over the past few years. As he spends more time on the road traveling to perform installations, he finds himself more and more reliant on his own cell phone in his car, in which of course he has installed a booster.