You are no-doubt less than thrilled with the monthly costs associated with owning a cellular phone but just try and get by without one. When your phone is operating smoothly, and you have a clear, strong signal, it seems worth the expense. But when you are struggling to get enough of a signal to make a simple call, it can be infuriating. When traveling a distance between cities, it may be understandable that you would have a weak or even non-existent signal. However, a surprisingly high number of cell phone customers complain that they frequently cannot even get a signal inside their own homes or from their workplace. No doubt, you have from time to time, played hide and seek with the signal yourself, Standing on a chair, crawling under your desk, hanging out the window, or even striking some kind of yoga pose.
You are probably aware that cell phone signal boosters are available commercially, but the cost can be significant. Amplifiers, repeaters, antennas, and even mini towers are available, but definitely not affordable. In addition, most are not portable, so are only helpful in your home. Did you know, however, that you can actually build a cell phone signal booster yourself, using inexpensive items from your local hardware or electronics store, or even from your own garage? There are many variations of methods to build a DIY cell phone signal booster; several of them require simple changes to one or two of the supply materials. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Tin Can Signal Amplifier
1 – Gather Supplies:
Two 13-oz coffee cans, metal cookie canister or similar (soup-can size is too small.)
Heavy-gauge copper wire
Pigtail connector compatible with your cell phone model
2 – Wash and dry the cans thoroughly. Remove any paper wrappers or labels from the exteriors. Leave one end intact on one of the coffee cans. Cut both ends from the second can to form a tube.
Using a heated soldering gun, carefully solder the open ends of both cans together to form one taller can. Remember to heat the area to be soldered for a moment with the tip of the gun before adding solder. As an alternative, you may choose to use adhesive-backed copper tape (metal tape, not paper) for this step, straddling the join between the two and sealing the tape to the metal on each side as firmly as possible.
Next, using a utility knife or tin snips, cut a round hole 3.75 inches up the side from the closed bottom. Measure the neck of the antenna connector to determine how large the hole needs to be.
3 – Attach a 3-inch length of heavy copper wire to the antenna connector by pushing it firmly into the end. Solder copper wire in place, as taping with masking or duct tape will dampen the effect. This forms the antenna.
Push the finished antenna connector with copper wire attached through the hole on the outside of the can, just until the shoulder of the antenna connector reaches through to the inside of the can. Reach inside and place the nut on the shoulders of the antenna connector and tighten into place. If you made your hole too large, you might need to add washers to complete this part.
4 – Now that the antenna array is complete on the inside, screw the pigtail connector onto the end of the antenna connector that remains outside of the can.
Plug the other end of the cord on the pigtail connector into your cell phone’s antenna port. The other end of the pigtail connector should fit into your phone’s charging port. Plug the unit into your phone, and it is ready to use. Just aim the open end of the can in any direction until you get a strong enough signal to make a call.
Twist Tie Signal Booster
A simple and effective way to boost your phone’s signal involves using twist ties (just take the ones off the bag of bread – longer ones work the best.) This works for cell phones that have an antenna stub and literally takes about 30 seconds. Starting at the lower end of the stub, wrap the twist tie around it a couple of times, leaving an inch or two of length protruding beyond the end of the stub. This essentially extends the antenna, increasing signal strength and stability. Tape the wrapped end in place to secure.
Mini External Antenna
You can also use any slim metal tube such as a pen casing or metal drinking straw to form an external antenna. Tape one end near the top of your cell phone so that the tube extends upward from the phone. Plug your cell phone into the USB charger and wrap the cord around the metal tube. Clip the end with a metal spring clamp. You should see an increase of one or two bars in signal strength.
Internal Antenna Extension
For this homemade cell phone signal booster, start by sliding the back off of the phone. Access the internal antenna port. Using insulated magnet wire, remove about ½” of the insulation from one end using a nail file or sandpaper and gently insert the stripped end into the antenna port. Cut wire to a 6.3” length (1/4 of a wavelength) not including what is inserted into the port. Bend the wire over and tape into place on the back of the phone. Run the wire up to the top of the phone and extend as an antenna. Replace the back, allowing the wire to stay in place.
This last method is a bit more involved but is completely non-invasive to your phone. Most of the supplies can be gathered from within your home or from a hardware store. What you will need:
Two wire coat hangers (must be iron)
Two 20A cable connector blocks
Coax cable or TV cable
Phillips head screwdriver
1 – Begin by straightening the coat hanger and cutting to a length of 42 cm. Using sandpaper, remove the paint or coating from the ends 4cm up. Now you are going to make a square with one open corner. Bend into a 90º angle at the center point. Measure 9cm from center on each side and make a 90º bend at each mark (keeping in mind you are bending into a square). Measure 8cm on each side and bend at 45º toward the center of the square. Bend the remaining 4cm on each end into the center of the square, parallel to one another. Insert into the openings on one of the connector blocks.
2 – Next you will need the coax cable. Remove 20cm of the insulation and woven metal shield to expose the bare wire. Save the metal shield. Wrap the end of the exposed wire just above the intact section of cable around a pencil for five full rounds to create a coil. Insert the other end into the open end of the connector block and tighten in place. Twist the reserved metal coil tightly to form another wire. Insert one end into one port on the connector block. Insert the other end into other port.
3 – Repeat the entire process to complete a second unit, using the other end of the coax cable to connect the two units. This time wrap bare wire around the pencil for seven full rounds. You should have two square wire units with connector blocks and coils in the center and connected with coax cable. You now have a finished LauC2 antenna.
4 – Place one unit outdoors in a high open spot, like on the roof, and run the cable through a window, avoiding window screens or metal trims. Place anywhere that is convenient. This should increase your cell signal by 2Gs or more. You may need to move it around a few times to find optimum placement.
Now you see that building your own cell phone signal booster can be a simple and inexpensive way to increase and stabilize your cell phone’s signal when you are in areas with a low signal.
It is important to keep your phone charged as fully as possible, since a weak battery may not pick up the cell signals as easily. Also, when using a signal booster, either a commercial or homemade cell phone signal booster, battery power is more quickly drained. If, after you have completed your DIY cell phone signal booster, you still don’t see enough of a boost, go to higher ground or to a clearing, or even near an intersection, where trees and buildings will not dampen the signal.
Not all of these methods will work with all cell phones. Perform these alterations at your own risk. Potential damage to your cell phone could occur, or you could void your warranty due to modification of your device. It is not recommended you attempt any method that requires inserting anything into your phone unless it is an emergency situation.