Can You Hear Me Now? Cell Phone Reception in Metal Buildings

Published January 29, 2014 by Whirlwind Team

cell phone signalThe same properties that make metal buildings and roofs so desirable, longevity and durability, are the same features that can make it difficult to get cell phone reception indoors. While this may not be a problem in a storage shed or riding arena, it is certainly an inconvenience for home and commercial structures. Fortunately, there are several affordable, high-tech options that can help to improve cell phone reception in your metal building structures.

Cell phones work by receiving microwaves that are transmitted from strategically placed signal service towers. While these microwaves are able to penetrate most wood, brick, and even concrete structures, metal building components form an impenetrable barrier. As such, reception only becomes possible in small pockets near windows or skylights. In an era where cell phones have surpassed land lines in popularity, this can be a major inconvenience. The solution is to find ways to direct these microwaves into the buildings where cell phone receivers are able to detect them.

The following tips will help to boost the cellular signals in your metal building.

Install a Repeater System 

A repeater system consists of three main components: an antenna, an amplifier, and a broadcaster. These systems are ideal in buildings where multiple occupants will need cell phone reception across the spectrum of cellular providers. Repeater systems are the most convenient option as there are no secondary wires or components that have to be directly plugged into cell phones or other relevant electronic devices.

The antenna is mounted on the exterior of your building to receive the cellular signals. This is wired to an amplifier which is installed in the interior of the building, typically in an attic or in the space between the roof and the ceiling. This component amplifies the signals. The amplifier is then wired to a transmitter, or multiple transmitters, depending on the size of your building. A high-quality repeater system can work effectively in buildings up to 75,000 square feet.


If you are only interested in increasing your internet signal and speed, and aren't as worried about providing cellular reception to a variety of users, you can use a simple antenna that can be wired directly to your laptop or related equipment. This will deliver the signal directly to your device. Keep in mind that the wire is connected directly into the device, which limits interior mobility. Also, verify that your cell phone(s) have the RF port required for a direct connection to the antenna. Otherwise, this option may only help to boost the internet signal for your laptop or desktop computer.

Cell Phone Signal Boosters

Cell phone signal boosters are also an effective way to boost cell phone reception for buildings with only one or two cell phone users. Similar to the antenna example listed above, you will mount an antenna on the roof of the building. The antenna can be wired to multiple ports along exterior walls. A secondary cell phone booster can be purchased at most electronic supply stores. The booster is connected to both the antenna port as well as the cell phone to boost reception.

This option is not as efficient for buildings where multiple people will want to use their personal cell phones. Also, they are more cumbersome than repeater systems because the booster has to be connected directly into the cell phone or gadget. This is different than the aforementioned repeater systems, which broadcast a wireless signal, allowing cell phones, tablets, and laptops to be completely mobile.

Be aware: There are many cheap cell phone signal boosting products on the market. While some of these may work for a small office or storage building where a single user is affected, the majority of these low-dollar signal boosters will not be effective in a traditional metal building environment.

Take the time to meet with various providers so they understand the nature of your building's construction as well as the needs of the buildings occupants. This will ensure you make the right choice ahead of time, rather than selecting a system that isn't effective for your home or commercial space. Commercial building applications will find it cost-effective to invest in a high-quality repeater or antenna system to insure the quality of the cellular signals is as consistent and dependable as possible.

If you are in the process of researching metal building options, contact Whirlwind Steel. Our customer service representatives will be happy to discuss your metal building options and make recommendations regarding the best cellular boosters for your building's needs.

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