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Reviews

JDTeck JD55-PR Cellular Repeater

By Russ Smith July 7, 2005, 12:00 am

One of the great things about cellular phones is that you can now use them nearly anywhere. One of the annoying things about cellular phones is that "nearly" in the sentance above. Even with the best efforts of cellular carriers, you will still find "holes" where reception is either very weak or nonexistant. At best, this is annoying. At worst, when one of those "holes" happens to be your home or place of work, it makes it difficult or impossible to use your cell-phone. Would it not be great if you could "beef up" the reception in those spots. You could invest in one of those little foil "antennas" that you paste on the back of your cell-phone, but only if you want to spend your money on something that will not help a bit. JDTeck's JD55-PR Cellular repeater costs a bit more than those foil antennas, but it actually works. Read on to find out just how well it works.

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

JDTeck's JD55-PR works with any device that uses cellular carriers. That means it can enhance reception for BlackBerries and Pocket PCs with built-in or add-on cellular radios as well as your dedicated cell-phone. JD55-PR amplifies signals coming in from the cellular tower as well as signals going out from your cellular device. It supports three simultaneous cellular connections at one time and enhances reception over a 800-1200 square foot area.

SETUP

Inside the box you will find (clockwise from top-left) the outside antenna, the repeater unit, mounting hardware, the inside antenna, the installation manual, the outside antenna connector cable, and the power supply. (Tap any of these images for a full-size, high resolution image.)

The JD55-PR repeater unit comes packaged with two protective end caps covering the outside and inside antenna connectors.

The back of the unit has two metal "nibs" that connect to the wall mounting hardware.

The cable to the "outside" antenna (which transmits and receives to/from the cellular tower) screws into the top of the unit. The "inside" antenna (which transmits and receives to/from your cellular devices) screws into one side of the repeater.

The power connector connects to the other side of the repeater unit.

In my testing, I actually installed the hardware in three different locations (more on that later). In each case the hardware was installed easily and quickly. The longest part of the installation was stringing the cable between the outside antenna and the repeater unit. In no case did the installation time exceed 15 minutes.

Once the hardware is placed and connected, there is only one adjustment that may be required: If the "Alarm" LED lights during use, there is a recessed set of two switches on the bottom of the repeater unit that allow you to adjust the amplification downward. You can decrease the amplification by 4, 8, or 12dB. The device comes set for full amplification (55dB) which should work without adjustment in most applications.

PRODUCT FEATURES

I tested the JD55-PR repeater in three different application areas. The first area was in my home office. That office is located near a grounded metal-clad roof on our front porch. This has caused some difficulty with cellular reception in the past. My current cellular carrier manages to "punch through," but only at one to two bars. After installing the JD55-PR repeater with the outside antenna located on a peak of the roof, I consistently got a full five bars. The second application area was at my church. The church building is located in one of the aforementioned "holes." My cellular carrier barely pushes one bar while users of other carriers have to walk to the corner to get anything at all. Again, I installed the outside antenna on a peak of the roof. I actually installed the hardware without telling anyone and was pleasantly surprised to hear "Hey! I've got a signal" from a number of folks when they attempted to call home after a recent meeting. The only possible drawback in this scenario is that there may be more simultaneously attempted connections than the three the repeater can currently handle. The final scenario was in the basement offices of a friend where cellular connections were previously impossible, thanks in part to the steel construction of the building. By placing the outside antenna (as you might guess) on the outside of the building and connecting to the repeater inside, cellular connections not only became possible, but the signal strength was excellent. The company IT guy was very impressed and quickly jotted down JDTech's web address.

HELP SUPPORT

The JD55-PR hardware comes with a minimal installation guide, however, the device is amazingly easy to install and the guide contains all the information you need to do so. In additon JDTeck has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Tech info page on the web site. The main page for the JD55-PR hardware on the web site has links to features and benefits, installation options, specifications.

The model we tested enhances CDMA, TDMA, AMPS, DCS, GSM, and PCS reception. There are other models available from JDTeck for other cellular systems . Because the device is a hardware repeater, it makes no difference what information, protocol, or carrier you use it with as long as that carrier uses one of the above.

COMPARISON

pocketnow has reviewed two products in competition with the JD55-PR repeaters in recent months. The SpotWave Spot Cell Home Indoor Cellular Coverage System and the Wireless Extenders YX500-PCS are both repeaters as is the JD55-PR. Each of these devices uses two antennae, one which transmits to and receives from the nearest cellular tower and one which transmits to and receives from your cellular device(s). All of the devices are FCC approved. At $365, the JD55-PR is $65 more than the YX500-PCS, but it provides support for a wider range of cellular systems. As the name implies, the YX500-PCS supports only PCS (1900MHz) networks while the JD55-PR system supports both the 800MHz and 1900MHz cellular bands. (Wireless Extenders is currently working on similar products for Nextel and other cellular systems.) The JD55-PR and YX500-PCS offer roughly the same amplification (55dB for JD55-PR and 60dB for the YX500-PCS). However, the YX500-PCS specifies a coverage of up to 2500 square feet where the JD55-PR specifies about half of that. Like the JD55-PR, the Spot Cell system supports both 1900MHz (PCS) and 800MHz cellular bands, but the Spot Cell system is priced at more than double the price of the JD55-PR system ($365 for JD55-PR and $995 for Spot Cell). For the extra price you do get considerably more range. The JD55-PR covers 800-1200 square feet to the SpotCell's 5000 square feet. It should be noted, however, that JDTeck has another model, which sells for $645, which covers 4000-6000 square feet and supports up to 20 simultaneous calls. You end up getting the same coverage for less from JDTeck. The Spot Cell system does offer more amplification (96dB downlink/86dB uplink to JDTeck's 55dB-65dB). While all three companies offer several optional add-ons to boost the range further, Wireless Extenders appears to only offer the YX500 base hardware, but both SpotWave and JDTeck offer other base hardware for wider-range applications. In addition, JDTech also offers a lower-cost set of cellular "boosters." You should also note that Wireless Extenders and JDTeck sell directly to the end-user. SpotWave Spot Cell sells directly to wireless carriers so end-users will have to contact their cellular provider to see if they can provide Spot Cell products.

The JD55-PR hardware worked flawlessly in my tests. My only wish was that JDTech would come up with a smaller repeater, at a lower price-point, for home office use.

You can buy JD55-PR Cellular Repeater for $365.00 directly from JDTech. It is covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 12-month manufacturer's defect warranty. If you are aware of a better price, contact us and we will post the new information. In addition to the most common installation hardware, which is included with the repeater, JDTech has a number of additional installation options available on the web site. The unit is pricey, but it performs on a scale that lower-priced cellular reception enhancer's can not match. It is worth the money, but the price places it out of reach for the small office/home office (SOHO) market.

Pros

  • Works with a wide variety of cellular systems
  • Works with any cellular device that can connect to the supported systems
  • Amplifies both ingoing and outgoing signals up to 55dB
  • Supports three simultaneous cellular connections
  • Amplification covers an 800 to 1200 square foot area
  • Covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 12-month warranty

Cons

  • Priced too high for SOHO or personal use

OVERALL IMPRESSION

JDTeck's JD55-PR Cellular Repeater is easy to install and works without attention once it is set up. It provides excellent enhancement of cellular reception over a variety of networks. It is not limited to a single carrier or protocol. However, priced at $365 and above, it is decidedly aimed at the enterprise market and not the casual user. If your business is looking to enhance cellular reception throughout a specific area, you owe it to yourself to take a look at JDTech's JD55-PR hardware. For smaller areas and smaller budgets, I suggest you look at JDTech's Cellular Booster products instead.

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