Omni Antennas - What They Are and When to Use Them

When selecting the right antenna for your cell phone signal boosting needs, it's important to understand the two main types of radio antennas, omni (or omnidirectional) and directional. Omni antennas are designed to send and receive signals in all horizontal directions from the antenna, while a directional antenna is designed to focus the signal in a single direction. This article will focus on omni antennas and scenarios where you would choose one over a directional antenna. For more information on directional antennas, check out our yagi antenna and panel antenna articles.

Shape & Strength

As mentioned, omni antennas send and receive signals in all horizontal directions from the antenna. If you were to visualize the coverage area for an omni antenna, it would look like a doughnut with the antenna in the middle. Since the radio waves are being sent in all directions, the strength of the signal is less than you would find from a directional antenna, which concentrates the signal in a specific direction, but you're able to cover a broader area and be less precise on the positioning of the antenna.

Omni antennas are typically rated by their gain, which describes the shape of the antenna's signal and how much reach it has. An omni antenna with a higher gain will have a flatter shape and cover a wider area, and thus will result in a more powerful signal from the cellular provider towers.

When to Use

Omni antennas are best suited for situations where you need to support multiple cell phone carriers, each with their own cell tower, and are already receiving at least three bars of signal outside of your building or vehicle. An omni antenna would then be able to pick up the signal from each of the carriers you need to support, and supply that signal to an amplifier, which would then boost it inside your building or vehicle. If you're receiving very weak signal at your location, then you might need to use a more powerful antenna, like a yagi directional antenna, to ensure that you have a strong enough signal to amplify.

Overall, omni antennas are the most common antenna type used with cell phone signal boosting equipment. If you feel like your situation might warrant a directional antenna, please feel free to contact us for clarification.

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25 thoughts on “Omni Antennas - What They Are and When to Use Them”

  • Mitchell Barber
    Mitchell Barber April 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Hi,
    I live in a rural area with no hope of 4g and weak/sporadic 3g. There is literally a forest of trees in every direction between me and any cell towers (~6-10 miles) with the terrain mostly flat but does roll a little in one area. I am a customer of Verizon Wireless and use a Pantech UM150 usb modem with an external omni directional antenna on my roof. Before the antenna, I got 0-1 bar. Now it bounces between 2-4 bars and the signal will bounce around -102db to -90 db. I bought the external omni antenna before I really knew what I was buying. It has a magnetic base and it's gain is ~10 dbi(sorry, I don't remember the exact dbi rating).
    I feel I could bring in a better signal if I got the correct antenna/booster set-up. My question is would I be better with a directional antenna or a stronger omni-directional antenna such as the one I have now? Plus would an amplifier/booster help in my situation? To further complicate the situation, I'm in the middle of a thin triangle of Verizon cell towers whose narrow base is along the I-85 interstate near Oxford, NC and the tip near Franklinton, NC. (This is no joke: the verizon coverage map of my area shows decent 3g coverage everywhere except one tiny grey house-sized spot. Guess where my house is! go figure). (Have fun with this one.)!!!

    Thanks,
    Mitch

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hello Mitch,

      In your case, you may be better of with an outside panel antenna and a signal booster. The panel antenna is directional, but still works well when you don't have a clear line-of-site to the tower, unlike the yagi antennas we typically use. When you combine that with a signal booster, you should be able to get that signal to stabilize. Give use a call if you'd like to talk about specific parts.

      Reply
  • Eitan

    Hey
    i work in a company that broadcast live videos from the cell phone
    when were taking our product to a concert and there is a lot of people than their no network in the cell cause their is obviously to much activity in that area
    i want to know what solution can i use to get a reception from a different cell tower that will be far away from the place im at so i can get network.
    we thought about buying a 3g router and a directional antenna and that way boost the signal from a distanced location and receive it where i am.
    any advice?

    Reply
    • Dan

      Your best bet would be to hook a directional antenna up directly to your hotspot device and give that a try. Then you can aim it away from the nearest tower and hope that a tower further away is less overloaded. You may also need to add an in-line booster between the antenna and the hotspot. Give us a call if you would like to discuss it more.

      Reply
  • Cassie

    Hello, I live in an apartment complex. I generally have 3-4 bars outside of my building but drop calls the second I step in my door. The complex is surrounded by sand dunes and no carriers hold service in any of the buildings very well. I need something that will impove my signal and work with multiple carriers specifically Verizon 4G and AT&T 4G.

