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Old 05-02-2016, 09:14   #1
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Latest and greatest cellular booster

I searched the forums but didn't find anything recent. What's the latest and greatest in boosting cell signals? I'm looking for something I can run up a halyard that will act like a repeater. I talked to another cruiser who had a product my wilson, but I guess they don't make it anymore, and the ones on Amazon say they require you to notify the cellular company. I need one that works with Telcel, and I don't know if notifying them would get me anywhere if it's required to make it work.
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Old 05-02-2016, 10:09   #2
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

It's not required to make it work. The amp doesn't have a clue what carrier you're using. It's all about licensing transmitters, etc.
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Old 05-02-2016, 10:41   #3
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

After looking on Amazon, I'm thinking about the Wilson Sleek with the better antenna, looks to be $100. Anybody have anything to say about that choice?

I get a lot of noise from my solar panels on the dodger/bimini top, so I figure this will help with that, I put the antenna on the short mast I use for my wifi setup.

Or should I bite the bullet and get a setup like the wilson dt and run it up to the mizzen spreaders?
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Old 05-02-2016, 18:46   #4
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

You may want to look at the wiriepro. It is both a wifi and a cellular booster in one unit.

The Wirie pro: Long Range Boat WiFi and RV WiFi with 3G/4G
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Old 07-02-2016, 09:36   #5
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

The wirie looked interesting but it's expensive at $650 and I don't want to have another SIM card, I just want to use the phones I already have.

Now I'm debating between the one with the cradle and the one with the repeater antenna, and whether I need 3G or 4G/LTE. I don't see much 4G/LTE, especially out in the boondocks... but wonder if I'm shooting myself in the foot if I don't make it future proof.

Seems like a pretty big price jump. Would like something in the $100-$150 range.
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Old 07-02-2016, 10:34   #6
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

Technomadia does extensive testing of these. The latest results are paywalled, but here is their report from last year:

Comparison: Mobile 4G Cellular Boosters (weBoost, Wilson, MAX-AMP, SureCall) – RV Mobile Internet Resource Center

And their summary: " Since June 2014 we have been using the Wilson Mobile 4G booster (aka 4G-M), and we consider it ‘tried and true’. In the fall of 2015, we took all of the mobile certified cellular boosters on the road for extensive head-to-head field testing (TopSignal Solid RF, weBoost 4G-X, weBoost RV 4G, weBoost 4G-S and Maximum Signal MaxAmp). None of the boosters stood out as the absolute best, and we’d be hard pressed to choose between the 4G-M and the 4G-X – each had different strengths in different kinds of situations. If pressured, Chris would select the 4G-X for better upload performance in remote places, and Cherie would argue for the 4G-M as a ‘every day’ booster that performed solidly in many conditions." (from: How We Keep Online: Illustrated Tour of our RV Mobile Internet Setup | Technomadia)
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Old 07-02-2016, 16:23   #7
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

We have a Wilson and it works very well. However, you really need to upgrade the tiny antenna on a short wire that it is shipped with to one mounted on your mast (wherever).
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Old 07-02-2016, 16:26   #8
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

Is it worth going 4G in Mexico? Do the 4G frequencies travel farther? If I get a 3G only system the 4G towers are still backwards compatible to 3G, so is that good enough?

The damn 4G option just about doubles the expense.
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Old 09-02-2016, 12:24   #9
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

autumnbreeze,
1) First off, while I tend to like buying from local shops, especially Mom and Pop operations, I do understand that many times this isn't possible, but you will find going direct (direct to the manufacturer's site) will give you a LOT more info and better understanding of things than Amazon!!


2) Secondly, Wilson is a great company, with great products....the founder (and his family) know more about radio comms, etc. than almost anyone else designing and selling these systems.....
And, they're really nice folks too!


3) Third, the way "cellular boosters" work, is that they are in effect small co-channel RF repeaters, and the ONLY way for them to work effectively is to have adequate isolation between the external/outside antenna system and the internal/inside antenna...
And, while "stringing it up a halyard" can work (as long as the external antenna up on the top of the halyard, and the internal antenna in the cabin, are adequately separated / isolated), this isn't exactly the best procedure!! (far from it!)
Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
I searched the forums but didn't find anything recent. What's the latest and greatest in boosting cell signals? I'm looking for something I can run up a halyard that will act like a repeater. I talked to another cruiser who had a product my wilson, but I guess they don't make it anymore, and the ones on Amazon say they require you to notify the cellular company. I need one that works with Telcel, and I don't know if notifying them would get me anywhere if it's required to make it work.
For details of how they work, and how to make them work well, please have a look at this posting here...
Standard Horizon VHF/AIS/GPS question

Where, the pertinent info for you is:
Quote:
As I have mentioned before, it is the RF isolation / RF separation between the external antenna and the internal antenna, of a "cellular booster", that allows them to work...

