Top Ways to Get Better Cell Signal Inside a Metal Building
- 28 Jun, 2021
Metal buildings of all shapes and sizes - from farm buildings such as barns to commercial warehouses - are notoriously bad for getting reliable cellular signal inside.
While outside cellular signals are generally reliable, getting signal inside a metal building becomes a chore, because metal is the most disruptive material when it comes to blocking and degrading cell signal.
Understanding How Cell Phone Signal Works
Cell phone signals are RF (radio frequency) signals nested between AM/FM radio and satellite communications & Wi-Fi in the electromagnetic spectrum.
It starts out strong from the source like a cell tower or cell site. But as it reaches kilometers in the distance to reach your phone, external obstructions like mountains, valleys, and tall trees and open air path loss weaken signal strength.
Generally outdoors, there is enough signal to make a call in open spaces. But inside a building, cell signal now must also push through walls, interior building material and other interference to make a call, send & receive texts, or use the internet.
That’s why people in the center of a building never get reliable reception with any cellular network. They’re always running to the window.
How Cell Phone Signal Strength Should Be Measured
While the number of bars on your cell phone is a decent way to check signal strength, it’s actually subjective across phones, with no established standard.
How subjective, you ask?
There’s no industry standard. It’s up to the cell phone manufacturers to decide how much is 1, 2, 3, 4 or full bars on their phone. Multiplied by the number of mobile networks, that’s a lot of confusion. Even the difference between 4G and LTE is not well known.
What may be 1 bar on Vodacom might be 2 on MTN, 3 on Cell C or full bars on Telkom despite receiving the exact same signal and performing at the exact same speeds.
But luckily, there's a way to find out your true signal strength. It's called decibel (dB) reading. These are measured in standard power units of decibel-milliwatts (dBm).
Cell phone signal operates with a certain frequency: -60 dBm to -120 dBm.
-60 dBm is full bars. -120 dBm is basically a dead zone. The closer you are to - 60 dBm, the better your signal.
So what does this have to with building material?
Well, building materials basically subtract dB from signal when trying to enter a metal building.
The more it subtracts, the closer you get to -120 dBm, which translates to exceptionally bad cell service. Metal in particular subtracts up to -50 dBm!
For South African users we would recommend using the Network Cell Info App, available for Android users.
If using an iphone, there are some methods to determine your cell signal, however newer iphones don't allow you to enable the dBm reading on the device.
Solutions to Improve Cell Signal Inside Metal Buildings
WiFi is the standard for wireless connectivity. However, having reliable in-building cellular connection is equally important. It reduces WiFi congested networks, and provides different sources to connecting to the internet in times of emergency.
If you live in a very rural area where WiFi connections are a challenge, cellular signal might be your best bet for connecting to the Internet at all.
IT managers and facility managers are now selecting cellular signal boosters to improve their indoor cellular connectivity. Whereas building material subtracts dB to signal, signal boosters add dB to signal by amplifying or bypassing indoor building material.
Below are our top recommendations, ordered by the size of your metal building and your outdoor signal strength.
Most Popular Cell Signal Booster for Small and Midsize Metal Buildings
Best for midsize metal buildings with strong outside signal or small metal buildings with weak outside signal.
- 4G ready booster - Amplifies talk, text, and data
- Up to 500m2 of coverage under best conditions
- Up to +70 dB of gain
- Multiple accessories for maximum coverage and customization (sold separately)
- Complete coverage for multiple rooms or midsize home for all carriers across multiple devices
- Outdoor yagi antenna and indoor panel antenna configuration, with additional configuration options available.
The WilsonPro A500 is our most popular cellular booster for metal buildings. The vast majority of customers who buy one for themselves find it to be the right fit for them, so it's usually the one we recommend first.
It's easy to see why it's so popular. It lies at the sweet spot of price, aesthetics, and efficiency, with a coverage range that usually works for most people. It features an easy installation and setup.
It also features a higher uplink and downlink power than previous generations of weBoost home boosters, meaning it's more likely to work well in a weak signal area. That said, expect reduced coverage. It's really important to understand that 500m² will only be achieved in optimal conditions, and that 75m²-350m² is a much more realistic estimate of your coverage - even less in a very weak signal area.
If you live in a very weak signal area, or have a really big metal building you want to cover, consider its sister product, the WilsonPro A1000.
Most Powerful Cell Signal Booster for Large Metal Buildings
Whole-building coverage for large residential metal buildings with strong outside signal or midsize buildings with weak outside signal.
- Superior cell phone service for your entire home or Office.
- Up to 1000m² of coverage under best conditions
- Up to +74 dB of gain
- Multiple accessories for maximum coverage and customization (sold separately)
- Complete coverage for entire home or office for all network operators across multiple devices
- Outdoor yagi antenna and indoor panel antenna, with stylish fabric front
- Needs no WiFi connection or monthly fees. One time purchase
The WilsonPro A1000 is the most powerful consumer line booster you can get for your metal building. With an additional +4 dB over the WilsonPro A1000, it's roughly a shade over 2x more powerful. And with its strong uplink and downlink, it can reach far distanced towers and provide wider in-building coverage.
It's designed to blanket an entire metal building with a reliable connection. Under perfect conditions, it can cover areas up to 1000m². Since cellular signals are not perfect, most people get between 250m² – 500m² If you live in an area with extremely weak signal, this is your best option for decent coverage - you’ll probably be getting 125m²-250m² from it.
To maximize your coverage, additional antennas are required, especially if you’re trying to cover more than one floor.
Perfect for people who live in weak signal areas, as well as those who want to cover their whole metal building with a reliable cellular connection.
Commercial Cell Signal Booster for Large Metal Buildings
For Commercial metal buildings with extremely weak outside signal.
- Indoor coverage up to 8000m²
- Works with all cellular devices across all South African Networks
- Stronger & more reliable calls, text, email, and internet data
- Extended Dynamic Range to ensure continuous connectivity
- Up to +70 dB gain, +21 dBm uplink power per port and +18 dBm downlink power per port
- Scalable solution for large coverage areas
The WilsonPro A8000 is Wilson Electronics’s latest flagship booster for buildings with up to maximum gain of +70 dB, +21 dBm uplink and +18dBm downlink power. XDR (eXtended Dynamic Range) technology makes it ideal for both extremely rural and extremely urban environments.
With that kind of upload power, it has greater reach than any other booster, allowing it to bring in critical signal from far-away cell towers.
Bolton Technical: The Trusted Name in Boosting Signal
With so many options, which is the best solution for you? Bolton Technical always has the answer. Depending on the size, scope, and situation, the experts at Bolton Technical can tailor a custom solution for you in time, in budget, and professionally installed.
Services Bolton Technical South Africa provide:
- Floor plan analysis with detailed heatmaps & coverage expectations.
- Consultation adhering to your requirements and budgets.
- Equipment selection from only the best.
- Site survey from certified wireless technicians.
- Complete professional passive DAS installation & expert project management.