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Old 09-20-2020, 02:06 PM   #1
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Cellular booster

Hello,
Can anyone recommend the best cellular phone booster for traveling trawler?
Thank you,
Kenneth
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Old 09-20-2020, 05:18 PM   #2
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In a prior life, I ran a company that owned a distributor of cellular phones and equipment, including all the major brands of boosters. I still follow that closely for a variety of reasons. Right now, I would recommend either the SmoothTalker boosters or PepLink PepWave routers and antennas. I'm assuming better data rates are your objective? Where and how will you be using the boat? In a whole bunch of areas, coverage has gotten so good, a booster is no longer a necessity. Plus installation integrity is a critical factor for boosters.
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Old 09-20-2020, 06:32 PM   #3
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I have a Wilson booster that I've used for 10 or so years. It will usually add at least one bar in remote locations. But George makes a good point that in most areas, a booster isn't really necessary anymore, at least compared to a few years ago.
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Old 09-21-2020, 08:52 AM   #4
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Cell Booster

Good morning George & Ken,

Thank you for your response. This will be our 1st adventure down the Tombigbee River to Mobile Bay and then to Marathon. We pretty much decided not to install one before we go and just see how necessary a booster really is.

We do a lot of streaming on our cell phones thru the tv.

Safe Travels,
Kenneth & Susan Bladow
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Old 09-21-2020, 10:43 AM   #5
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In our current state of cell technology, I don't believe cell boosters will help at all on a moving boat. Any article you find on the internet is from a company that sells boosters. My best advice is that you can get a refund if it doesn't improve your signal.
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Old 09-21-2020, 11:54 AM   #6
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I have the Shakespeare cell booster on my boat and it does help in some areas, but not always. Here in the Pacific Northwest and in Canada, coverage is divided between Verizon and T-Mobile. In remote anchorages, often one will work but not the other. The best solution here is to get a mobile hotspot from the carrier other than your phone. Something like this: https://www.t-mobile.com/search?q=fr...bile%20hotspot
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Old 09-21-2020, 12:22 PM   #7
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I used to easily get coverage about 10nm out at sea from downtown, but those transmitters were a few hundred feet high on the top of towers. That's without a booster.


So with a booster what kind of range have you guys achieved?
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Old 09-21-2020, 02:22 PM   #8
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We don't know what kind of coverage we get yet. We will be starting our departure November 1, 2020 from Decatur, Alabama down the Tombigbee to Mobile to Marathon.
We have decided not to purchase anything at this time and just see what we can get on our cell phones.

Thank you!!!
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Old 11-24-2020, 06:36 PM   #9
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Did you end up installing a cell booster? I’m looking for something for my little camper. We have been going to a remote beach spot and it’s really hard to get a signal.

What about weboost? Does that work?
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Old 11-29-2020, 02:19 AM   #10
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As asked above, the key information needed is: do you have no service and want to SMS/Call, or are you looking for better data?

For better data, then pepwave, or a hotspot with external antennas start coming into play. If you have a fixed location, then you can even tune those antennas to be directional on the frequencies needed.

Most of the "boosters" are outdated, given MIMO, Carrier Aggregation, Band 71 (Tmobile), etc... I would build whatever setup around those features - also fully understanding mid-band 5g is out, but most of the offerings out now do not support it.
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Old 11-29-2020, 06:54 AM   #11
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It couldn’t hurt to try using a small taco antenna. Could be temporarily mounted to a rail and turned in the general direction needed
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Old 11-29-2020, 07:13 AM   #12
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Sounds like the OP is on the right track, seeing how the phones perform on their own.
A better question might be: What are the best cell hotspots on the market? Is anyone having particular success streaming Netflix or other video with a certain hotspot?
If a phone isn't quite cutting it, i'd speculate the next best thing is to have a standalone hotspot.
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Old 11-29-2020, 09:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mako View Post
It couldn’t hurt to try using a small taco antenna. Could be temporarily mounted to a rail and turned in the general direction needed

I meant to say “yagi” antenna, not taco antenna.

I hate autocorrect!!
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Old 12-01-2020, 01:00 AM   #14
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I installed a Wilson and found that it improved the service well enough that my wife could work from the boat using her cell phone as a hot spot connection for her laptop. Internet service was improved 100% over marina wifi connections. She would normally work from home doing Zoom classes for her college students but now can boat all summer with me. I call that a win win and having unlimited data with Verizon had no affect on billing.
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Old 12-24-2020, 08:44 PM   #15
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We have used Netgear 6000450 passive MIMO Antenna (~$40, Amzn) for 18 months with a Jetpack 8800L Mimo.
I ran several tests with and without it - it improved reception 1 bar on a 5 bar scale.
I am satisfied.
Our Verizon cellular internet has been near flawless from St Pete to Key West to Charleston (except Beaufort SC). It works (>5mbps, usually >10) in the Everglades and middle of Lake Okeechobee. It is great when something works!
We work aboard while we cruise...
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Old 12-26-2020, 02:29 PM   #16
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Ther are somedxcellent articles and equipment reviews on Panbo.com and seabits.com.
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Old 12-26-2020, 07:41 PM   #17
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I'm considering adding a cell booster system to our boat for our annual summer cruise to Maine, where reception can be quite poor or nonexistant at many locations.

