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Old 01-21-2017, 07:04 PM   #1
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Cell & Wifi Boosters Revisited

Hi all,

I've been looking to get a new wifi and/or cell booster, and have read the couple of threads over the last year or so, but not seeing anything I particularly like.

I have a Wilson 3G booster that acts as an external antenna/booster for a mifi device. It works well but does not support 4g/LTE or wifi.

I've looked at the Wirie device, it does not support verizon at all which is a non starter for me, as VZW is the top choice stateside for coverage. (also wirie does not support T-Mobile which we use for binging netflix)

So, left with the bullet wifi booster (or variants) which looks pretty good and then only see the wilson cradle, which I am skeptical of in terms of technology.

Am I missing something?

again ideal requirements:
- will boost 4g verizon as well as other US carriers (even if at 3g)
- boost wifi
- supports international carriers e.g. GSM networks
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Old 01-21-2017, 07:12 PM   #2
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I think Shakespeare now carries a cell booster. I think I saw on at Home Depot.
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Old 01-21-2017, 08:27 PM   #3
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I am unaware of a single device that will boost both wifi and cell. But they are fundamentally different technologies, so other than a switch to choose one over the other (ie, wifi when available, cell otherwise), which can be well handled by a third device (like a cradlepoint router/access point), I suggest you should focus on solving your wifi and cell needs separately.

On the wifi side, the bullet M2 is really good. It will give you more than the legal limit of power, depending on the gain of the antenna you use. The only problem with the bullet is that it is not very easy to configure for someone without at least networking knowledge. Devices like the wirie address that problem, but it isn't that difficult to learn what you need to know, even if you are starting from scratch.
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Old 01-21-2017, 08:44 PM   #4
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You want a weBoost 4G WIRED cradle cellular amp. It should cost about $180 in Amazon. The antenna that comes with that is magnetic and needs to to be placed in the middle of an 11" steel pizza pan. That pan/antenna can be burried in a pilothouse ceiling inside a fiberglass roof.

For the most part, having a 3G amp today isn't as good as just walking outside with the phone and standing up.

Most of the other vendors, like Shakespeare and Digital Antenna have not shown a real 4G amp. The FCC has been very slow to give new licenses because of interference. Wilson got one very early for what's now the weBoost and is the reason it's available today. Getting a 3G amp is a total waste of money today.

The typical Bullet WiFi solution is the best you can get. I don't think the Wirie solution is worth the money. What you really need is an inside WiFi router and a Bullet fits best with that architecture.
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Old 01-22-2017, 07:00 AM   #5
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If it helps...

We've used a very simple, reasonably inexpensive external "Wave Magnum" B/G/N WiFi adapter from Radiolabs for several years now, with good results in most places, "through" buildings, etc. It's about as simple as it gets, I think: USB from laptop to adapter/antenna (power over USB), driver, done. We just use a single USB extension to place the adapter wherever, usually just inside our saloon windshield. Only had to move it to the bridge once...

I just happened to be looking at beginning to use our Win10 laptop as a hotspot, turns out Radiolabs doesn't have a Win10 driver for our older end-of-life adapter... but at the same time, I also saw their newer current generation product -- "Wave Stealth AC" does have Win10 drivers and also handles both bands.

They also offer compatible routers and so forth, too... although for us, the Win10 hotspot thing seems about as much as we'd benefit from, so far...

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Old 01-22-2017, 07:07 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffrey S View Post
You want a weBoost 4G WIRED cradle cellular amp. It should cost about $180 in Amazon. The antenna that comes with that is magnetic and needs to to be placed in the middle of an 11" steel pizza pan. That pan/antenna can be burried in a pilothouse ceiling inside a fiberglass roof.

For the most part, having a 3G amp today isn't as good as just walking outside with the phone and standing up.

Most of the other vendors, like Shakespeare and Digital Antenna have not shown a real 4G amp. The FCC has been very slow to give new licenses because of interference. Wilson got one very early for what's now the weBoost and is the reason it's available today. Getting a 3G amp is a total waste of money today.

The typical Bullet WiFi solution is the best you can get. I don't think the Wirie solution is worth the money. What you really need is an inside WiFi router and a Bullet fits best with that architecture.
Thank you - ya wasn't necessarily looking for a combined device.. more concerned about VZW 4g. I like the above recommendations as well MVTRaveller seems to concur on bullet.

Can't wait to epoxy in a pizza pan
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Old 01-22-2017, 02:56 PM   #7
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Can't wait to epoxy in a pizza pan
No, wait, you need a marine grade, ABYC-compliant pizza pan. $1,499.99 on sale.

BTW, thanks Jeff for boiling it down so succinctly.
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Old 01-22-2017, 04:09 PM   #8
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I've just added a CelFi GO
https://www.cel-fi.com.au/cel_fi_go_repeater.html

It covers 4G and 3G. Approval was a slow process. I saw it at a boat show in May when it was 'due for release next month'. Approval finally came through in Dec! I'm yet to get anywhere that is remote to test how well it performs, but it seems pretty good so far. Slow boats can use the 'stationary' version which has -100dB gain.
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Old 01-22-2017, 05:26 PM   #9
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A wireless cellular amp like that is not appropriate for a trawler unless it is over about 90 feet LOA or is made of steel. A normal fiberglass trawler cannot obtain the proper separation between the internal and external antennas and will either blow an internal fuse or auto-reduce gain to the point where it is providing no amplification - sort of akin to putting a microphone in front of a speaker causing a loud shriek.

Most amps don't show the auto-gain reduction so the end result is that the amp doesn't provide the amplification you think it should. It just won't end up working well.

For most of the boats we all have, a wired/cradle cellular amp is required. They provide the proper separation with just 15 feet of separation between the magnetic/outside antenna and the cradle.

Most of these "wireless" amps were made for cars. Cars have steel roofs to provide the signal separation and will usually work pretty well. Not so much with trawlers...
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Old 01-22-2017, 05:35 PM   #10
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A wireless cellular amp like that is not appropriate for a trawler unless it is over about 90 feet LOA or is made of steel. A normal fiberglass trawler cannot obtain the proper separation between the internal and external antennas and will either blow an internal fuse or auto-reduce gain to the point where it is providing no amplification - sort of akin to putting a microphone in front of a speaker causing a loud shriek.

Most amps don't show the auto-gain reduction so the end result is that the amp doesn't provide the amplification you think it should. It just won't end up working well.

For most of the boats we all have, a wired/cradle cellular amp is required. They provide the proper separation with just 15 feet of separation between the magnetic/outside antenna and the cradle.

Most of these "wireless" amps were made for cars. Cars have steel roofs to provide the signal separation and will usually work pretty well. Not so much with trawlers...
The CelFi GO is a wired system.
https://www.cel-fi.com.au/files/CelF...Stationary.pdf
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Old 01-22-2017, 06:38 PM   #11
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I'm sorry. It isn't. It's a wireless system with 2 antennas.

Wired system:

- Comes with a cradle.
- A single phone can be put into the cradle and that single device will be amplified
- Words like "separation" and "isolation" usually don't show up in the installation manual


Wireless system:

- Includes 2 antenna - inside and outside
- Amplifies multiple devices in proximity of the inside antenna
- Words like "separation" and "isolation" always show up in the installation manual because they are critical to getting adequate performance



I would strongly suggest that you return the device. Unless your trawler is made of steel or is over about 90 feet, it's not going to work. I've been writing about these things and testing cellular amps for more than 10 years on boats.

I also don't believe their 100 dB specification. There's some type of spec game or alternate fact because no government anywhere would allow a cellular device to put out that incredibly high level of LTE-interfering signal. Most amps create from 30 to 65 dB amplification. This one claims 35 dB more than the max I've seen in a consumer product. Every 3 dB is a doubling of power output. So 35 dB would be about ten 3 dB increases or 2^10 power increase. That's about 1,000 times the power output. I don't think so.

For what it's worth, I've owned and tested many wired amps. I now have a wireless cellular amp because (drum roll)...I have a steel boat.
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Old 01-22-2017, 07:18 PM   #12
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Ok, I see what you are saying.

1. It is approved for use in Australia. The approval process took a long time, perhaps because of the high gain for the building/marine version. The mobile (car) version has lower gain. There were some non-approved amps used here a few years ago but their impact on the network was disruptive and when users were threatened with $250,000 dollar fines for continued use those non-approved units were soon in the trash can.

2. Your ten years is a long time, lots of innovation etc possible in that time period. How well the GO solves the issues you note I cannot yet say. I understand that the unit I have powers down when there are cell towers nearby so that it does not screw the network for other users. No doubt thorough testing of that functionality was the key part of certification and why it took so long to be approved. The Go supplier here is an established communications system provider, and has had other models approved for some time. The GO is an improvement on their other offerings because of the 4G and autoswitch to 3G, and also its compact size.

3. It is working. How well I don't know as I cannot readily get to an area of really low signal. I have only had it installed for a few weeks.

The real test will not be until mid year when I am up on the Outer Reef again. That was the reason I bought it. It was either that or a Satellite system, which is just too expensive for me for data at this point.

I leave it off unless signal is poor. Last week at anchor I had very weak 4G signal on the phone. Turned on the GO and I had 4 bars on the phone. Now, the GO auto switches between 4G and 3G, and I don't recall whether the phone was still on 4G when it had 4 bars. It is possible that it was 3G, and that the phone would have had a strong 3G signal by itself. I'll try and check that in the next couple of weeks.

I have the external antenna mounted quite high. Its base is 12' above the floor of the flybridge. At present the indoor antenna is in the pilothouse (at flybridge floor height) but has some horizontal separation from the external antenna as well. It is in a cupboard as I had not yet decided where to mount it. Given that it has a decent length cable, and bearing in mind your comment about separation, I will try and mount the indoor antenna down in the saloon to give it the best chance of good performance.
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Old 01-23-2017, 07:37 AM   #13
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1. It is approved for use in Australia.
That doesn't mean anything useful. It is made for cars, houses, and buildings. They realize that boats need it too so made some marketing statements about it. It needed no approval for that marketing.

