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Old 20-10-2021, 06:38   #1
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Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Looking for recommendations for
  • Fixed-mount cell phone booster. Most I've seen do not include 5G but maybe the advertising is just dated.
  • Small router (preferably 12v powered) for onboard WiFi distribution. I have a Rogue Wave pro antenna.

Thanks in advance -

Peter
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Old 20-10-2021, 06:48   #2
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

The good old blue WRT54G runs on 12v.
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Old 20-10-2021, 06:55   #3
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

We are using a Wilson Electronics Weboost, 4G, for cell signal. For onboard wifi distribution is just a generic USB external antenna on the RPi 4 broadcasting Signal K data, plugged into an external USB hub. Coverage is fine on our boat.

Edit. We also have a Verizon Mifi hotspot that we sit atop the Wilson antenna. We found that the internal cell antenna signal drops off over a few feet. That way our cellphones never need to connect directly to the boosted cell signal. Everything just connects over wifi to the hotspot for cellular internet.
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Old 20-10-2021, 07:03   #4
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Personally, I haven't bothered with a booster. I just went with an LTE router to pull in cellular signal and provide onboard wifi (and it can also connect to marina wifi when available).

What functionality are you aiming for with the cellular setup? That may determine if a booster or router makes more sense.
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Old 20-10-2021, 07:16   #5
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
Personally, I haven't bothered with a booster. I just went with an LTE router to pull in cellular signal and provide onboard wifi (and it can also connect to marina wifi when available).

What functionality are you aiming for with the cellular setup? That may determine if a booster or router makes more sense.
Good questions - I'm in Ensenada MX now, but will eventually meander south and back home to Florida, so comms are patchy. I do have an IridiumGO for weather, but looking to make traditional comms more robust. Priorities are
  1. Extend/Enhance WiFi signals in marinas
  2. Provide single sign-on vs having every device sign-on to new WiFi network
  3. Boost cell phone signal.

Frankly, the details are a bit messy for me to think through so diagrams would be particularly helpfu.

Peter
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Old 20-10-2021, 07:35   #6
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Good questions - I'm in Ensenada MX now, but will eventually meander south and back home to Florida, so comms are patchy. I do have an IridiumGO for weather, but looking to make traditional comms more robust. Priorities are
  1. Extend/Enhance WiFi signals in marinas
  2. Provide single sign-on vs having every device sign-on to new WiFi network
  3. Boost cell phone signal.

Frankly, the details are a bit messy for me to think through so diagrams would be particularly helpfu.

Peter
That seems reasonable enough.

My setup is as follows:

- Pepwave Max Transit CAT 18 router (pulls in cellular and broadcasts onboard wifi, has 2 SIM slots)
- Mikrotik Groove (connected to WAN port of Pepwave)

The Groove pulls in marina wifi when available. The Pepwave will use the connection via the Groove if available. If that loses connectivity, it switches to cellular. They do now have a 5G version of the Pepwave device, plus there are other variants of their routers available as well.

The only thing my setup doesn't cover is boosting signal to cell phones for comms, but anything that goes over a data connection (including wifi calling) works via the onboard wifi and Pepwave cellular connection even if the phone doesn't have cell signal. I haven't found that limitation to be a problem. Total power draw for both devices is somewhere around 10 - 12 watts.

If I were buying stuff all over again with products that have come out since I purchased in the spring, I'd probably get the Pepwave Max BR1 Pro 5G. It's more expensive than the Cat 18 LTE or 5G versions of the Max Transit, but it's also more powerful and can handle higher throughput, plus it does 802.11ac Wave 2 wifi (the Transit is wave 1). I'd also have to debate between keeping the Groove vs adding external wifi antennas and using the Pepwave for external wifi (and then adding an access point for onboard wifi). The Groove doesn't do MIMO for wifi, so it's a bit speed limited (but not an issue in practice, as most marina wifi isn't fast enough for it to matter).

Of course, if budget is no object, you can get fancier with hardware that has multiple cellular radios (for seamless switch between carriers if you have multiple SIMs, rather than waiting for it to disconnect from one and connect to another).

In general, the Pepwave / Peplink hardware is pretty easy to work with for a marine application and most of it can run directly off 12 volts, so I give it a thumbs up.

See pictures below of the hardware mounted in my setup (Groove on a pole outside, Pepwave tucked in a corner of the salon). Keep in mind, I'm currently not using external cellular antennas, just the ones attached to the Pepwave (but you can remove them and connect bigger antennas). In my cruising area I haven't found a need for external antennas yet, as even the included ones with the unit inside the boat are still far better than the antenna in a typical cell phone. In areas where phones have little to no signal I've yet to see less than 3 bars (out of 5) on the Pepwave.
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Old 20-10-2021, 07:55   #7
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

We have a WeBoost 4G cell booster. Makes a REAL difference here in BC in places where cell is sketchy.

WeBoost definitely now has 5G

https://www.weboost.com/

We didn't have a cell booster during our 2 seasons on the boat in Baja. We wish we did, it would have made a huge difference!

