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Old 04-06-2011, 18:22   #16
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Re: offshore cell phone signal booster

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Originally Posted by Hannah on 'Rita T' View Post
Big claims are for wifi, not cellphones. But both work on line of sight. Not 40 miles, ever.
Back in the mid '90's we installed a 3 watt Motorola bag phone with a masthead cell antenna in our boat along with mil spec coax. RG 213 if I remember right.

In those days, there was no automatic roaming, so when we sailed from La Paz to Mazatlan we tried to make a call and got the La Paz operator.

She didn't believe we were in Mazatlan, and said, "NO, you are in La Paz."

I told her I had sailed from La Paz a couple of days ago and I could see the local cell tower only a few blocks away from Marina Mazatlan.

She told me to make a local call (with a long distance charge from La Paz of course) and the phone would switch to the local tower, so that's what I did.

Point is, although the phone had 3 watt power, it's definitely more than 40 miles between those two cities.
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:21   #17
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Re: offshore cell phone signal booster

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Originally Posted by trimming out View Post
Can my vhf antenna be split to feed a booster? I read of mast top antennas that can do both.
No. An antenna that could handle both Marine VHF and cell phone signals would have to be purpose-built. The frequencies that they use are WAAAAAY apart!
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Old 06-06-2011, 13:38   #18
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

can a antenna be made that will switch between cell and wifi?
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Old 06-06-2011, 14:33   #19
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
can a antenna be made that will switch between cell and wifi?
A related question -- will there be any point to wifi on the boat a couple of years from now? I was looking into extended wifi solutions over the winter, but find that I am able to do most of what I need to do with an iPad and smartphone on a 3G network. If cell network speeds continue to increase and the security for wireless access continues to tighten, I'm not sure when and where I would want to use an extended wireless access point. True, there are days that I wish I could pull in a big file on my pc, but, with some planning, those times are pretty infrequent.

BTW, I like Active Captain and thought the info on cell reception was very informative. A chart overlay with cell service access (and holes) would be a great added feature.
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Old 06-06-2011, 14:49   #20
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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...but find that I am able to do most of what I need to do with an iPad and smartphone on a 3G network. If cell network speeds continue to increase and the security for wireless access continues to tighten, I'm not sure when and where I would want to use an extended wireless access point. True, there are days that I wish I could pull in a big file on my pc, but, with some planning, those times are pretty infrequent.
When outfitting our boat we decided to not install a WiFi booster but went with the cellular booster for the reasons you state above. So far we haven't missed the WiFi at all as we get cell phone coverage in a lot more places than we have found access to WiFi. Plus, for a recent trip we had 4G coverage and the Internet access was impressively fast, over 10x what we were getting in 3G speeds.
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Old 06-06-2011, 15:06   #21
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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Originally Posted by Pyxis156 View Post
When outfitting our boat we decided to not install a WiFi booster but went with the cellular booster for the reasons you state above. So far we haven't missed the WiFi at all as we get cell phone coverage in a lot more places than we have found access to WiFi. Plus, for a recent trip we had 4G coverage and the Internet access was impressively fast, over 10x what we were getting in 3G speeds.
Your logic is great coastwise in the US.... However if you go outside the US, you'll likely see either zero, or silly-expensive cellular. Yet many small islands have Internet and open modems. Guess it is all relative to your sailing area.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:51   #22
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
can a antenna be made that will switch between cell and wifi?
I suppose it is possible. I don't know of any commercial examples. The thing is that marine VHF frequencies are in the neighborhood of 160 Mhz or less. Cell phone frequencies start around 900 Mhz and go up from there. As you can see, a HUGE difference!

I sincerely doubt that you are going to find one antenna for both. Any antenna that claims to work for both is going to be a serious compromise, probably not working very well for either. Plan on two antennas.
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Old 07-06-2011, 11:17   #23
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
I suppose it is possible. I don't know of any commercial examples. The thing is that marine VHF frequencies are in the neighborhood of 160 Mhz or less. Cell phone frequencies start around 900 Mhz and go up from there. As you can see, a HUGE difference!

I sincerely doubt that you are going to find one antenna for both. Any antenna that claims to work for both is going to be a serious compromise, probably not working very well for either. Plan on two antennas.
FWIW, my long distance wifi antenna and VHF have no adverse actions on each other due to the frequency differences, even with the close spacing.
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Old 08-06-2011, 07:11   #24
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

thanks for this great info- it helps us alot. Im looking more at wifi than cell antennas now.

paul & jan, s/v trimming-out
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Old 08-06-2011, 07:58   #25
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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Originally Posted by tartansail View Post
BTW, I like Active Captain and thought the info on cell reception was very informative. A chart overlay with cell service access (and holes) would be a great added feature.
Keeping track of cellular towers is a difficult job. There are so many and so many changes. After cruising for 9 months we just returned to our house in Maine. There are 2 new towers we can access from our house that weren't there when we left last year.

Here are some sites that try to keep track of tower locations:
http://www.cellreception.com/towers/ - click on the closest city, then zoom/pan to your location. This one shows 1 of our 2 new towers.

http://www.wirelessadvisor.com/ - gives provider information although I think it's a little more promise than reality
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Old 08-06-2011, 08:10   #26
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

thanks, will check the sites now! what system do you use on your boat? I thought I wanted cell booster, now Im not so sure with all the wi-fi booster talk im reading. = A confused sailor.

paul & Jan s/v trimming-out
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Old 08-06-2011, 08:20   #27
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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thanks, will check the sites now! what system do you use on your boat? I thought I wanted cell booster, now Im not so sure with all the wi-fi booster talk im reading.
For cellular, I use a Wilson wired amp to a cradle since so few mobile phones have antenna jacks any longer. Anything cellular that gets put into the cradle gets amplified including aircards, phones, etc.

For WiFi, we've been using the system we wrote about in a newsletter about 18 months ago - I've been using it for almost 2 years and wouldn't change it out for any new products on the market.

See the newsletter section on extending WiFi range. The guy we wrote about who puts together systems was a liveaboard on his sailboat. He's a good guy and Island Time PC has my personal recommendation for service and support. He makes money by buying the products in bulk. His price is about what you'd pay anywhere else but he's there to help with the installation and use and does it exceptionally well.
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:39   #28
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Re: Offshore Cell Phone Signal Booster

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Originally Posted by ActiveCaptain View Post
Every marina and anchorage in ActiveCaptain has an Internet field where people mostly put the cellular carriers available, speeds accessed, etc. WiFi availability is also often listed.
Many thanks. I hadn't seen the cell/internet field in prior sites I'd looked at or rated. I look more closely in the future.
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