The cellphone coverage in the valleys and hollows of our area can be spotty. If your home or office is in one of these dropout zones it can be exasperating when you need to use your phone.
Happily, there are a few ways to improve or extend the range of your cell system into where you need to use your phone.
A Bluetooth headset is the easiest and least expensive way to optimize your cellphone reception. With Bluetooth you have a wireless connection to your phone with a range of 10 to 30 feet. You simply set your cellphone where it gets the best or the most stable reception within range of where you are working and then use your “hands free” headset for the actual communication.
If you practice using the built-in voice commands to control your phone, then you won’t even have to touch it to place or receive calls. Just leave the phone sitting in the windowsill where it gets the best reception. With most cellphones you can even leave the phone plugged into its charger while you use the headset to make calls.
A cellphone “dock” is also easy to set up but prices start at around $100 to $150. This device connects your cellphone to your in-house phone system so that your house phones effectively become extensions of your cellphone.
You set up the dock in a location where there’s good cell reception in your house and connect it to your house phone wiring just like another phone or a fax machine. Your cellphone connects to the dock via Bluetooth and lets you go to any regular phone in your house and place calls through your cellphone. Search Google for “Xlink” and “Dock-n-talk” for examples of generic cellphone docks.
A femtocell is a sort of miniature cell station for your house or office. It picks up your cellphone signal and then actually uses your home or office broadband internet connection to route your calls to and from your cellphone carrier.
Femtocells are provided by the cellphone companies for poor- or no-reception situations. Prices and charges vary widely. Sprint will provide a femtocell cheaply or even free for customers with very poor coverage, but then they charge a monthly fee to use it.
Verizon doesn’t have a monthly fee, but they charge full retail for the femtocell – around $250 at this writing – though there are reports that they will discount it significantly for cell customers who lodge a complaint about poor cell system coverage. (see: http://tinyurl.com/VZN-Femtocell)
A cell repeater or amplifier is the most expensive solution at around $350 but also offers the most flexibility. These devices actually pick up the cell signal from the air outside and then repeat it inside your house or business. Any cellphone can use these. They are trickier to install properly and usually require a separate antenna that must be mounted 30 feet above the repeater that goes in your house. You have to get one that matches your cellphone provider’s system.
A Bluetooth headset will do the trick for most situations and you can easily take it anywhere. They start as low as 10 dollars on eBay, but are also available at local wireless stores. Docks and femtocells are more expensive and not as portable but they do let you set up a reliable way to use your cell phone in your home or office. Cell repeaters are most complex and expensive, but they extend cell service to more devices over a larger area.
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy