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Old 04-08-2019, 08:54 AM   #1
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San Juan Islands / Sucia Island "booster antenna"

Speaking specifically about the San Juan Islands area mainly Sucia Anyone have successful use of a cell phone "booster antenna". I want to increase my signal there. If so which brand did you choose. Im looking at the Wilson DB Pro
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Old 04-08-2019, 10:40 AM   #2
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I live in the San Juan Islands area. I've used my Wilson cell booster in these parts for many years and it's served me well....usually adds a couple of bars. There is however sometimes a cell phone anomaly as you approach the US / Canada boundary (west side of Sucia), the problem being which cell towers, US or Can, are picking you up. The problem goes away as you move away from the boundary. This also happens near Turn Point at Stuart Island which is also very close to the boundary.
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Old 04-08-2019, 11:34 AM   #3
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Who is your cellular carrier? I have noted over years of commuting from Bellingham to BC that Verizon and AT&T handle the shift to Canada, and Canadian networks differently. This is important to the carrier as they get tons of complaints and demands for refunds when US customers inadvertently get connected to the foreign carrier, with huge roaming charges.
Verizon seems to use the location capability of the phone to cut off service when you cross the border, with a clear text message telling you what the consequences of connecting to the foreign network are. Service is reliable right up to the border line.
AT&T seems to have a broad, ill defined zone on both sides of the border where they block service. It seems like after crossing the border they keep your phone connected to their network, but deny service. Eventually the phone connects to the Canadian network, but the transition is unstable and ill defined. Similar effect returning to US, when southbound on I5 I get no service for 5 miles or so, when I had full signal northbound in the same locations.
Sucia and Turn Point are in very awkward locations for AT&T, both surrounded by Canadian cell towers on 3/4 of the horizon. My AT&T phone won’t work reliably at Sucia, my wife’s Verizon is rock solid.
If you are an AT&T customer, borrowing a Verizon phone to test might be a first step before a signal booster!
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Old 04-08-2019, 12:29 PM   #4
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We use Verizon, mostly because of good service in BC and SE Alaska. I've heard bad reports on other carriers, especially in more remote areas. Verizon has been very reliable for us.
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Old 04-08-2019, 01:23 PM   #5
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The Wilson is the booster and i assume it comes with antennas... a big factor in this is mounting an external antenna and placing it as high as you can comfortably mount it; perhaps on a radar mast. I know Shakespeare makes a decent 4G cell external antenna...
Also FYI talking about providers; I had very good covereage using T-mobile, which allowed me to transition back and forth between the San Juans and Sidney/Victoria. T-mobile has some affordable plans that are unlimited and include Canada...
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Old 04-08-2019, 07:35 PM   #6
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After two seasons with a T-Mobile hotspot, I’m dumping my Verizon service specifically because I find more consistent service with T-Mobile in both San Juan’s and BC. There are a few spots Verizon still wins out or even att, but more often than not when data is available it’s faster on T-Mobile.
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Old 04-08-2019, 07:42 PM   #7
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I use a weBoost booster, Wilson external antenna, and internal panel antenna and have been up and around there a bunch. Same comments as others - towers get confused when you're too close to the border.

The booster and antenna keep me connected longer and in more places than any other solution. I did some testing of various antennas and amps last year and the year before.

I personally have had the best results with the above, paired with a Peplink LTE router. I have plans with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and prefer T-Mobile by far in the San Juans and Gulf Islands over the other two. They seem to have broader coverage with faster speeds in more areas, and their free international roaming is the only thing I use while in Canada.

Verizon has a great unlimited SIM plan for the last 6 months or so, and it is truly unlimited unlike the others, but it does not work in Canada.
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Old 04-08-2019, 08:11 PM   #8
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We were up in the islands (specifically Stuart and Sucia) this week, and I had both my home AT&T cell and my work Verizon cell. At Sucia the AT&T gave me the "welcome to Canada" text but the verizon didn't, specifically when we were on the hike from Fossil bay to Shallow bay. The Verizon gave me the "welcome to Canada" pretty much when we arrived in Reid harbor but my AT&T never did (maybe because they already "had" me at Sucia

The service in the islands has gotten so much better in the last 5 years that I hadn't had a cell phone booster on the horizon, but maybe I should - our long range plans include a lot of cruising up into BC, and we'll have to figure out the data plan issues. I know that with AT&T I can get one line set up with international roaming data for a limited (1 day or 30 days are the basic price breaks) time at a fairly reasonable cost, but I don't yet know what coverage exists north of the lower mainland/Vancouver Is areas. We like unplugging on vacation, but tt turns out I've figured out how much more weather resources there are online that what I can get from VHF radio broadcasts. We really worked over the developing forecasting and even TF (for some troubleshooting) on our week out last week using online data.

I'll be following this thread, I'm interested to see what the OP comes up with, and what you all have found.
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Old 04-08-2019, 09:19 PM   #9
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We had Verizon and dropped it for T Mobile because T Mobile tested more reliable in the San Juan Islands and the package we have for two phones unlimited data and roaming in US & Canada is a flat $70 bucks which blew Verizon out of the water.

The cell phone antenna booster should aid in more bars when making an important call and We like to get weather and technical information when needed off the net. Also We enjoy Netflix so streaming would be nice.
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Old 04-08-2019, 11:30 PM   #10
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We have been using my very inexpensive LG phone with T-mobile for a few years now. Primary use is weekends in the San Juan and Gulf Islands, with trips up the inside to Cape Caution and outside to Point Estevan. The performance of the network has been excellent, and the phone’s hotspot has worked very well.

On a few occasions, I rigged up my Wilson auto phone booster with the magnetic ground plane antenna. It worked well in, for example, Blunden Harbor where I believe we had only one tower in-view. I have to believe a proper marine antenna mounted up on the mast would be better, though the “phone on the helm” method has worked so well that I have not seriously considered a booster installation yet.

The Wilson has worked extremely well in the cars, but it has become essentially unnecessary in the last few years.

We have been only been to Sucia once, and I don’t recall what the signal situation was there.
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