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Old 30-03-2019, 10:40   #1
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Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

I am looking for something that will improve video streaming from a mobile hotspot. My husband and I use our cell phones as hotspots to watch Netflix or HBO Go on our smart TV. I have Verizon and he has AT&T. Which one we use depends on where we are on the lake but the marina is the most often used. We have an AT&T cell tower near the marina (within sight distance) and get a good cellular signal, but video streaming chokes. We don't see this problem early in the season, but as soon as the marina begins to fill up streaming gets painful. Would a 4G booster help with that?

I am looking at the weBoost Drive 4G-X + Marine Essentials Kit. Of course, anything with the word 'marine' on it is much more costly than a home or auto variety. We have no issue with sending it up the mast on an as-needed basis rather than a permanent installation. Is this plausible? Would I really need the marine version or would the less expensive auto or home version work just as well?

Any other boosters out there that would improve video streaming at a lower cost?
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Old 30-03-2019, 11:05   #2
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

WeBoost, who used to be known as Wilson, are arguably the best in the business. But. Verizon and AT&T use different systems and they may offer different boosters to accommodate one or the other better. I think AT&T formally announced that 3G will be dropped in a year or so, and 4G is, well, a marketing game, it isn't the same as real LTE, which would be the goal right now.

But when you say "We don't see this problem early in the season, but as soon as the marina begins to fill up streaming gets painful." a booster wouldn't change that. It would appear that whatever you are connected to (the one local cell tower, presumably) is simply running at full capacity, and what you are seeing is the data rate being throttled in order to share it among all the customers. One carrier or the other may prove better at providing service.

The boosters are great when the problem is a weak signal. They can often take you from "one bar" of service to three bars. But if the capacity isn't there on the tower...that won't do the trick.

You may also need to look at your phones. I had problems with my "top of the line two year old" phone when I switched carriers. It turns out, during those two years the number of bands (channels) that the carriers used had doubled. I couldn't use half of them. reluctantly, I got a new phone that could use them all--and my speed and connection problems went away.

That aspect of things is going to be a moving target, as the carriers threaten to release vaguely "5G" service, which may take three to five years to become anywhere near common, and right now there are really no phones targeted to that yet.
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Old 30-03-2019, 11:25   #3
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

Thanks. That is what I was afraid of. We do get 4 or 5 bars of signal strength, but video streaming is poor. Rumor has it that after the owner of the tower leased to a radio station for transmission, cell reception suffered. It seems to me that would be an entirely different frequency, but I'm no expert.

Another rumor has Verizon putting up a tower nearby. Maybe I should just wait for that and hope for the best. Or better yet, anchor out and read a book.
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Old 30-03-2019, 12:33   #4
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

Cellular companies remind me of the saying about politicians: If their lips are moving, they're lying. Either for security (if you don't know where the towers are, you can't sabotage them) or for marketing secrets (ever notice how you never get a busy signal when you're calling a cell phone? Just a "customer is out of area" message?) or just because the reps tell a convenient lie because they don't want to say "Duh, I don't know."

I wouldn't think the radio leasing would interfere, the cellular companies would throw a fit and they do know how to measure all of that. What does happen, is that if a tower is running at/near 100% capacity for a lot of the time, and the carrier gets complaints, then they look into whether they can add capacity. Sometimes they can do it on the same tower, sometimes they need a new one. Sometimes they add a new mini-site, and you will see things like extra antenna panels around the roof of a local tall building, which feed down by landline to the system, to boost local coverage.

If you have any options to reduce the quality of the video stream (if you're watching a video on a small screen, even HD is wasted) that may also get you enough speed to make things more tolerable.
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Old 30-03-2019, 17:33   #5
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

if you already have 4/5 bars I doubt it will help
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Old 31-03-2019, 16:51   #6
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

I use an old Wilson Electronics home cell booster on my boat. I have it for when I'm away from the marina. I also have a Netgear WiFi booster. By connecting your Hot-spot phone to the tower through a Cell booster and/or connecting your TV through a WiFi booster to your hot-spot you may gain some buffer-cache that will smooth out the streaming. The WiFi booster should be cheap enough that it is worth an experiment.
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Old 31-03-2019, 20:02   #7
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

The marine cell booster kits I build for customers use the SureCall booster which I prefer due to excellent customer service, engineering help, and long warranty, in addition to overall higher power. There is nothing wrong with Wilson in general, I just believe the SureCall hardware is better. I actually source both for customers.

