Using T-Mobile and stuck with one bar at home? A signal booster can help

Using T-Mobile and stuck with one bar at home? A signal booster can help

After a long dry spell, T-Mobile USA is once again providing signal boosters to customers who meet criteria for the devices. A signal booster can amplify a weak cell signal to make it easier to use your cell phone in your home. What's more, the signal booster is offered to qualifying customers for free.

T-Mobile's made great strides over the past year to build out their wireless network. There are still some weak spots, however. Until T-Mobile gets its towers operating at 700 MHz (expected later this year) — and until customers upgrade to phones that support LTE Band 12 — building penetration is going to be limited, as well. So if phone service is weak in your house, what should you do?

Up until 2013, T-Mobile offered certain postpaid customers the ability to acquire a signal booster manufactured by Nextivity called Cel-Fi. The device comprises two pieces: a window unit that sends and receives the cell signal and a coverage unit, placed elsewhere in the home. The Cel-Fi takes an existing 3G or 4G cell signal and amplifies it, enabling you to make and receive phone calls within a coverage area of about 13,000 square feet.

T-Mobile stopped offering signal boosters as the company revamped and built out its network. Additionally, the Cel-Fi device maker, Nextivity, worked on a new version that supports additional radio frequencies T-Mobile now depends on. Now that device is shipping, according to information posted on the Cel-Fi web site, with availability beginning at the end of May, 2014.

This works different than the AT&T 3G MicroCell, a "mini cellular tower" AT&T offers to some customers with weak signal strength in their home. The MicroCell connects to your broadband Internet service; the Cel-Fi operates using existing cell service. As a result, you do need at least one bar of 3G or 4G service from T-Mobile somewhere in your home to connect.

If you're a T-Mobile "postpaid" customer, and if you have only one bar of 3G or 4G service in your home, you may want to give T-Mobile customer service a call to inquire about obtaining a signal booster. T-Mobile makes them available to customers who meet specific qualifications (what those qualifications are is a bit of a mystery; they don't list them on their web site).

If, for whatever reason, you're not able to get one from T-Mobile, you can consider buying one from Nextivity yourself, but be prepared to pony up $575 for the privilege.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Peter Cohen

Mac Managing Editor of iMore and weekend Apple Product Professional at a local independent Apple reseller. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

More Posts



← Previously

Microsoft dives into the Office for iPad design process

Next up →

Apple's Beats acquisition nearing completion as more details behind the deal emerge

Reader comments

Using T-Mobile and stuck with one bar at home? A signal booster can help


T-Mobile called me 2 days ago about sending me one out of the blue since signal in my apartment isn't the greatest (-120 to -100 dBM or 1-2 bars). Hopefully this means better speeds! I wonder if these signal boosters are tied to your phone, like the AT&T MicroCells were (max 5 per signal booster if I remember correctly).

I just requested for one. Thanks for the heads up Peter. The previous version would not work with an iPhone. But the tech rep said this 1 does work with current iPhones. Everything was free, shipping the device is free; there is no lease but when returning the device. I was informed there is a $20 cover charge to receive the boxes to ship back to T-Mobile.

Allegedly, you have to make a complaint or grievance at their Customer Care number, but when I called and got two on two different accounts, the rep on the phone told me that there is an escalation form that can be done at the store, possibly as a customer retention mechanism.

Top quality boosters free to qualified T-Mobile customers. This new booster works with the new refarmed 1900 frequency and the older 1700. These also increase data speeds. You must keep your phone on HSPA+ and you will be all set. Thank You T-Mobile.

To meet the criteria you need to be in an area where there is low coverage. Have a bill of $60 or more and have At least one bar of 4g somewhere in your house. I just acquired one two weeks ago.

Sent from the iMore App

i had this model on trial from Orange UK a number of years ago, i couldnt get it to work, so it went back.

It's so worth noting that although there is no charge for the booster, if/when you leave tmobile and do not return the booster to tmobile, you will be charged $500.00 for it. So it's "free" while you use it and only if you return it in working condition.

Sent from the iMore App

Peter Cohen, do you know whether this is available for those who have Tmobile service through Walmart Family Mobile?