(FYI: we got a Telcel SIM while in Ensenada, with a La Paz telephone number. They were very helpful in the Ensenada TelCel office.)
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Old 20-10-2021, 09:49   #8
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
I do have an IridiumGO for weather, but looking to make traditional comms more robust.
We use our Iridium Go as the boats router, since it will not connect to router. Works fine.
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Old 20-10-2021, 11:00   #9
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

I have a spare one of those, I'll put it to use. Thanks
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Old 20-10-2021, 11:15   #10
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Take a look at the articles on seabits.com having to do with internet on a boat. You can go as light or heavy as you want.
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Old 20-10-2021, 12:12   #11
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Seabits articles appear great.

As a lament, there are a ton of products out there, but I'm struggling with finding a 'solution.' You know, a general configuration of components. I just don't think my desired functionality is unique. I'll figure it out after a while, but sure feels like I'm reinventing the wheel.

Peter.
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Old 20-10-2021, 13:03   #12
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
Seabits articles appear great.

As a lament, there are a ton of products out there, but I'm struggling with finding a 'solution.' You know, a general configuration of components. I just don't think my desired functionality is unique. I'll figure it out after a while, but sure feels like I'm reinventing the wheel.

Peter.
The Seabits writeups were at least partly the basis for my setup.
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Old 20-10-2021, 13:43   #13
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
That seems reasonable enough.

My setup is as follows:

- Pepwave Max Transit CAT 18 router (pulls in cellular and broadcasts onboard wifi, has 2 SIM slots)
- Mikrotik Groove (connected to WAN port of Pepwave)

The Groove pulls in marina wifi when available. The Pepwave will use the connection via the Groove if available. If that loses connectivity, it switches to cellular. They do now have a 5G version of the Pepwave device, plus there are other variants of their routers available as well.

[...]

If I were buying stuff all over again with products that have come out since I purchased in the spring, I'd probably get the Pepwave Max BR1 Pro 5G. It's more expensive than the Cat 18 LTE or 5G versions of the Max Transit, but it's also more powerful and can handle higher throughput, plus it does 802.11ac Wave 2 wifi (the Transit is wave 1). I'd also have to debate between keeping the Groove vs adding external wifi antennas and using the Pepwave for external wifi (and then adding an access point for onboard wifi). The Groove doesn't do MIMO for wifi, so it's a bit speed limited (but not an issue in practice, as most marina wifi isn't fast enough for it to matter).
Very interesting.

I am considering the Pepwave Max BR1 Pro 5G as well, to replace my old Wirie [that company went out of business]. The Wirie is mounted on the radar mast, the Pepwave will have to be mounted downstairs, since it is indoor only.

I have a question regarding the Pepwave/Microtik Groove pairing (I understand you are pairing the Max Transit, not the Max BR1): do you think the Groove gives a significant boost compared to using the internal WiFi capabilities of the Pepwave?

The advantage of the Microtik Groove is that it can be mounted outside on a pole, while the Pepwave is not an outdoor device.

On the other hand, when it comes to the Max BR1 Pro, matching it with the Microtik Groove would not make too much sense because of the Groove's speed limitations, as you pointed out.

The Max BR1 Pro has connectors for two WiFi antennas. I suppose it would also be feasible to connect two external WiFi antennas to it (although that configuration may have signal drop issues, so it may not pay off, hard to say).

I know it is just speculation, but do you think that an external WiFi booster would make a significant difference with the Pepwave Max BR1 5G?
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Old 20-10-2021, 18:00   #14
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

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Originally Posted by FabioC View Post
Very interesting.

I am considering the Pepwave Max BR1 Pro 5G as well, to replace my old Wirie [that company went out of business]. The Wirie is mounted on the radar mast, the Pepwave will have to be mounted downstairs, since it is indoor only.

I have a question regarding the Pepwave/Microtik Groove pairing (I understand you are pairing the Max Transit, not the Max BR1): do you think the Groove gives a significant boost compared to using the internal WiFi capabilities of the Pepwave?

The advantage of the Microtik Groove is that it can be mounted outside on a pole, while the Pepwave is not an outdoor device.

On the other hand, when it comes to the Max BR1 Pro, matching it with the Microtik Groove would not make too much sense because of the Groove's speed limitations, as you pointed out.

The Max BR1 Pro has connectors for two WiFi antennas. I suppose it would also be feasible to connect two external WiFi antennas to it (although that configuration may have signal drop issues, so it may not pay off, hard to say).

I know it is just speculation, but do you think that an external WiFi booster would make a significant difference with the Pepwave Max BR1 5G?
I didn't want to use the Pepwave wifi for both external and internal wireless for performance reasons (and not wanting to broadcast my wifi with giant antennas). So it was a question of either the Groove for external wifi and use the Pepwave wifi for internal or using the Pepwave for external (with big external antennas) and a separate access point for internal. Option 2 is the better solution, but option 1 is cheaper.
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Old 20-10-2021, 18:38   #15
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Re: Cell Phone Booster; onboard WiFi router - what are you uising?

Following. When we cruised the Medd, we used a local cellphone simcard, and a "MiFi" from that counties main provider. It worked well...we always had cell service and wifi, although we ran out of wifi frequently and had to go fOK-good results with just using ATT, but I'm guessing there may be better around.
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