One of my biggest gripes with cellphone service is that when I’m at home, I have no signal. I have no home phone, so I completely rely on my cellphone when anyone is trying to reach me, and there is nothing worse than paying for big dollar data plan while not having a good connection at your home. Often times city-dwellers have prime coverage for voice and data speeds, especially when thy have HSPA+, 4G, or WiMax in their area. T-Mobile is in the middle of a Top Secret beta test project to greatly enhance 3G data speeds in the homes to specific signal “challenged” customers. An XDA member known as “junkdruggler” placed a service call to T-Mobile and stated that the 3G service in his home was nearly non-existent. T-Mobile responded with an email stating that he may qualify for a free in-home device trial. Well, he met the criteria of the program and now is enjoying fantastic coverage in his home. From what he stated in the forum, there are about 1000 lucky people who are involved in the 3G booster trials. Junkdruggler sent me some pics and a video of the device and quick summary of the setup and installation.
After a quick search, it seems that the unit T-Mobile is using is a Nextivity’s Cel-Fi system. The Cel-Fi system is designed to boost 3G data coverage in homes and small areas where 3G signal is present, but very weak. The whole system is plug and play and designed to be setup in minutes without any additional wiring or configuration. Here are some specs from the manufacturer’s site:
- Optimized Voice Coverage: Allowing subscribers to enjoy crystal clear calls throughout 99% of homes.
- Improved Data Throughput: Offering a real-world bandwidth boost of greater than 4X in weak signal areas and more than double the throughput in areas where the signal is strong enough to support voice calls.
- Improved Battery Life: With the decrease in handset TX power enabled by Cel-Fi systems, subscribers enjoy significantly longer battery life.
- Ease of Installation: The Nextivity solution eliminates the need for external antennas and bulky coaxial cables. It is a true plug-and-play system. Once installed, Cel-Fi products automatically sense and adjust to changes in the Carrier network (or installation of other Cel-Fi systems nearby) to provide “No-Touch” service throughout the home.
Junkdruggler told me setup was a snap and only takes a few minutes. There are only two small devices that need to be setup. The Window Unit goes where the signal is highest, and the Coverage Unit which is placed where signal coverage is the weakest. Basically you just mount each unit and plug it in. Since this is a non-service based booster, you don’t need to plug your broadband or phone line in like AT&T’s Microcell.
Window Unit – Placed where signal is highest
Coverage Unit – Places where signal is at it’s worst
Front panel indicator showing you how to set up for optimum coverage
Unboxing Video Courtesy of XDA member “junkdruggler”
I have no idea when T-Mobile is going to release this to the rest of the public. For now we can only hope it is offered at a discount to those who truly suffer from poor 3G coverage. I’m not positive, but am betting this device might work on AT&T phones. I understand that T-Mobile and AT&T use different 3G frequencies, but most similar products on the market usually run the whole spectrum on either GSM or CDMA. Devices are all carrier specific, and will only work on specified carrier. (as stated on manufacturer’s Q & A) Easy setup, no monthly fee, and almost guaranteed better coverage; there is no reason not to want one of these if you’re a T-Mobile customer. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more people are calling in complaints of weak signal after this hits the market. If you want more information on the manufacturer, then hop on over toand see the device unbranded from T-Mobile. No word yet on the release or price of the hardware.
*I want to thank XDA forum member junkdruggler for sending me the great video and pictures of the device. I’m glad the booster actually made a great difference in his home. It’s good to finally see a phone carrier looking to improve signal without tacking on an extra arm and a leg service fee (at least not yet).