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Old 18-08-2010, 20:19   #1
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Cell Phone Amplifier

Lots of discussion on WiFi.
But what about cell phone amplifiers?

Wilson makes several as does Digital. Looking for the latest info.

I know that the wireless style, with no tether to your phone, needs separation between antennas. I have a sailboat so I can place one of the antennas up the mast to provide separation.

Of course budget is a consideration, what are the effective choices today?

Thnx
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Old 18-08-2010, 21:04   #2
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This article provides a lot of discussion all about cellular amplification on boats:
http://www.activecaptain.com/article...oostSignal.php
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Old 19-08-2010, 04:25   #3
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Jeff

Lots of good general information. But I'm looking for specific equipment details of what's available now.

Thnx
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Old 19-08-2010, 06:18   #4
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I did a lot of testing with many different products. What I found was:

1. You can't use a "wireless" amp on a boat. That said, there's a chance it would work if the outside antenna was on the mast - that might give enough separation although the line loss would take away a fair amount of amplification.

2. More expensive amps didn't work any better than less expensive ones. In the end, I installed an inexpensive Wilson multi-band wired amp. I've had it for 5 years now and it still works perfectly.

With better internet connectivity (if WiFi is available) there are some new ways to do cellular communications with femtocells. I just got one and I'm playing with it on my boat this Fall to see how it works. It is a fantastic fit in our house - we get 0 bars inside living on the coast of Maine. Turn on the femtocell and we get pinned-5-bars and have perfect cellular voice communications. It requires a good internet connection though. At our house, it's so good that we terminated our land line.
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Old 19-08-2010, 06:27   #5
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I have a Wilson:

# 811210 Signal Boost Cellular/PCS Amplifier
# 301130 - Marine Mount Antenna
# 952350 - 50 Ft of LMR400 Antenna Wire
# 971108 - Amp to antenna connector
# 971107 - Cable to amp connector


The higher the antenna the better. It works fairly well but is NOT a magic bullet by any means. I have not really decided if it was worth the $400.00+ dollars or not yet but it does work in areas where a call drops often. This fall when the stick comes down I plan to move the antenna to the mast head instead of the radar pole. I installed it mid season so really had no choice. Raising it up the spar with a halyard produced more bars than the radar pole..
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Old 19-08-2010, 07:16   #6
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Digital antenna makes a system that amplifies the broadcast power by retransmitting cell signals. The problem is that incoming signals of digital phones have a poor range. I have one of the Digital Antenna Boosters and I can't see any difference between when it is turned on or off.
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Old 19-08-2010, 07:22   #7
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If you have a Digital Antenna wireless amp with 2 antennas and you're finding that it doesn't do much, it is highly likely that an internal fuse blew out a long time ago. I've seen this in every DA wireless amp I've touched. The wireless ones just don't really work and should be avoided on boats (see the article above for the reasons why). The wired amps are pretty good and work reliably. They have disadvantages (wired, only a single phone can be amp'd, etc) but they do work.
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Old 19-08-2010, 07:25   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
I have a Wilson:

# 811210 Signal Boost Cellular/PCS Amplifier
# 301130 - Marine Mount Antenna
# 952350 - 50 Ft of LMR400 Antenna Wire
# 971108 - Amp to antenna connector
# 971107 - Cable to amp connector

..
LMR 400 antenna wire? That's not coax is it? Will there be too much line loss with coax?
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Old 19-08-2010, 07:33   #9
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LMR400 is the way to go. Our article provides a line loss calculator so you can see what the different types of cable produce in loss. "Normal" RG-58 type of coax often loses about the same amount as the cellular antenna gains. I've been on many boats where a better cellular signal was achieved by just standing up outside and disconnecting from the "amp".
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Old 19-08-2010, 12:47   #10
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So, no magic dust for my cell phone, eh?
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Old 19-08-2010, 14:52   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
I have a Wilson:

# 811210 Signal Boost Cellular/PCS Amplifier
# 301130 - Marine Mount Antenna
# 952350 - 50 Ft of LMR400 Antenna Wire
# 971108 - Amp to antenna connector
# 971107 - Cable to amp connector


The higher the antenna the better. It works fairly well but is NOT a magic bullet by any means. I have not really decided if it was worth the $400.00+ dollars or not yet but it does work in areas where a call drops often. This fall when the stick comes down I plan to move the antenna to the mast head instead of the radar pole. I installed it mid season so really had no choice. Raising it up the spar with a halyard produced more bars than the radar pole..
We have pretty much the same setup as Maine Sail except the amp is for a GSM phone. Same results too. Works Ok, but nothing to get excited about.
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Old 14-09-2010, 11:08   #12
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I have the Smooth Talker BST800 connected to a Morad external cell antenna mounted on a strut above the stern. It is a bi-directional amplifier, boosting both receive and transmit signals. It really works well allowing calls as far as 40 miles from the cell tower. It requires a phone with an external antenna connection though, meaning you are tethered to the amplifier location.
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Old 03-09-2012, 13:27   #13
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Re: Cell Phone Amplifier

Ok I will start by explaining my credentials; I am a veteran ham radio operator (VE6ZM) and have been for many years. I have designed antennas and know radio gear including antenna theory quite well.

Losses experienced by line length in the application described may not be negated however your height (if on top of a mast) will more than compensate for these losses. Also, if you utilize a gain antenna, say 18db you will acquire an addition 6 times input watts, ERP (Effective Radiated Power). Go for the booster and mount it as high as you can with a high db gain antenna! They are fairly inexpensive, for cell phones, about $40. Remember, the higher the gain antenna the more seperation required or you will get RF feedback or looping.

Regards
Daniel
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Old 03-09-2012, 13:44   #14
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Re: Cell Phone Amplifier

Forgot to mention, your line of sight communication is dependant upon the following.....

KM = 3.57 x √ height in meters

Say your mast is 5 meters high; you will achieve a transmission distance of roughly 8 km.

If you are on the deck with your phone with no booster it will be far less.

Antenna type and position are paramount! A directional antenna would give you even more jam but they are directional and you would need to point it at an operational cell tower within range. Sat phones are also great and will work virtually anywhere. Need a clear line to the sky for those.

Regards
Daniel
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