If you live in a remote countryside area, or even in a basement flat, then there’s a chance you’ll suffer from a poor mobile phone signal. And, while you might not be able to speak to anyone, you aren’t alone. We hear almost daily from frustrated phone users who can’t get a signal at home.
Increasingly, network providers are suggesting you hook yourself up to a signal booster. But do they work?
Signal boosters harness your home wi-fi connection in order to enhance your phone’s reception and 3G connection. Depending on your network provider they can be either hardware or software based; with hardware versions consisting of an adaptor that plugs into your mains, and software versions being a downloadable app provided by your network.
Regardless of the type, both versions work by enabling your mobile phone to piggyback your home broadband. Any calls you make will therefore be relayed over your internet connection, while your call charges will remain unaffected.
Signal boosters – available services and costs
Of the main networks Vodafone, EE and Three offer a hardware solution, with Orange and O2 offering a downloadable app. Vodafone’s Sure Signal is priced £100, with EE and Three charging about £110 for their alternatives. However, EE often only offer their Signal Box to business customers, while Three’s Home Signal may be available for free on loan depending on individual circumstance.
Orange’s Signal Boost app meanwhile can be downloaded directly from its website, with different downloads available for Apple, Android and Windows Mobile handsets. O2 pay monthly customers can download the similar O2 TU Go app for Android and Apple devices. Both are free services that don’t require any separate hardware (other than your existing broadband router).
Signal boosters – a Which? member’s experience with Vodafone’s Sure Signal
We provided a Which? member with a Vodafone Sure Signal booster. The member lives in an area of Cambridgeshire that suffers from poor network coverage, meaning his mobile reception is intermittent at best.
As a scientist with an IT background, our member said setting up the device was ‘easy’ but was less impressed with its performance. Describing his 4,400 sqft bungalow as ‘too big for it,’ he explained that while his signal was excellent when his phone was near to the signal booster, his reception degraded until it ‘vanished completely’ as he walked into rooms further away.
Signal boosters – should I buy one?
‘Never!’ in the words of our member, who makes the point that ‘it is up to Vodafone to provide a signal for this area – not for each household to pay them extra money.’ We’d tend to agree to some extent, however, if you live in a truly remote area then the chances of any network extending its coverage to you in the near future is probably unlikely.
Therefore a signal booster might be the answer to your poor reception, though it’s worth considering the free software solutions of Orange and O2 when looking to take this option.
What if even a signal booster can’t help me?
If your provider doesn’t provide you with a service that is deemed to be with reasonable care and skill, then you’re entitled to terminate your mobile contract for breach of that agreement with no financial penalty.
Please check our Consumer Rights page for details of your rights and what you need to do should you feel that the mobile phone reception in your home counts as non-performance, and your network is therefore in breach of contract.
Have you had any experience with any of the signal boosters mentioned about? If so, please let us know in the comments section below.