Attention: The forums will be placed on read only mode this Saturday (Oct. 20, 2018)

During this outage (6:30 AM to 8 PM PDT) the forums will be placed on read only mode. We apologize for this inconvenience. Click here to read details

Phones forum


AT&T Microcell... Signal Booster or Internet Cell Tower?

by directvsucks / July 1, 2013 2:32 AM PDT

I have read conflicting opinions on how AT&T's Microcell works. Some say it is a signal booster requiring at least 2 bars of service to work. Others say it is a mini cell tower that works by connecting to the AT&T network via DSL thus requiring no cell tower signal at all.

Can someone who knows for sure give me the straight skinny? Thanks

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: AT&T Microcell... Signal Booster or Internet Cell Tower?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: AT&T Microcell... Signal Booster or Internet Cell Tower?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.

All Answers

Collapse -
Yes. There will be conflicting opinions.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / July 1, 2013 2:39 AM PDT

Here, in my location the booster offered by my carrier fails. Just 2 blocks away it works. Does that mean it's a bad solution? No. It only means that location dictates whether it will work for you.

ATT should answer which system is needed for you. They offered both versions across the world so your location matters.

Collapse -
Nope. But you do need to be able to obtain/receive GPS
by Pepe7 / July 1, 2013 4:32 AM PDT

That is different than a cellular signal, of course. AFAIK, GPS is still required to authenticate you when you set up the device. That's why they say put in near a window. See the manual here:

It connects to your broadband router and does not repeat like a traditional amp/repeater cellular solution, which generally uses an internal or external antenna to bring in the signal from outdoors. You would benefit from visiting the user forums to learn more, especially about how it works w/ LTE.

Collapse -
SIgnal boosters needs 1 or 2 bars of signal
by laurentgil / August 26, 2013 6:01 PM PDT

Signal boosters would need 1 or 2 bars - while AT&T microcell would need internet (but a good fast Internet link). FYI, AT&T just released and authorized a new booster (here). It is from my company Happy

Collapse -
The only problem w/ cel-fi is...
by Pepe7 / August 27, 2013 2:35 AM PDT

It's hardware I believe is currently limited to a single carrier (now, either T-Mo or ATT). Correct me if I'm wrong, if someone wanted to change to Verizon (for example), it would require different equipment. That's why a simple amp/repeater might make more sense. You could even sell it along with the house for the next owner (etc.).

Collapse -
Yikes! $1K(!)
by Pepe7 / August 27, 2013 2:37 AM PDT

The web site finally loaded where the prices were listed. A little overpriced if you ask me.

Collapse -
by laurentgil / August 27, 2013 4:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Yikes! $1K(!)


Yup, Cel-Fi is carrier-specific.

So one unit is for T-Mobile, one unit is for AT&T - it is a different philosophy than analog traditional repeaters: because it is specific, it can deconstruct/reconstruct digitally the carrier's signal and definitively eliminate all noise and echo in a way that makes it authorized by the carriers (for now, the only signal booster to be authorized by AT&T and T-Mobile), and plug and play (ie no antenna to install, see here) - but the inconvenience is the specificity: if you need to boost other carriers, you need to go with the analog amp/repeaters/antenna and they work well also.

As always, it all depends what the issue is.

Collapse -
There's another inconvenience of Cel-Fi
by Pepe7 / August 27, 2013 4:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Yup

The whole 'need to be near a window' thing. For most folks not as saavy about how you go about maximizing reception of various radio waves inside a structure, they miss out on that very important detail vs an antenna solution when is not blocked/may enjoy nearly clear LOS (line of sight) to a cellular site.

The carriers win too, since they basically outsource the solution, and probably recoup a portion of each sale ;).


Collapse -
ah, but you can still get an outside antenna :)
by laurentgil / August 27, 2013 6:30 AM PDT


Very good point! That's why we also have units with an outdoor antenna plug - and some clients (almost all in rural areas, in the US and in Australia) use that when necessary.

Here is why this is cool: Cel-Fi has a Smart Antenna technology: the latest generation has 4 internal directional antennas (inside the window unit), and an option to plug an external antenna. Our processor detects in real time which of these antennas gets the best signal and automatically switches from one to another as it detects the best signal to repeat. Also, whenever the carrier changes its tower configuration (that happens a lot unfortunately), the system will detect it and choose the best configuration again. That's one of the reason why Cel-Fi is carrier-authorized (especially AT&T).

For now, almost 95% of Cel-Fi users do not need an outside antenna, which makes the install easier.

Collapse -
You seem to be implying that...
by Pepe7 / August 27, 2013 7:08 AM PDT

...ATT is turning off the closest cellular site frequently? I fear you have been sold a bill of goods by the marketing people in your firm ;).

Collapse -
Signal Booster or Internet Cell Tower..

The outside signal strength of the carriers you need to support determines how strong of an amplifier you need to provide adequate coverage for the area you need covered. The weaker the outside signal is, the stronger the cell phone signal booster needs to be in order to boost the signal and provide adequate coverage

Collapse -
PS. This old post is now out dated.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 7, 2014 11:24 PM PDT

The carriers have newer offerings so let's start a new conversation if need be.

Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Your favorite shows are back!

Don’t miss your dramas, sitcoms and reality shows. Find out when and where they’re airing!