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hi Cassie,

      If you have the ability to mount an antenna on the roof of the building, outside, then there are a lot of solutions to your signal issues. If that's not possible, you would have to rely on mounting an antenna on the inside of a window. Do you get any signal from both carriers when you're right by a window? Use the Contact Us link at the bottom of this page to reply. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Alicia

    Hello, I work at a hotel and am currently looking for an answer as to how to get more cell service. I have AT&T, and outside the hotel, I get one or two bars and 4G, inside the hotel and other buildings here, there is no service at all. I have guests complaining about the lack of cell phone service. I know there is service out there, what could we get as a company to help our guests make the phone calls that are needed?

    Would a directional antenna work?

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hi Alicia,

      To boost a signal in an entire hotel, you would be look at one of our large building kits. A single directional antenna alone would not help at all unfortunately, you need an entire system with inside and outside antennas and an amplifier. For large buildings, fill out the form here to request a custom kit: http://www.ubersignal.com/custom-signal-booster-kits.

      Reply
  • Salim bhatti

    Hello sir I want to imprive my data card signsl strenth in.my room. I have the proper signal on my roof but not in my room can u tell me plz which type of antena I use for better signal on data card.

    Reply
    • Jeff

      Hi Salim. The correct antennas for your hotspot depends on the antenna connector, where you want to mount it, and what the surrounding terrain is like. Please give us a call at 1.800.590.3564 and we'll be happy to help.

      Reply
  • Paul A. Johnson
    Paul A. Johnson March 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks for being such a fantastic resource. I'm currently looking into installing an omni-directional booster for the building I work in...an approximately 5000 sq. ft. museum. The signal where we're located is poor at best (at *most* two bars across various carriers). Is pursuing a signal booster a pipe dream or could this actually help our less-than-ideal situation?

    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hello Paul,

      Yes, if you have at least one bar of usable signal in the area where you would mount your outside antenna, then a signal booster will be able to help. The coverage you get from a signal booster will be highly dependent on the existing outside signal strength so with a weak existing outside signal, you'll need a more powerful system to cover the same amount of area.

      Contact us and we can chat more about what might work best for you.

      Reply
  • Tracey

    Thank you for all your information! If I am reading about the omni-antenna's correctly, it should boost both an AT&T and Sprint cell/data service?? Am I understanding that correctly?

    We have a small piece of beach property to where I "might" get a 1/2 - 1 bar from Sprint if I stand on my head with my tongue hanging out. There are times that 3G might pop up, then it's gone again. My Mom has AT&T and she's discovering the same thing. We don't want to have a mobile hotspot, internet or cable installed, as it would be another added monthly expense - and we both have unlimited phone/data plans.. so we'd like to try & boost our phone signals and go that route.

    My mom has a mobile cell booster that does work if her phone is laying on top of it. So what would be the best option that would help us both?

    Verizon just put in a local tower, but neither of our phones are using it? Our phones act like the tower isn't there.

    Thank you so much for your time & advice! It is much appreciated :)

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hello Tracey,

      Yes, an omnidirectional outside antenna can typically be used to cover multiple carriers. However, it's important to note that an omni antenna alone won't help you, you'll need a full signal booster system in order to improve your signal inside.

      Towers are carrier specific so your AT&T and Sprint phones wouldn't benefit from a Verizon tower nearby. Your sSprint phone may roam to the Verizon tower, but if it can get even one bar of Sprint signal, it typically will choose that over roaming.

      To help determine which signal booster will work best for you, I would need to know how large of an area inside you want to cover with a boosted signal, if it's over one floor or multiple, and if you can mount an antenna outside of the building.

      Reply
  • Tracey

    Hi Dan ~ It's a vacation beach property, so we were wanting to use it while inside our RV/trailers and while outside.

    After I wrote that to you, I started to read about the Yagi Antenna's. It sounds like that would be a better option in a weaker signal area? And if both the Sprint tower & AT&T towers are in the same direction, then Yagi could work for both providers?

    Then once the antenna is mounted outside, is there a wireless way to connect to the full signal booster system / amplifier or does it have to be connected by cable?

    Once that is all installed, then we should get a stronger cell and data signal sent wireless to our phones? I mean, we don't have to have it sitting on a cradle or anything, correct??

    I'm really more interested in boosting the data than the phone side.. so if this doesn't help with the data portion of our service, then I'm barking up the wrong tree and completely lost within all this information that you have provided - lol - ;)

    Thank you, again!! :)

    Reply
  • Joshua

    My parents live in the middle of nowhere on the Navajo Reservation. Reception is not so good and dropped calls abound way out there. My parents asked me about a booster of sorts, and google brought me here. Their setup is my dad has Verizon, and is dead set on keeping it, and my mom has T-Mobile. In the house, Verizon barely works. But on top of the roof, my dad gets 4G and 3 bars; I don't know which way the nearest Verizon tower is. For my mother's T-Mobile, it uses Cellular One on the reservation. A tower was put up last summer about 3-4 miles away. Signal strength has greatly improved, but sometimes calls still drop, and the 3G/4G goes in and out. What is the best Omni antenna (or other) for their situation?

