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Strong Signals

Happiness is never having to ask "Can you hear me now?" again.

How's cell phone reception at your office or home office? Man-made obstacles like walls interfere with cell signals, so reception can get sketchy in office buildings or skyscraper canyons.

Wi-Ex's zBoost can help. This new cell relay/amplifier can improve reception over an area of 2,500 square feet. That's a good-size office or a very large one-story house.

Installation is straightforward. You plug a base station into an A/C outlet and place the two-foot antenna for your new "cell" on a roof, in an attic, by a window--wherever you get the best reception. You connect the two using the bundled 50-foot coaxial cable or any common RG-6 coax. There's no software to install or PC needed.

Could zBoost help you? Flip open your phone (fully powered) and walk around to see if you have a spot showing extra bars. My cell signal is strongest at the bottom of my driveway and partway up the slope behind my house. I can't put an antenna at either place, though, so my fallback antenna location is on the ceiling of an east-facing room. That fills all the nooks and crannies of my usually two-bar house with a consistent four- to five-bar signal. Good reception will become more critical as we shift to 3G phones and brave new applications like picture mail, graphical web browsing or TV.

The downside: One of your rooms could wind up with an unsightly antenna and coax running to the base station. Not really a problem at Chez Hogan, where bundles of cords and cables already flow between nondescript stacks of electronics. But your design sensibility may be more refined.

You can find zBoost models for all 1900MHz and 800MHz networks (except Nextel's iDEN) at retailers like RadioShack and Solid Signal. Prices range between $200 and $400, depending on the model needed. zBoost uses only a digital clock's worth of electricity and won't affect other wireless devices.

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This article was originally published in the May 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Strong Signals.

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