View Full Version : Repurpose An Old Dish Antenna to Boost Cell Phone

06-06-2010, 06:48 AM

introRepurpose An Old Dish Antenna to Boost Cell Phone / WiFi Signals
When I recently moved from San Antonio to rural North Carolina, I found myself completely unable to get a cell signal where I live. The only way for me to get a signal at all was to drive over a mile in either direction from where I live. I first thought my problem was my cell carrier. I decided to change carriers so I had several friends check out their signal strength while they were visiting me so I could better decide which carrier to go with. Of the three other major carriers we checked, not one can provide a reliable signal at my house. It was apparent that my problem is my location. I am at the bottom of a shallow valley. It is uphill in nearly any direction you go from here.

I had to find a solution. I checked into an external antenna for my cell phone but found they cost nearly $50.00 and have to be ordered from China (eBay). I knew there had to be a better way.
While working in my yard one afternoon I noticed an old satellite TV dish on top of a pole in my backyard. It had been left there by the previous residents. Suddenly a light bulb came on. I grabbed some wrenches, took down the dish and held my cell phone next to the antenna's horn. I was amazed to find that I instantly got full signal. I could not believe my eyes. I went from no signal to full signal and had not spent a dime or changed anything on my cell phone. Just to make sure I made a call using speaker phone and found that this thing truly did work.

The next test came when I took the assembly inside the house to try it. With aluminum siding on the house I have problems even getting a television signal using a rabbit ear antenna. To my surprise, I got two bars inside so long as I pointed the dish at a double window in my living room. I no longer miss calls and I don't have to leave home to talk on my cell phone. It isn't an ideal setup but it works and did not cost me anything. It is also a great way to recycle that old dish antenna that would have ended up in the trash otherwise.

Repurpose An Old Dish Antenna to Boost Cell Phone / WiFi Signals
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step 1Setting Up The Antenna Booster
After my initial eureka moment, I started tweeking the antenna / cell phone assembly a little. First I held the cell phone in front of the dish's horn and turned around in the yard to see which direction I got the strongest signal from. When I found that sweet spot I held the cell phone against the horn while moving it up and down, left and right in front of the horn t…

step 2Finishing Up
With that information I went in the house and made a small foam core holder for the cell phone and used duct tape to attach it to the dish's horn. I kept the front of the holder pretty short so I could still access the buttons to dial a number. I sat the whole assembly on top of an old radio cabinet and pointed the dish at the double windows in my living room. Now I nev…

step 3Taking it Further
If for some reason (like you live in the mountains) and you need to mount the antenna booster outside to get a signal, it would be a simple matter to weather proof the cell phone with a plastic sandwich container. You could still use a bluetooth headset to receive your calls. Also, this setup would work well with WiFi as well. Just use one of those little USB WiFi ante…