In any case, the package I have works with AT&T and Verizon, and will boost the signal for both. Works with any carrier in North America and supports multiple devices simultaneously.

Since your problem is most apparent when there are more boats in the marina, congested area, it's actually likely the problem is due to RF interference. It *could* be that the tower itself has limited data bandwidth to the AT&T network, but I'd assume the problem is more just RF noise around the marina. A booster can help you cut through the noise by boosting your output power to the tower and amplifying the receive side, along with an exterior antenna mounted up high.

Another thing you should consider is creating a new profile in Netflix for your boat and setting the maximum video resolution to a lower value. By default Netflix is trying to get 4K resolution which uses a lot of data (also costs money).

Last I experimented with it, Verizon also has per-day data limits for tethering.. so if your TV is connected to your verizon phone's hotspot you are using tethering. The limit was 500MB per day. HD video uses around 3GB per hour, so at that rate you'd burn through your 500MB of data in the first 10 minutes, and then get reduced down to slow speed for the remainder of the day. AT&T doesn't do this but depending on the plan and everything they may decrease the speed of your connection when there are alot of users on the same tower. If you change your Netflix profile to use standard definition it will only use about 1GB/hour and you will have far fewer buffering problems, if any.

HBO Go has fewer controls so you may not be able to do anything with that.

If you are interested you can take a look at the marine booster kit I offer here: https://www.sea-tech.com/product/sea...r-booster-kit/
It includes the amplifier plus high gain exterior marine antenna and a high gain panel antenna for the interior, plus all cables and connectors.

Hope that helps!
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Old 31-03-2019, 20:59   #8
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

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Originally Posted by smac999 View Post
if you already have 4/5 bars I doubt it will help


Thatís a measure of signal strength not bandwidth
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Old 31-03-2019, 21:02   #9
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

You may want to look into a single carrier boosters, such as the Cel-Fi models, which can go up 100 db of gain. Unfortunately, they work with a highly directional antenna. If you happen to find yourself mostly at a marina, then they can be great because you can rotate them to point at the tower.

Otherwise, you are kinda stuck with antennas that are omni-directional. I have a surecall model which seems to work pretty good but is I think limited to 3-4 db.

We are grandfathered into a completely unlimited T-Mobile 4G LTE tethering package so we use 150-200 GB of data a month with zero throttling.
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Old 01-04-2019, 15:55   #10
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

Just thought of another option... you could plug cell/AirCard to a PC and connect that to your TV with an HDMI cable. You could possibly plug an AirCard directly to your TV, but I've never tried that...
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Old 01-04-2019, 19:17   #11
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Re: Looking for info on 3G/4G signal boosters

Quote:
Originally Posted by JRzMom View Post
I am looking for something that will improve video streaming from a mobile hotspot. My husband and I use our cell phones as hotspots to watch Netflix or HBO Go on our smart TV. I have Verizon and he has AT&T. Which one we use depends on where we are on the lake but the marina is the most often used. We have an AT&T cell tower near the marina (within sight distance) and get a good cellular signal, but video streaming chokes. We don't see this problem early in the season, but as soon as the marina begins to fill up streaming gets painful. Would a 4G booster help with that?

I am looking at the weBoost Drive 4G-X + Marine Essentials Kit. Of course, anything with the word 'marine' on it is much more costly than a home or auto variety. We have no issue with sending it up the mast on an as-needed basis rather than a permanent installation. Is this plausible? Would I really need the marine version or would the less expensive auto or home version work just as well?

Any other boosters out there that would improve video streaming at a lower cost?

A booster is only useful when you have marginal coverage. You said you have 3-4 bars of signal strength. A booster will not help in this area. A stronger signal, if already sufficient has no advantage on an LTE network. What may help is getting an LTE hotspot. These devices are far superior when connecting wifi devices than your tethered phone. You would have to select one of the carriers and get their device. I use a Netgear hotspot and it works very well.



The issues you experience when the marina is full, may not be the nearby site is maxed out, but that the extra users in the area, increase the noise on the channel and cause more errors in your data transmissions. This means they are retransmitted more ( slower data rates). Some of your marina neighbors may have installed their own Chinese booster amps and are producing interference as well.



Keep in mind, that your signal strength indicator measures only how well your phone is receiving the 20-40 watt signal from the tower, not how well the tower is receiving your 0.5watt signal. With this in mind, a hotspot with external antenna connections ( connected to an outside antenna) may help, or making sure your tethered phone is high up and getting a relatively good signal into the tower.
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