Cel-Fi DUO+ For Verizon LTE - Hands on Review

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Thursday, 07 July 2016

Cel-Fi DUO+ For Verizon LTE - Hands on Review

If you have a weak cell signal in your home or office, there are a few potential fixes available. One option is to use a microcell from your cellular carrier. These devices leverage your existing high speed internet connection in order to function. Microcells tend to have limited coverage, provide slow speeds, and are only as reliable as your ISP. If you don’t have a high speed connection, this isn’t an option at all. The latest microcell from Verizon needs a whopping 20Mbps download and 10Mbps upload speed to function, which will severly degrade your internet performance for the rest of your network, if you even have that type of speed to begin with! Business grade microcells can be thousands of dollars as well for the hardware, not including the cost of installation, just to eat up your internet bandwidth and provide less than stellar results.

(Typical Signal Booster Installation)

The most common way to boost cell signal inside a home or office is with a cellular repeater kit. This consists of an antenna mounted on the roof, cable running inside to an amplifier, and then another cable going to one or more inside antennas at various locations where the signal is needed. Cellular repeater kits are designed to amplify an existing cellular signal for multiple devices at once, but often times the complexity and cost of installation prevent this from being a viable solution. Repeater kits also suffer from limited range when attempting to boost a weak signal. An amplifier that is capable of covering 5,000 Sq. Ft. under optimal conditions may only improve signal to one or two rooms when the starting signal is just one bar.


Introducing the Cel-Fi DUO+ for Verizon LTE. The Cel-Fi does away with all the complicated setup, issues, and installation costs of typical signal boosters. No mounting antennas to the roof, running cables through walls and ceilings, and no unsightly panel or dome antennas on the walls and in the ceilings of your home or office. Instead the Cel-Fi DUO+ is comprised of just two pieces of hardware, a Network Unit (NU) and a Coverage Unit (CU). Installation is as simple as placing the NU in a window where the Verizon signal is the strongest and connecting it to power. The CU is then placed elsewhere in the home or office and connected to power. The NU picks up and amplifies the Verizon LTE signal, wirelessly sends the signal to the CU, and the CU pushes out an amplified cellular signal for any devices in range. It is that simple!


(Cel-Fi Installation, Plug and Play)

The Cel-Fi DUO+ boosts the cellular signal up to 15,000 Sq. Ft for Verizon LTE with just one NU and one CU. A traditional cellular amplifier capable of that coverage area on the other hand would be significantly more expensive, require multiple rebroadcasting antennas, and in most cases need professional installation. How can the Cel-Fi boost the signal to such a large area with such a simple and compact device? The Cel-Fi can operate at up to 100dB of system gain on each band simultaneously. That is 30dB more gain than any other wireless repeater kit available from any other manufacturer. By working with only a single carrier, in this case Verizon, the Cel-Fi doesn’t fall under the standard FCC Safe Harbor requirements which limits gain to 70dB on other booster products. For every 6dB of power, the coverage distance from an amplifier doubles making the Cel-Fi solution significantly more powerful.


What if you have a larger area to cover? Because the NU and CU communicate wirelessly in the 5Ghz frequency range, multiple Cel-Fi systems can be installed in a single building without the concern for interference. Try that with a standard repeater kit and you’ve got a recipe for serious oscillation (feedback between antennas) which will result in a lower output power or cause the amplifier to shut down completely.



(Wave Works With All Cel-Fi Models, ATT Cel-Fi PRO Shown)

With the Nextivity Wave mobile application on iOS and Android devices, monitoring your device is easy. Although the Cel-Fi DUO+ is completely plug and play, the mobile application gives you insight into the actual signal strength that the NU and CU are receiving and boosting. For installations where you want to fine tune and get the perfect set up, the mobile application makes that possible.


3Gstore has been extensively testing the Cel-Fi DUO+ in our warehouse over the last 3 months. We already have a standard cellular repeater kit installed in the building with multiple internal antennas to rebroadcast the boosted signal. There is a dome antenna in the hallway to cover the front offices, a dome in the conference room, a dome in our server room to provide coverage for our LTE backup, a panel antenna to push the signal into our warehouse space, and of course thick ultra low loss cable connecting everything. This kit was professionally installed over the course of two days, and provides us coverage for the majority of our location. To test the Cel-Fi, we disconnected our traditional amplifier and ran the NU in the front window of our building. We took the CU and placed it in our warehouse space about 75’ away through 4 walls. After a quick automatic pairing process, the CU indicated it was boosting the Verizon LTE signal. We created a quick demonstration video below which shows the signal boost in our warehouse. Our warehouse is brick with a metal roof, so our Verizon LTE signal is next to nothing inside. Our primary internet connection is backed up by SimplyFailover (using Verizon LTE) as well so it's important that we have the best signal possible to protect our day to day operations.



The Verizon signal strength at the CU location, with the CU powered off, would fluctuate from -100 to -107dBm. On most phones that is the equivalent of a 1 bar signal. With the Cel-Fi powered on we jumped to -80dBm or better which is a 3-5 bar signal on most phones. At longer distances within the warehouse, the signal strength slowly decreased just like it does when you move away from a cell tower, but even at the farthest distance from the CU, through multiple office walls, we still had a signal in the -90s. This is a stronger signal with better coverage than our existing amplifier and antennas are capable of, and getting that boost with a simple 5 minute install of a Cel-Fi DUO+ was one of the most impressive things we have ever seen at 3Gstore. We’ve invited a number of people over to our warehouse in the last few months for the sole purpose of demonstrating the capabilities of the Cel-Fi, and unanimously the response has been dropped jaws as soon as we turn it on.



When we first received the Cel-Fi DUO+ to test, we asked the question why only cover Verizon LTE? What about 3G? That answer was easy. Verizon already has the goal to cover their entire market with LTE and in terms of support as a carrier they do have the most LTE markets. With new phones, voice over LTE (VoLTE) means you can make calls over the LTE network instead of using 3G. This results in a better quality call as well, so the benefits are obvious. Read more about how to enable HD Voice here. The DUO+ supports Band 2, 13 and 4 which is LTE at 1900Mhz (being deployed now by Verizon), 700Mhz, and 2100/1700Mhz. Two of these 3 bands can be relayed simultaneously so devices that support carrier aggregation on both LTE and XLTE (AWS) can take full advantage of the improved performance. No single cell tower would ever use all 3 bands for Verizon LTE, which is why only 2 are relayed at once.


The minimum requirement for using the Cel-Fi DUO+ for Verizon is just one bar of signal for the Network Unit to work with (-120dBm RSRP signal minimum). If you are looking for an effective signal booster for your home or office, and would rather not go through the headache, hassle, and cost, of installing a traditional repeater kit, or just want something easy to set up and use, the Cel-Fi DUO+ is the device for you. The best part? It is just $599. Now consider an amplifier that can cover even half the square footage of a Cel-Fi costs the same or more, and requires an external antenna, running cable into the home or office, then running cable inside to one or more antennas, plus the cost of professional installation for most homes or businesses… the Cel-Fi DUO+ comes in at a fraction of the price and performs even better.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 July 2016 )
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