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2. Your ten years is a long time, lots of innovation etc possible in that time period. ... I understand that the unit I have powers down when there are cell towers nearby so that it does not screw the network for other users.
I'm not testing devices from 10 years ago. To be clear, I've generally had the latest devices or were given some by manufacturers. The one I'm using now was purchased in June.

The problem isn't that the device will power down when you're near a tower - that's no issue at all. The problem is that you can't get the separation between the inside and outside antennas with a fiberglass boat. So the feedback of the inside antenna receiving the amplified transmission from the outside antenna causes the amp to seriously power down. The result is that you'd get much better range by just going up to your flybridge. Seriously - you'll do better.


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3. ...Last week at anchor I had very weak 4G signal on the phone. Turned on the GO and I had 4 bars on the phone. Now, the GO auto switches between 4G and 3G, and I don't recall whether the phone was still on 4G when it had 4 bars. It is possible that it was 3G, and that the phone would have had a strong 3G signal by itself. I'll try and check that in the next couple of weeks.
It is highly unlikely that you went from 0-1 bars with a weak signal to 4 bars with a wireless amp. It just doesn't happen that way. And certainly not for an extended period. The feedback will provide a short term "bar" increase. It won't provide very good voice/data improvements and if left running, will blow an internal fuse.

The technology of a wireless amp like that will work just as poorly for 3G as 4G.

I'm sorry to bring this bad news - I've said more than enough. I'm sure the device was fairly expensive. If you can return it, do it quickly before its too late and get a wired amp that will actually provide the benefits you're seeking (while being less expensive).
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Old 02-07-2017, 04:55 PM   #14
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I have also similar user reports to Isequent and would recommend anyone interested have a close look at the cel fi go material. I have ordered and will have installed next week. The antennas are wired.
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Old 02-07-2017, 05:07 PM   #15
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...have a close look at the cel fi go... The antennas are wired...
Ummm...the antennas have to be wired. The point is, there are 2 antennas so it's a wireless solution. I'd be shocked to learn that you see any benefit from it. As a test, install it, try it out. Then turn it off and go stand up at the highest point on your boat outside. I'll bet you get as good, if not more bars.

...save the packaging so you can return it...
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Old 02-07-2017, 05:07 PM   #16
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I have also similar user reports to Insequent and would recommend anyone interested have a close look at the cel fi go material. I have ordered and will have installed next week. The antennas are wired.
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Welcome aboard Hamo.
I`m sure Aussies will appreciate you reporting about the installation, and how the system works, especially over time as you venture to places it is really needed.
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Old 02-07-2017, 08:07 PM   #17
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The weboost website doesn't mention anything about marine use.
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Old 02-07-2017, 08:13 PM   #18
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I'm in the market to update my booster. The one I have is almost 15 years old and has worked fantastic up to the last couple years. I have a external Digital Antenna to the booster. The inside is a "pad" that attaches to the phone. Usually it improves about 1-2 bars. Unfortunately it's not working anymore. I. Interested in either the cel-fi go or the Weboost 4g. Suggestions and recommendations wanted
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Old 02-07-2017, 08:14 PM   #19
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The weboost website doesn't mention anything about marine use.
Whereas the cel-fi site diagram depicts their product fitted to a boat.
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Old 02-07-2017, 08:27 PM   #20
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Interested in either the cel-fi go or the Weboost 4g. Suggestions and recommendations wanted
Unless you have a 90 foot boat or a steel boat, getting a wireless amp is a waste of money - you cannot get the separation between the outside and inside antennas. Instead, find a cradle solution that you put the phone into. The cradle connects to the amp which connects to the outside antenna.

The small antenna on the weBoost works well on an 11"+ steel pizza pan. The inexpensive weBoost model has a cradle - one of the few that do.

The cel fi product has no place on most boats. It won't work because it cannot get the needed separation between the two antennas. When that happens, the amp automatically reduces gain and because there is so little separation on a boat, the gain goes away completely. What happens is that without the separation, the inside antenna is picking up the signal coming from the outside antenna causing a feedback loop. It has to reduce the gain or else it will blow itself up. Older models had a fuse inside which would blow when there was too little separation.

All of those mobile wireless amps like the cel fi were made for cars where the steel roof provides the needed separation between the antennas.

A cradle shields the signal from the outside antenna and will work famously. I've been using them for more than 10 years although I just got my first wireless amp because I now have a steel boat. That's working well too but would fail miserably in a fiberglass boat.

I used 2 models of the weBoost cradle on aCappella for 5 years previously. I just updated it to the latest version about a year ago and I left it on the boat for the next owner. Buy the amp and the trawler comes along for free...
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