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Old 27-06-2015, 20:21   #1
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Better cel performance near coastal

Just seeing if there is something out there I am missing. Antenna? Booster? Different provider.
Obviously there will be areas along the US coast that don't have great coverage but I have At&T and I don't think it's asking too much to have a good signal 5-7 miles offshore along most of the US coastline.
Who is using what provider and what equipment and what kind of range are you getting?

Just curious.
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Old 27-06-2015, 21:33   #2
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Regardless of carrier see https://www.weboost.com/us/.
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:53   #3
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

That is exactly what I had in mind thanks
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Old 28-06-2015, 10:03   #4
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

I have installed a fair number of the Wilson/WeBoost systems.

I was very, very skeptical because the power on newer amps is considerably less than older models due to FCC changes, but I am seeing -10 to -43 dBm gains regularly and it holds and locks in 4G when it is available.

There are areas in Maine that without the booster on I am barely getting a 3G or 1X signal. I can flip on the amp and in 30 seconds or so I am downloading & uploading over 4G with. Areas like Perry Creek have zero signal for phone or data (including text) and I can make calls, use the net and text. My antenna though is nearly 60' above the water surface..

The dBm gains really mean little to me, what really matters is that it actually works okay, in the real world. Keep in mind these devices are expensive and are NOT a panacea, just a nice little aid for areas of marginal reception.

I have paired my own 4G amp with my Wilson marine antenna (top of the spar), LMR-400 cable (necessary for long runs) and all the crazy adapters required to make it all work. Wilson REALLY, REALLY needs to work on the number of adapters Type N to FME to SMA etc. etc.......

My own Mobile 4G is an SMA on the amp end not FME like it used to be, Wilson claims this was driven by the FCC????? Regardless of the who or why, it is CRAZY!!!! I suppose if it were not for all the silly adapters I might get close to -50 dBm.... (grin)

The newer amps are nice because they work across all carriers. This means I only need to stock 1 amp these days...
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Old 28-06-2015, 10:09   #5
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Those boosters will help a little - but only a little. Most of them don't support the 4G frequencies so will only help on voice and 3G. A few do 4G but you have to check carefully. I use this one from Wilson but it won't turn "no bars" into a usable internet connection.

Amazon.com: Wilson Electronics Mobile 4g Cellular Signal Booster Kit - Retail Packaging - Black: Cell Phones & Accessories

The problem is cell companies now "shape" a transmitter's reception area very precisely to balance the load on each transmitter. It's not just a big tower transmitting 360 degrees as far as possible.

What I've found best on the US East Coast is to carry a Verizon cell phone and an ATT Ipad Mini. One or the other usually works.
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Old 28-06-2015, 10:27   #6
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Verizon's East Coast coverage puts AT&T to shame--except in Maine, where both stink.
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Old 28-06-2015, 11:45   #7
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Quote:
Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
Verizon's East Coast coverage puts AT&T to shame--except in Maine, where both stink.
Even in Maine Verizon clobbers AT&T, especially along the coast..
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Old 28-06-2015, 11:51   #8
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
Those boosters will help a little - but only a little. Most of them don't support the 4G frequencies so will only help on voice and 3G. A few do 4G but you have to check carefully. I use this one from Wilson but it won't turn "no bars" into a usable internet connection.

Amazon.com: Wilson Electronics Mobile 4g Cellular Signal Booster Kit - Retail Packaging - Black: Cell Phones & Accessories

The problem is cell companies now "shape" a transmitter's reception area very precisely to balance the load on each transmitter. It's not just a big tower transmitting 360 degrees as far as possible.

What I've found best on the US East Coast is to carry a Verizon cell phone and an ATT Ipad Mini. One or the other usually works.
If you have an iPhone get rid of the bars and set it up to show gain as a dBm number instead. The bars are as useless as boobs on a bull....

Set iPhone to -dBm Gain Instead of Bars/Bubbles

Up here in Maine my 4G booster makes the difference between 1X, 3G and LTE very often.
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Old 28-06-2015, 12:05   #9
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

" I don't think it's asking too much to have a good signal 5-7 miles offshore along most of the US coastline."
Actually it IS too much to ask. There aren't many customers at sea, so no company wastes resources (limited tower space) covering empty water. A busy harbor, sure, but not so much open coastal areas.


Wilson probably is "the" name in boosters. An external antenna used to be pretty much all you needed, but cell phones are rarely made with external antenna jacks any more, so you need a "picocell" or "femtocell" as the boosters are really called. (Basically, a miniature cell site in itself, with very limited abilities.)


At microwave frequencies (cell phones) there is so much signal lost in every foot of antenna cable, that using an external antenna without a booster can actually weaken the final signal. A cell phone stops at 600mW of maximum power, a booster typically has from 1.5 to 3 watts of power, which should mean at least two more bars of signal. If you replace the typical 6" tall antenna they come with, you can again double that. (A typical plain omnidirectional antenna is usually best, since you don't have to aim it at a tower.)