{I cannot stress highly enough that it is having adequate RF isolation that allows these things to work...
And, in large buildings or even in cars (with metal roofs), this isolation is obtainable....but on our fiberglass boats, it takes distance to make them work well....
The good news is that if follow the detailed advice and recommendations, these "boosters" DO work...
But, if you try to take short cuts / do not understand why these recommendations are so important, you can find yourself with a few hundred dollar frustration!!}

And, if I could figure out a way to politely impress this upon you, I know it will save you from that frustration / headache...



Hopefully, this will help explain things...

A) Please understand that a "cellular booster" is just a full-duplex UHF repeater....and our cellular phones are just full-duplex UHF radios, that connect to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), rather than communicate with each other directly...

And, it is the RF Isolation / RF Separation that allows them to work.....the more isolation, the better!!


B) I personally have 35 - 40 years experience with VHF and UHF duplex repeaters (and radios), designing, installing, repairing, etc....and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the number one issue with "cellular boosters" is when they are installed without adequate RF Isolation...

And this is also why some of their antennas are supplied with very lossy coaxial cable, such as RG-58...which (depending on the exact RG-58, solid or foam, etc.) has 14db to 20db loss (per 100') at 900mhz, and 22db to 35db loss (per 100') at 1900mhz....

So, if you have 20' of RG-58 you'll have about 5db to 7db of loss (isolation) right there....and if you have another 20' of RG-58 on the internal antenna, you'll have another 5 - 7db....

{note that 100' of LMR-400uf has 4.7db of loss at 900mhz and 7db of loss at 1900mhz....so, if placing your external antenna at the masthead, using LMR-400uf for the entire run from the masthead cellular antenna down to the "cellular booster" itself (~ 75' is typical), will preserve approx. the same "loss" / "isolation" in the cabling....and keeping the internal antenna INSIDE the boat, as low down as possible, and most importantly as close to being directly below the masthead/external antenna....all should allow adequate RF separation / isolation for your "cellular booster"...
And, here on these high UHF frequencies, is where the excellent low loss of LMR-400uf cable is needed!!
http://www.timesmicrowave.com/calcul...mode=calculate
And, now you see why it is recommended by Digital, Wilson, Shakespeare, etc....for masthead cellular antennas!!}

The "cellular booster" manufacturers can supply you with their minimum isolation spec, but understand that they get some of this isolation from the loss in the cabling....
And, for those with sailboats (where we can place the external antenna 50' - 60' above the internal antenna, and therefore obtain a great deal of RF isolation) the added loss of all that small cabling can make the system less than stellar in its actual effectiveness...so, larger (lower loss) coaxial cable, such as LMR-400uf, must be used....
BUT...
But, you must still make darn sure your antennas are adequately separated / RF isolated, from each other....
Again, keeping the internal antenna INSIDE the boat, as low down as possible, and most importantly as close to being directly below the masthead/external antenna....all should allow adequate RF separation / isolation for your "cellular booster"...


But, if you mount the external antenna just a few feet above the deck, and have the internal antenna nearby in the cabin (especially if it is only a few feet below the external antenna, and only separated by less than a dozen feet horizontally), there will be very little RF isolation / RF separation, and hence the system will not function well at all...and many times, won't work at all...




Again, I cannot stress highly enough that it is having adequate RF isolation that allows these things to work...
And, in large buildings or even in cars (with metal roofs), this isolation is obtainable....but on our fiberglass boats, it takes distance to make them work well....
The good news is that if follow the detailed advice and recommendations, these "boosters" DO work...but, if you try to take short cuts / do not understand why these recommendations are so important, you can find yourself with a few hundred dollar frustration!!

Sorry if it looks like I'm repeating myself....I'm just trying to make it absolutely clear that these things work, but in order to make them work well, you must understand the external to internal antennas must have adequate RF isolation from each other...

Not sure what "noise" you're getting from your solar panels that is effecting cellular signals???
We're talking 800-900mhz and 1800-1900mhz....and your solar array is radiating RFI at those high UHF freqs???
If this is the case, it sounds like you have a rather serious RFI issue with a charge controller??? to solve first....as adding anything else now might be a waste of time/effort/money....

And, yes, getting the cellular booster antennas away from each other, and away from the solar array (and charge controller) is always good....and in this case, necessary.




