NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It doesn't matter if you pay for the fastest 4G network if you get awful signal inside your house. But you may be able to do something about it without breaking your two-year contract.Mobile carriers are more anxious than ever to keep customers, and often will provide signal-boosting devices and service for free. But that's only if you've tried everything else. Those darn brick walls -- or nearby trees and mountains or other vents and wiring inside the walls -- could be blocking valuable signals to your basement. But if there's a tree blocking your direct sight to the nearest cell tower, consider these tips before chopping down trees or knocking down walls. Talk to your mobile carrier: While not a new tip, this is the first place to start when your home lacks a signal. The mobile industry is super-competitive and many of the companies will do anything to keep you. Check with them to see what they'll offer you. My own carrier suggested replacing the SIM card (the existing one could be outdated or corroded) and turning on "data roaming." Also, keep your phone charged (power improves signal strength) and get rid of the metal case (weakens signal). The carrier may even send a technician to your neighborhood to check outdoor signal strength. If they discover that is terrible, they'll know what to fix first. Try a new app: If you've got a smartphone, there is a
Tip: Make sure the signal booster you buy works with your phone's wireless frequency. While a phone can operate on multiple frequencies, it only works on one frequency band at a time. Consider a dual-band signal booster. Fire up Femtocell: These mini cell towers target indoor users living in areas where even signal outdoors is mediocre. Unlike boosters, femtocells require a home broadband Internet connection, like a cable modem, which it converts into a cellular signal. Phone calls aren't routed over Wi-Fi (unless you're using T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling alternative), but rather they use the same cellular technology your phone already uses, which is better on battery life. They also require GPS because each device is set to operate on a specific mobile network, as approved by your phone company. Only recently have carriers begun offering distressed users a free Femtocell. Otherwise, it costs between $100 to $300, plus a possible monthly fee. In the U.S., Sprint ( S) offers the Airave, Verizon ( VZ) has the Network Extender and AT&T ( T ) offer the Microcell femtocells. Here's a chart of international mobile carriers offering femtocells, as pieced together by the Small Cell Forum. Tip: Femtocells aim to improve voice calls and not necessarily data transmissions. The industry assumes users will stick to Wi-Fi to increase a phone's data speeds indoors. This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.