How to get a better mobile signal at home

Cel-Fi Repeater boosts the mobile signal around your home.

Cel-Fi Repeater boosts the mobile signal around your home.

REVIEW: 

Despite living only 20 minutes drive from the centre of New Zealand's second largest city, my home struggles to get a decent cellphone signal.

Most of the time I can only get one bar on my phone, and if I'm making an important call then I go outside at the edge of our property to ensure it doesn't cut out.

I can only get a signal from Spark as Vodafone's doesn't reach my house.

There are quite a few homes like this around New Zealand, as our lovely rolling hills make our country pretty but can cause havoc with radio, television or cellphone signals.

Spark says it gets a few queries a week for customers wanting "a boost". It also says it has plans to roll out more cellphone towers and increase its 4G network.

But until that happens in your neighbourhood, then a mobile signal repeater is your best option. 

SPARK AND 2DEGREES

The Cel-Fi Repeater is simple and works with Spark and 2degrees connections. It's also the only one endorsed by the companies.

It has two components. The main one is placed where your mobile signal is the strongest and it amplifies it to the second unit via a wireless link.

The second component distributes the mobile signal within your home (or business) to any mobile device.

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Both need to be plugged into mains power and are connected to each other via your wi-fi connection.

It only took me two minutes to set up and could be one of the simplest gadgets I've used.

The results were instant. I got three bars where previously I had one. Sometimes it went up to five and sometimes down to two.

Don't get too hung up on numbers, the real test is whether or not a call drops out. I've used it for a couple of weeks and never had the slightest stutter on my connection. I now make calls wherever I am in the house rather than hovering in the corner of our lounge or outside on the lawn.

Remember, you need have a signal for it to work. It will only boost and repeat what you've already got, it won't make something out of nothing.

Also, Cel-Fi offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can send it back if it doesn't help your situation.

So that's the good news. The bad news is that it costs $946.14.

That's a lot of money for something you are effectively already paying for through your mobile contract.

However, for some people it may be worth it. My wife and I use our phones at home for work and we need a reliable connection, so for us it is good value.

Also, we don't have a landline so the money we save from that offsets the cost.

One other option is to get, or keep, your landline. In the short term it is cheaper but a lot less convenient.

A repeater will also ensure people visiting your home will get a good signal.

VODAFONE

If you're with Vodafone then you could look at getting the repeater that it sells.

The Sure Signal promises the same as the Cel-Fi, but I wasn't able to test it as I don't get a Vodafone signal at home.

It only costs $199 but you need to have your broadband account with Vodafone for it to work. 

CHECK FIRST

There are other devices that promise to do the same thing but don't buy them unless they've approved by your provider.

Radio Spectrum Management, which comes under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, says unauthorised devices can cause interference and dropped calls across the wider cellular network.

You can also be fined if you install one.

RSM warns some websites, such as mobilephonesignalbooster.co.nz, give the impression its products are approved by Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees.

It recommends that if are looking to buy a booster that you should check with your provider first.

 - Stuff

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