Easy Way To Improve Rural Cell Phone Reception

The only cell phone tower near my farm is slowly getting masked by trees as the forest next door grows up, and the cell phone reception in my house is dreadful.

I just bought a Verizon Network Extender and couldn’t be happier. This is a device that looks like a wireless access point but acts like a miniature cell phone tower, using your DSL or cable modem to reach the cellular network. Our phones went from zero bars to four! Woo-hoo!

This is a zero-config device: I plugged it in and it self-configured within about 20 minutes. I didn’t have to set a single parameter.

And it not only covers the whole house, but extends quite a way beyond it, even to the mailbox on the other side of the road. Generally speaking, reception in the house is worse than anywhere else, so it completely covers the problem area.

The retail price of this technological wonder (called a “femtocell” in the biz) is a wince-inducing $250, but I found a “$50 off All Accessories” coupon online, and, much to my surprise, found a $50 rebate form inside the box that’s good through most of January, so it really cost me only $150. There is no monthly fee.

It doesn’t handle 3G traffic (though your 3G devices will fall back to the “1X” standard, which it does handle, though slowly). and I don’t know if non-Verizon subscribers can roam through it or not. But sure solved my problem!

There are similar devices out there that work with other carriers, plus a wide variety of cellular signal boosters that use an outdoor antenna to talk to the cell phone tower, and an amplifier and an indoor antenna to talk to your cell phones. The main difference is that boosters don’t work in areas where you have no signal at all, while network extenders that use your cable or DSL links do.

These devices will probably turn out to be a must-have for rural residents everywhere.

[Update, March 24, 2010: After more than two months of use, I’m still very pleased. The higher signal quality means that our cell phone batteries last for many days rather than just one, and I no longer have to hunt around the house and farm for Karen if I need to talk to her: I can always reach her by phone. That wasn’t true before. The only downside is that the extender adds a noticeable time lag when both ends of the conversation are going through it! This only happens when both parties are on the farm, of course.]

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Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

5 thoughts on “Easy Way To Improve Rural Cell Phone Reception”

  1. Ah, but that assumes that I have high-speed internet access! I’m pretty sure that femtocells won’t work over dial-up or the super-high-latency (not to mention general crappiness) of satellite connections.

  2. Wow Robert…I gotta tell ya, between the excellent research (and re-published books) on traditional successful ag practices, small scale marketing and your advise on 21st century technology; well,”you da man!”
    Tell the folks at citrix that ‘GoToMyPC’ is a flat out lifesaver…I use it daily, as I own a Private, members-only fitness Club one hour (via interstate) from my farm with 24 hour access and frequently get my members in when there is a computer glitch, from my computer at home…I am online to my business, remotely, 24/7/365! As a result I now work part-time at my business and am at home on the farm (but still at work!) 3-4 days a week. Way Cool!
    This current advise solves one huge problem I’ve had with very poor signal on my cell (don’t want to give out my private home number).
    Question_Would it work as well with satellite high speed internet?
    As an aside, I also want to compliment you on your recent advise regarding free choice feed with grains and high protein feeds…with the recent frigid conditions I was losing my butt on feed costs (feeding premium blended feed pellet exclusively). Currently it’s 6 degrees F (at 8:30 AM) and hasn’t been over 32 degrees in a week here in my neighborhood in North Carolina and that particular little piece of advise has reduced my feed costs by 46%! Forty Six Percent!
    I am STILL getting 75% egg production from my free range hens, in this terrible weather, and making a profit…AMAZING!
    You are blending the best of two worlds-19th century wisdom and 21st century cutting edge technology.
    I guess the only fly in the ointment is I don’t tell ANY of my competitors about this blog-I don’t want them to know my ‘secret weapon’-Robert Plamandon!
    I am a little ashamed (D*mn little), but solidly in the black.
    Thanks in great part to your work we are achieving our dream-5 acres and independence…
    Go Free Enterprise!
    Go Local Food!

    John

  3. I used to have satellite Internet (back when DirectWay was called DirecPC), and I’d think that the extra delay would make it troublesome with the Verizon Network Extender. If you have no high-speed DSL or cable, but you have SOME cell phone reception, then a repeater is probably what you want. This consists of an external antenna, possibly a highly directional one, that you put someplace where the signal is as good as it gets for your, a long length of coax into your house, an amplifier, and an indoor antenna.

    I’ve never tried this, but I looked at sites like http://cellphoneboosterstore.com and there are plenty of products out there.

    Back when the kids were small and preferred PBS, which I couldn’t get via satellite, we did something like this to get a TV signal. Gene from Gene’s Antenna service walked all over the property looking for a halfway decent signal from Portland, planted an antenna there, ran a long cable over to the house, and we had a good picture when I could have sworn it was impossible. Turning a weak signal in one place into a strong one where you need it can be done. Probably if you can get just one bar anywhere near your house, you can turn it into a clear signal throughout your house and yard. My experience with Gene indicates that it would be better to bring in an expert than to do this yourself. Faster and more certain.

  4. Rokbert,
    My comment is in regards to my laying hens. I have 3-Rhode Island Reds that are about 3-years old and have quit laying. They quit about late July of last year and haven’t produced an egg since. They are too young to stop aren’t they? Is it time to stew? Shed some light on this if you would please.

    Thank you,
    Tim Kerr

  5. Well, the question about laying hens doesn’t have much to do with the Verizon Wireless Extender, but I’ll answer it anyway: As hens get older, they laying season shortens, and after a while they start laying only in the spring. So, traditionally, they become stew meat in the summer or fall, after they stop laying. You’ll get some eggs out of them starting in February or March, so you may not want to swing the ax just yet.

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