A 3G signal amplifier is an electronic device, often in the form of a mobile antenna or base station, that is designed to better capture and hold onto a mobile broadband signal. Stronger signal strength usually means faster response time for cell phones, laptops, or portable technology with broadband connectivity. Amplifiers are commonly used by companies or industries looking to improve signal strength for subscribers or employees. Some are also designed for personal use, particularly when traveling through areas with traditionally weak 3G coverage.
The designation “3G” means "third generation," a name devised by the International Telecommunication Union. A 3G network must meet certain specifications in terms of data transfer and voice data reliability. Most are sponsored or owned by telecommunications corporations, and all are networks of broadband connections specially optimized for mobile phones and portable access. 3G has similar functionality to wireless, or “WiFi,” networks, but is based on completely different technology and infrastructure. A 3G signal amplifier can usually only strengthen authorized 3G signals — that is, signals that a device is already able to receive, though perhaps only at weak strengths.
Most of the time, 3G connectivity requires a cell phone or mobile provider contract. The private companies who own and maintain the networks must license access to subscribers. These companies themselves are some of the primary consumers of industrial 3G amplifiers.
Signal strength is usually determined by a user’s proximity to a cell phone tower. Urban environments often have much stronger signals than remote areas. Companies who wish to service more rural communities often erect local towers. This is costly, however, particularly if the community is located close enough to an existing tower to get a weak strength. In such a case, the company may elect to install an industrial-grade signal amplifier to the tower so that the signal will reach farther.
The majority of 3G amplifiers on the market are for private use and are usually much smaller and less sophisticated then industrial models. They are usually able to strengthen signals for particular devices connected to the same network on a very localized basis. Amplified signals will often reach out in a small radius that will extend throughout a house or office, but not usually to the entire neighborhood. A signal amplifier in this category usually plugs directly into a computer or phone that is experiencing weak signal strength. Depending on the sort of amplification as well as the quality of the amplification tools at issue, other devices in the immediate vicinity may be able to pick up on the stronger signal, as well.
Corporations, governments, and military installations often invest in a number of 3G signal amplifier tools that can be positioned at various points in a building or community in order to improve signal strength. This is particularly useful in underground office areas, or in bunker-style buildings that cell phone signals often have a hard time penetrating. In an amplified setting, all devices that are authorized to connect to the network will receive a better signal and more consistent service.
Sometimes a 3G signal amplifier looks like an antenna, while other times it is more of a modem-style closed box. In either case, the amplifier is almost always a solid-state amplifier — that is, an amplifier that contains no movable parts and is fully contained within a protective casing. One of the main benefits of a 3G network is portability, and a 3G signal amplifier is usually designed to be used on the go.
Most commercially-available 3G signal amplifier products come with a buffering application built in. This is primarily designed to filter out all ambient activity such as radio frequencies to focus in on strengthening 3G signals. It can also serve to protect the network. People sometimes attempt to use a 3G signal amplifier to acquire a 3G signal when the same has not been paid for or subscribed to. This sort of unauthorized network use is illegal in most places, but can be minimized with the use of a buffer.