Wilson's more expensive boosters will work with all carriers, all bands. When in doubt, call them to make sure the exact model you are looking at IS high power, and works with any phone you expect to use. Some work with only one phone and that has to be in a cradle. Others work with "all" phones, sometimes a couple of feet away, sometimes many more feet away. For more bucks, of course.(G)


Most phones have a hidden service menu (the internet can tell you how to bring it up) that will show signal strength in db, there are a number of apps for that as well. Depending on how your carrier has programmed your phone (again, "secret") your phone may be set to use one band until it totally fails--while a different band has a stronger signal! Sometimes that is worth exploring, sometimes they can change it for you, or tell you how to change it.


Maine-
The FCC required the same thing on wifi routers maybe a decade ago. In order to make sure it is not easy for the customer to simply out on a high gain antenna and exceed the legal effective radiated power (ERP) for the device, they require a more obscure antenna connection, so you can't just get one at WalMart. (Going online and clicking "buy" is just so much harder?(G)
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Old 28-06-2015, 15:24   #10
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
" I don't think it's asking too much to have a good signal 5-7 miles offshore along most of the US coastline."
Actually it IS too much to ask. There aren't many customers at sea, so no company wastes resources (limited tower space) covering empty water. A busy harbor, sure, but not so much open coastal areas.


...
Yes, it is ultimately about customer base. By contrast, in Belize you can get service at the barrier reef 20 miles from that coast with no booster...because that's the market there.

Also dumb phones seem to have much better reception than smart phones. My cheap beat up old Nokia would out perform charter guests fancy phones by wide margin every time.
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Old 28-06-2015, 16:36   #11
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

Once upon a time you could call Motorola, and actually get a technician or engineer on the phone. And one of the guys said, flat out, that the newer phones were all designed to be tiny and pretty, for mass market appeal, and they were no longer being designed for technical excellence--by anyone.


The old phone traditionally had a larger antenna, an external antenna, a rod or stub that extended above the phone and your hand. The new phones? Have an internal antenna, so even if it were the same size, the fact that your paw was wrapped around it, blocks the signal with water-laden flash. Guarantees the antenna will be in the "radio shadow" of your body, and the performance degraded.


But hey, its PRETTY and its TINY and isn't that all that counts? Well, tiny with a big screen, just like the Targus.(G)


Here in the states, I *think* Verizon still may support the old CDMA phones (replaced by CDMA2000 that long ago) that had good antennas. TDMA is gone, analog is gone, and I haven't seen real antennas on GSM phones for this market.


There's new European startup that wants to put up an incredible satellite constellation (648? birds) to provide "internet to the world". Maybe in 2020, if the private rockets stop blowing up and they can buy launches. That could give the cellcos a good kick in the shins, too.
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Old 28-06-2015, 21:05   #12
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

all great info Thanks to everyone for responding
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Old 28-06-2015, 22:43   #13
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Re: Better cel performance near coastal

I can't say that I'm a cell phone whiz, but I do know a thing or 10 about radios & RF propagation.

First, if you're inside of the Faraday Cage made up by your (metal) shrouds/rigging, it's going to cut into your performance. As to how much, it depends on a few things. But odds are is that it won't be by an insignificant amount.
So, even just rigging a small antenna on the transom, or the aft end of the panels on your arch, with a wire going to your phone will likely help a fair bit.

Second, aside from the commercially available signal booster mentioned above. If you find a radio/cell phone geek, it's likely that he can put together a custom signal booster for you which will get you a lot of gain... Assuming he knows how to make a directional antenna, & what the wave propagation patterns (side lobes) for cell's, especially yours & that of your carrier are shaped like.
The catch being, that in addition to needing to have your phone wired to it, it's going to be a somewhat directional thing.
Meaning that it'll have to be pointed in the proper general direction, to get the extra gain out of it. But compared to the boost from anything else, it'll be BIG. And such toys can also be paired with signal boosters/amplifiers (above posts).

Basically it's kind of like an RDF, only with a wider beam width, & they can transmit as well as receive. Just make sure that you're not putting out so much juice that you fry your brain, or anything else important. Or get caught violating some semi-obscure FCC regulation.

And or, go back in time (say 20yrs), & get one of those old cell phones which came in a bag, about the size & weight of 2-3 bricks. They had some transmitting power, & good antennas for both directions too.
We could call San Diego, from well south of TJ with one in the early 90's, from 20 miles offshore. So range was pretty much on par with a VHF, but from deck level.


PS: If you want some real (& probably illegal) reach, you could wire up an antenna using your rigging/backstay. And even crank out a couple hundred watts if you had the expertise, & a mind to, but... That's purely hypothetical of course.
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