Femtocell and Microcells

Imagine femtocells as mini-towers that only work on one network. We don't sell femtocells because we think cell boosters offer a better value for most cases. Why? Boosters have no monthly cost, they cover all networks, and they work with LTE.

You should really only consider a femtocell if you have no signal outside of your building. Check out our small and large building cell phone booster kits for more information. 

Advantages of Femtocells

  • Don't require strong outdoor signal to boost your signal
  • Guaranteed coverage area, even if outdoor signal is weak

Disadvantages of Femtocells

  • Units are expensive (carriers charge monthly for their use)
  • Only improve signal for one cellular carrier
  • Not compatible with LTE

Femtocells (and other small cells) vs. Boosters

Cell phone signal boosters, also called repeaters, take an existing cellular signal, amplify it, and then broadcast it. Boosters require an existing signal because they are unable to create their own signals, making them fundamentally different technology than femtocells. Boosters have no monthly cost, they cover all networks, and they work with LTE.

Since boosters require an existing, stable signal in order to work, they cannot be placed in areas with very poor reception. Femtocells and other small cells create their own signals that connect to carriers via the Internet.

How do small cells work?

Microcells, picocells, and femtocells are each a subset of small cells. Each class of device connects to a service provider’s network through typical broadband, such as DSL or cable. They use this connection to them broadcast cellular service over a relatively small area, compared with the range of a typical base station.

Microcell vs. Picocell vs. Femtocell vs. MicroCell

Special cellular base stations – or “small cells” – that are deployed in small areas to add extra cell capacity come in many sizes. These are often deployed temporarily during sporting events and other occasions where a great deal of cell phone users are expected to be concentrated in one spot. Whereas a microcell typically has a range of nearly 2 km, a picocell covers up to 200m, and a femtocell goes to 10  at most.

Don't be confused by the AT&T trademarked “MicroCell”. That capital C means that this MicroCell has a range similar to that of a femtocell, making it much smaller than what is generally considered a microcell.

By comparison, a standard base station, which is what we most often think of when we talk about cell phone towers, has a range of up to 35 km. Each of these ranges describes an ideal maximum. The number is often much lower due to changes in terrain and the presence of objects that cause signal loss.

Each product class operates at a different scale. For example, femtocell designs typically support two-to-four active mobile phones in a residential setting. For an enterprise setting, they support eight-to-sixteen active mobile phones.

Small cell technology works with WCDMA, GSM, CDMA2000, TD-SCDMA, WiMAX and LTE solutions.


Many operators have launched femtocell service, including AT&T, Mobile TeleSystems, Orange, SFR, Sprint Nextel, Verizon, Vodafone, and Zain. One of the devices profiled below that works on the Spring Nextel network also supports Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile.

Verizon Network Extender

  • The Samsung Network Extender (SCS-2U01) boosts 3G voice and data coverage indoors and out on the Verizon Wireless network. It provides enhanced coverage for up to a 5,000 square-foot area. It operates at 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz frequencies with an air interface spec of CDMA2000 1x Rel.0 and CDMA2000 EvDO Rev0/A.
  • Installation is simple, requiring connection to a high-speed Internet connection and device placement near a window. Excluding the antenna, the device measures 8.2” x 5.8” x 1.6”.
  • Default security settings allow six devices to connect without restrictions, whereas custom settings allow users to designate as many as 50 Verizon Wireless numbers.
  • Please note that other callers MAY access the Network Extender when it is not in use by priority callers. Of course, all callers may access the Network Extender for emergency 911 calls, even if the mobile number is not on the managed access list.

AT&T MicroCell

  • While an AT&T branded device designed to operate on the AT&T cellular network, it is compatible with most broadband service providers, not just AT&T broadband. Here, “most” means no satellite or wireless broadband.
  • The spec sheet says that it operates best with Internet access minimums of 1.5 Mbps downstream and 256 Kbps upstream, which is not exactly blazing fast. So, if you have DSL or cable Internet and the MicroCell doesn't work, the problem is probably your Internet service provider.
  • Like Samsung's product for the Verizon network, the signal range is approximately 40 feet from the base station – in all directions -- or about 5,000 square feet.
  • While 911 services are supported, the manufacturer recommends keeping the address of the AT&T MicroCell up to date to ensure that the actual location is available to emergency personnel.


  • Sprint's AIRAVE is sometimes spelled in all caps and sometimes just capitalizes the first letter, as the website is inconsistent. 
  • Like the other two models, it operates as a personal base station that provides enhanced voice and 3G mobile broadband coverage for an area of up to about 5,000 square feet.
  • In addition to working with the Sprint network, this device also supports Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile prepaid services.
  • Its data speeds are described in maximum terms, with 3 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, with the manufacturer noting that it will only be as fast as the broadband it's connected to.
  • In terms of connectivity, the device can handle up to six simultaneous active wireless voice calls, data sessions, or any combination of both. Up to 50 mobile devices can be associated with the AIRAVE.