The Difference Between Boosters, Repeaters, and Extenders
Updated: Sep 6
Dropped and low-quality cell signal puts a damper on some things, whether you are at home, in an office, or on the road. Cell signals connect people through texts and calls and allow you to use data to access the internet on the go. It’s hard to reap the benefits of cellular technology without quality and strong signal connections. Luckily, there’s tech that keeps your cell signals reliable and powerful: cellular booster signal systems.
While researching and looking for the best cell signal booster for your needs, you might have come across searches and results for cellular signal extenders and repeaters. What’s the difference between boosters, repeaters, and extenders? In short, nothing. Booster, repeater, and extender are interchangeable terms for the same tech. That said, there is still much to learn about these terms and others.
Purpose of a Booster, Repeater, or Extender
A cellular signal boosting system consists of three main components, two antennas, and an amplifier. Typically, the terms booster, repeater, and extender refer to the amplifier of the three-part system. However, sometimes, people use the terms extender and repeater in reference to the antennas. Whether they are referred to as boosters, repeaters, or extenders, all of these amplifying devices function the same way. They enhance cell signals.
Outdoor antennas cast a net that sends and captures nearby radio waves. Captured signals then get sent to the amplifier device, which boosts the signals by increasing the frequencies. The indoor antennas then receive and reemit the boosted signals into your desired area. Without existing frequencies nearby, the system can’t operate.
Cell Signal Terminology
As with any technology, there are numerous different terms used to refer to and discuss booster systems. When on the hunt for the right tech for you, it can be frustrating not knowing what certain terms mean, whether they are interchangeable, or how they should affect your decision. Here is some of the most common verbiage used when discussing cell signal boosters:
Boosters, Repeaters, and Extenders
As mentioned above, the terms booster, repeater, and extender all refer to the same thing. These interchangeable terms refer to a system that takes existing signals, amplifies them, and reemits them. Depending on the context, these terms can also refer to the actual amplifier in the three-part system and the antennas.
Omnidirectional Range and Antenna
The term omnidirectional gets used in more than one way. It refers to signals being received and transmitted in all directions, and it’s also the name of a specific type of antenna. Typically, omnidirectional signals and antennas cover a larger area in terms of width but not distance.
Directional Range and Antenna
Like the term omnidirectional, directional refers to the spread range of signals and a specific type of antenna. Directional signals and antennas send radio waves in a set direction. Unlike omnidirectional, directional signals cross longer distances and cover less aerial space.
Uplink and Downlink
Uplink and downlink refer to the communication connection between your cellular device and network tower. The word uplink describes when your cell phone sends data to the cell tower. Downlink refers to data traveling from the network tower to your cell phone.
Cell Signal and Radio Waves
Cell signals are essentially radio wave frequencies. On the electromagnetic spectrum, radio waves travel across various distances. They work alongside various communicative devices, from radios and TVs to cell phones and speakers. Signal boosters are another type of radio communicative device that relies on passing radio frequencies to deliver and receive data carried as vibrations and frequencies. However, they act more like a pit stop rather than the end goal of the traveling information.
Signal Strength and Quality
The term signal strength often gets interchanged with signal quality. However, they actually refer to separate signal features. Signal strength describes the distance and actual success of the traveling radio waves being transmitted and delivered. People use signal quality to refer to the type of experience a person has sending and receiving the transmitted data. It describes the speed of connection and how you receive and deliver information.
Decibles Per Milliwatt (dBm)
Decibel per milliwatt or dBm is the measurement used to calculate and rate the signal. Strong signals score around -70 dBm to zero dBm.
Gain refers to the increase of power and amplitude of a signal. In a cell signal boosting system, the amplifier component adds signal gain to the collected signals from the outdoor antenna. Typical gain amplifiers and booster systems offer input ranges of around 25 dBm.
Different Types of Amplifiers
In the past, amplifiers used to only function as single-carrier devices. Single-carrier amps were only compatible with one specific type of cellular network courier. Nowadays, a single amplifier and booster system can connect with all the major networks due to technological advancements. Amplifiers also range in the amount of input gain they provide, which is why it’s important to know your existing signal strength before purchasing an amplifier.
Different Types of Antennas
Along with the actual amplifying device, antennas play an important role in the functionality of the signal booster system. Indoor and outdoor antennas come in a range of forms, offering different purposes. Outdoor antennas come in two different forms: directional and omnidirectional. The type of outdoor antenna you need for your space depends on your location and the distance between you and the nearest cell tower. Indoor antennas vary in the direction and range of their transmissions. Some indoor antennas cover multiple floors. Others project a short-range connection area.
What Cell Boosting System Works for You?
Understanding the difference, or in this case, lack of difference between terms relating to cellular signals and devices improves your search for the best system for your needs and space. Whether you refer to the boosting system as a booster, extender, or repeater, there are numerous factors to take into consideration before finding a system that works for you. With the different terminology in your back pocket, you can find the best system, equipment, and setup that will help enhance your cell signal and experience.