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hello Joshua,

      The type of system that will work best depends on how large of an area inside you need to cover with a boosted signal, and if you want to support just the 2G and 3G networks, or if you also want 4G LTE for the fastest data speeds. Let me know the answers to those two questions and we can recommend a system for you.

      Reply
  • Luis P

    I have AT&T samsung g3 getting 1 to 2 bars in my 1st floor apt. I just bought a signal booster repeater amplifier with a yagi directional antenna. I ordered it GSM but on the repeater box has the words CDMA. Will it work with AT&T GSM. Please reply

    Reply
    • Jeff

      Hi Luis,

      Thanks for writing. Most boosters that amplify CDMA will also boost GSM, but without knowing exactly what booster you have, I can't guarantee it. Feel free to shoot us a note to support@ubersignal.com with the model and we can confirm for you.

      Reply
  • Kyle

    I do a lot of traveling for work and stay at hotels on a weekly basis. While in the room, I normally only get a single bar of service. I'm looking for a solution that can boost my Verizon LTE phones signal and that is portable as I would like to take it from room to room. Is there a solution out there that doesn't require me to modify/add anything to my contact? I'm currently still grandfathered in on the unlimited data and don't want to lose or change that.

    Reply
    • Jeff

      Hi Kyle,

      Thanks for writing. The best solution for your needs is going to be the Wilson Sleek 4G Cradle Booster with Home Accessory Kit. You'll be able to move that from room to room, and the cradle will significantly boost the signal for the phone while the phone is resting in it.

      Take a look at that and let us know if you have any additional questions at support@ubersignal.com.

      Reply
  • Jay

    Hi. We just switched to AT&T and got an iPhone 5 and iPhone 6. They work great in the city (Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburbs) but when we went up north (central Wisconsin) the service sucked...dropped calls...calls going directly to voicemail without ringing our phones...text messages coming through hours after they were sent...had 3 bars then 1 bar then searching...etc. Before this we had Verizon flip phones and never had a problem with service. Since we go up there pretty much every other weekend and have a family member with a heart condition, we need reliable cell service. We just watched your video on how to install a zBoost YX545. Do you think that model would solve our problem? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hi Jay,

      Let me know the answers to the following questions and based on that, we can recommend a system for you:
      - What kind of an inside space are you trying to cover and what is it made out of? For example, is it a house, trailer, concrete bunker, or something else.
      - How strong is the existing signal where you would mount the outside antenna, typically on the roof (See http://www.ubersignal.com/field-test-mode)?
      - Over how large of an area inside do you need to cover with a boosted signal (in sq ft)?
      - Is that area over one floor or multiple?

      Based on that information, we can recommend a system for you.

      Reply
  • Jason Greiner

    I live in an apt complex and have access to 3-4 bars and 4G outside and 0-3 inside (Verizon). The signal fluctuates drastically inside the apt and I'll have 3G one minute and then no signal seconds later. Typically I will have to call someone back 4-5 times in a 20 minute conversation...The best results are by the back door or near a window and even then I have to stand still otherwise I lose the call. Oddly enough, I've noticed that the ac unit actually causes some kind of interference that results in dropped calls. Yes, the ac unit causes dropped calls if I happen to be on the phone when it kicks on.

    I can put something inside the window or perhaps on the porch outside, but I'm limited on the direction that the antenna can be positioned... I have started researching this, but figured I would go directly to the experts and ask your opinion.

    Thanks in advance.

    Jason

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hello Jason,

      Apartments where you can't mount an antenna outside on the roof can be difficult. Sometimes, it's helpful to take you phone and walk around the outside of the building and see if one direction seems to get stronger signal than others. That's likely the direction of the tower. If you have a window pointing in that direction, that's likely the window you would want to use for a receiving antenna.

      Assuming you have a window where you can get at least one bar of signal, then a signal booster may still be possible, but your coverage area will be on the small side. Something like our Wilson DT4G would be a good option: http://www.ubersignal.com/wilson-460101-signalboost-dt4g-for-voice-3g-4g-lte.html. The "outside" antenna can be mounted to the inside of a window. With a weak 1 bar signal, you'll only get a very small area of coverage, just a few ft from the inside antenna. If you can get a stronger 2-3 bar signal at that window where the "outside" antenna is, you may be able to cover 1 room. Overall, it will give you place where you can put your phone and know you shouldn't drop calls, but will definitely not give you complete coverage over your entire apartment.

      Reply
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