Bottom line:
Call Wilson, listen to their advice / recommendations, and make darn sure you can adequately separate / isolate the 2 antennas...

I do hope this helps....

John
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Old 09-02-2016, 17:22   #10
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

Thanks John. I've noticed our cell phones do not get very good reception when under our dodger/bimini, which is stainless tubing covered by 1/2" starboard covered by thin aluminum solar panels. I hear noise on the HAM frequencies when the sun is up, unless I disconnect them from the charger (morningstar mppt-60)

So it sounds like your vote for the cheapy solution would be to get the cradle version (where you put the phone in the cradle), then isolation wouldn't be an issue?
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Old 09-02-2016, 20:47   #11
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

autumnbreeze,
Not sure where I wrote any specific recommendation for any specific product??



In addition to recommending that you contact Wilson, and discuss your application with them, I mentioned that the RF isolation is key to making the things work well.

And, while the cradle-type units DO keep the isolation high, Wilson does make non-cradle-units that will work on our boats....and of course, there are other manufacturers (Digital, Shakespeare, etc.)...



In a nutshell, my advice is:
Figure out what your exact application is....call Wilson, get their recommends....and then make decisions....
Please do not buy a product based solely on what you erroneously perceived as my recommendation...



I hope this helps...

John
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Old 09-02-2016, 21:24   #12
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
Is it worth going 4G in Mexico? Do the 4G frequencies travel farther? If I get a 3G only system the 4G towers are still backwards compatible to 3G, so is that good enough?

The damn 4G option just about doubles the expense.
Haha... that's funny. Most other countries have far newer, far cheaper, and far superior cell wireless than the USA.

For example, Africa. We were in Tanzania and Kenya bush out in the middle of nowhere and had better wireless LTE connectivity than our home in Washington DC.

If anything we would be concerned that your antique iphone 6s brick-phone won't be able to keep up in the countries visited!

Buy a local SIM and be done with it. Bahamas data is not cheap but thats because there is no competition.
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Old 11-02-2016, 21:25   #13
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

So if I install my external antenna and internal antenna as Ka4wja suggests, does this still apply?

From Ubersignal.com website
"The coverage area that you will receive with the Drive 4G-M Marine Kit will depend on your existing outside signal strength. In areas where you get a moderate existing outside signal, the Drive 4G-M Marine kit will provide a boosted signal up to 5 ft from the inside antenna. If the outside signal gets weaker, the coverage area will shrink, until you have to keep your phone within about 18 inches from the inside antenna in order to take advantage of the boosted signal. If you need a larger area to talk while inside the vehicle, just keep your phone near the inside antenna and use a bluetooth headset for greater mobility. Hotspots can also be left near the inside antenna and connected to via WiFi, giving you the fastest internet speeds possible."

I have a 50 foot boat. Will I really have to sit within 5 feet of my mast to get a boosted signal?
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Old 12-02-2016, 09:53   #14
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

First off I'll echo the advice to stick with Wilson. And whatever you choose don't buy Maxsignal. Beyond that I will never again pay extra for the double antenna solution. The inductive coupling (where your phone needs to sit in a cradle) is always superior. It's really not a problem if you use a Bluetooth headset and it just plain works better. Not to mention that it's a fraction of the price of the double antenna solutions. Our current setup cost less than $70 at Walmart and works flawlessly every time.

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Old 12-02-2016, 10:57   #15
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Re: Latest and greatest cellular booster

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobofthenorth View Post
First off I'll echo the advice to stick with Wilson. And whatever you choose don't buy Maxsignal. Beyond that I will never again pay extra for the double antenna solution. The inductive coupling (where your phone needs to sit in a cradle) is always superior. It's really not a problem if you use a Bluetooth headset and it just plain works better. Not to mention that it's a fraction of the price of the double antenna solutions. Our current setup cost less than $70 at Walmart and works flawlessly every time.

R.J.(Bob) Evans
www.bobandmarilyn.ca
Thanks Bob.
I'm pretty sure this system is a Wilson "WeBoost" product but sold on this Ubersignal.com site. I only reference it because it said what I referenced in my post about being 18 inches to 5 feet from the inside antenna.

Drive 4G-X Extreme Marine Signal Booster Kit

We would be using this more for boosted data than voice calls, so a bluetooth head set would not help us. We want to be able to roam about our boat and get a wireless boosted signal. Can this be done effectively?
I suppose using a cradle and making one phone a hotspot would do it for data, but that leaves one of our phones tethered to the cradle.
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