Panbo and Seabits authors have reviewed Wilson Weboost Reach and Cell-Fi Go+ amplifiers and the Shakespeare, Wilson, Cell-Fi, and Poynting antennas.

I'm looking closely at the Cell-Fi amplifier and Poynting Omni400 antenna based on the Panbo and Seabits reviews. Ben Ellison has indicated he will have a review in the not too distant future on the Cell-Fi booster system he tried at an island anchorage where cell service is extremely poor.

Gary
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Old 12-27-2020, 12:22 PM   #18
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Mobile Must Have is running a special on cell booster+antenna kits. They initially were providing the same stuff to RV'ers (bigger market), but the same gear is ideal for boating folks. You can also find more technical information at the Mobile Internet Resource Center, founded by a couple RV'ers who also cruise on their boat half the year.


You can also visit Milltech Marine, who has the Peplink gear and various antennas for cell boosting available too.



No affiliation, just passing along the info.
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Old 12-27-2020, 01:15 PM   #19
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Having counseled hundreds of people on boosters vs. antennas+routers, and tested many of them myself, it's actually still a hard question to answer.

It comes down to budget (what doesn't) along with your use patterns and the areas you are going to be traveling.

More often now, people are choosing a quality outdoor antenna (or more than one) and a good indoor mobile router with cellular support. This works better in almost all situations, and with the advent of WiFi calling on cell phones, provides both an internet connection aboard as well as quality phone calls, something a booster was good for in the past.

Boosters used to be the only way to get a good signal when more remote, but they really only worked well when you were very far away from a tower or signal. The closer you get, even in the mid-range coverage areas, the more the booster actually made things worse.

If your use pattern is moderate to low, where you're only looking at web pages, getting email, a couple of devices, etc. then a booster might be a good solution. It's going to ruin the signal in populated areas, and even in moderate areas it will affect your connection so you couldn't do things like streaming, etc. but that may be OK for your use case.

While I have multiple boosters aboard, I find that I use them maybe once or twice a year where I am so far away that nothing will find a signal at all. Turning the booster on will give me enough of a connection to do some basic things, and then it goes back off again when I see signal elsewhere.
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Old 12-27-2020, 01:27 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Warnercons View Post
I'm considering adding a cell booster system to our boat for our annual summer cruise to Maine, where reception can be quite poor or nonexistant at many locations.

Panbo and Seabits authors have reviewed Wilson Weboost Reach and Cell-Fi Go+ amplifiers and the Shakespeare, Wilson, Cell-Fi, and Poynting antennas.

I'm looking closely at the Cell-Fi amplifier and Poynting Omni400 antenna based on the Panbo and Seabits reviews. Ben Ellison has indicated he will have a review in the not too distant future on the Cell-Fi booster system he tried at an island anchorage where cell service is extremely poor.

Gary
Cel-Fi is an interesting type of booster - the Wilson, Surecall, Shakespeare and others are all analog boosters, where they simply just boost whatever the source device is asking for.

Cel-Fi is a digital booster, and that is both good and bad. First, it means you have to choose the provider and bands that you want boosted, which means it can only boost one provider at a time. That can be limiting if you have devices that you want boosted that are from different providers. Second, it means that they have software doing the boosting, and that has lead to some issues with compatibility. When they first came out, they had some issues with supporting a couple of different bands/providers and it took them over a year to resolve them. The current models out also have a weaker transmit side than most of the other boosters out there, so upload speeds are not going to be as good. This can't be fixed by software or firmware updates.

The Cel-Fi has some positives going for it though - because it is software based, they can update it to include new features and support. There are rumors they will be able to support some of the newer 5G bands with a firmware update. It also has a higher gain over the top booster of 70dB (Wilson), although remember that the upload transmit is compromised. For areas with really low signal, the Cel-Fi is going to perform better than the Wilson or any other solution at least for getting the initial signal.

However, I would really look into whether you need a booster or whether high quality antennas and router are a better solution.

If you are more stationary than moving, the Cel-Fi is probably the best solution out there. If you get a directional antenna and combine that with the Cel-Fi, you have a super powerful solution (100dB!).

If you want the all around best performing booster that can deal with multiple providers at the same time, and has more band coverage, the Wilson Drive Reach is the current king of that world.
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