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Old 12-04-2020, 03:12 PM   #1
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Cellular Signal boosters

I have looked at several threads on this topic but could use some advice:
  • I am interested in a cellular signal booster for our E5.0 (build finalization: Feb 19).
  • Not entirely clear on brand and models and can use advice. Seemed like WeBoost seems popular on this forum - and seems to have good reviews. There are three models:
    • Connect RV 65 - Most expensive but most powerful. Only for stationary use.
    • Drive Reach RV - Next best, according to them. Stationary and moving.
    • Drive X RV - Seems to be older model. Moving and stationary.
    I am a bit unclear whether moving use is important or not. I think the new F150 (which will be our TV) comes with AT&T based wifi - so might have its own booster in the truck). Regardless - I was wondering about any advice/experience with these options (or something else we should consider).

We have minimal DIY skills. So, looking to get some help from ETI for this to work. Here is what ETI says:
All ETI offers at this time is to pre-wire for a booster. You would need to have an understanding of the booster you were planning on installing aftermarket and let me know where you would want the cables run from and to. If the cables required are RG6 then ETI can provide those. If the cables are anything other than RG6 they would be customer provided. If you are wanting exterior access to the cables the most common location for a roof mount antenna is for ETI to have one end of the cables coiled in the roof top fridge vent for access aftermarket. If you are planning on doing a booster mast off the rear bumper then often customers will have us either coil the cable in the passenger side dinette bench seat so they can access it through the optional access hatch if they add one OR in either dinette bench seat and ask us to install an electrical hatch so they can pull the cable through that.
Ideally - I would want to buy the booster from someone who can answer my questions and advise so that I can answer ETI's questions appropriately.

I would appreciate any pointers and advice!
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Old 12-04-2020, 03:36 PM   #2
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While ETI will run a cable for you, as far as I know they will not mount an antenna any more. I carry a "Sleek", a single device (cradle type) booster that was the predecessor of the Drive boosters, combined with a high gain antenna. One my last trip to & back from NY to Quartzsite (2019-2020) I found only one location where the booster was useful. I either had sufficient coverage on either AT&T or Verizon without it or found that even with it there was no signal (rare, but a problem in a couple of locations). Cell coverage has improved over the last couple of years.

My suggestion would be to try a trip without a booster & see if you really need it. If so, go ahead & purchase one. I still prefer the cradle type to boost a cell modem, however if you want to also use your phone or more than one device, a repeating (outside & inside antenna) system is necessary. You will need to be careful with the placement of the two antennas to prevent feedback, and generally be within a couple of feet of the inside antenna to get any boost.
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Old 12-04-2020, 03:36 PM   #3
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If you want really expert advice call Randy. He worked for years with WeBoost mfg Wilson Amplifier in St. George. As one of their Distributors he can package together what you need- amp/antenna/connectors at a better price than from WeBoost or Amazon.
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Old 12-04-2020, 03:40 PM   #4
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Thank you very much! I will call Randy!
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Old 12-04-2020, 03:51 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Vermilye View Post
While ETI will run a cable for you, as far as I know they will not mount an antenna any more. I carry a "Sleek", a single device (cradle type) booster that was the predecessor of the Drive boosters, combined with a high gain antenna. One my last trip to & back from NY to Quartzsite (2019-2020) I found only one location where the booster was useful. I either had sufficient coverage on either AT&T or Verizon without it or found that even with it there was no signal (rare, but a problem in a couple of locations). Cell coverage has improved over the last couple of years.

My suggestion would be to try a trip without a booster & see if you really need it. If so, go ahead & purchase one. I still prefer the cradle type to boost a cell modem, however if you want to also use your phone or more than one device, a repeating (outside & inside antenna) system is necessary. You will need to be careful with the placement of the two antennas to prevent feedback, and generally be within a couple of feet of the inside antenna to get any boost.
Thank you, Vermilye! I am a reader of your blog and am still in the middle of reading your earlier Quartzsite trip! Even identify with your Oswego references as I began my career up the road in Ithaca, and even met my wife there (she did her PhD there).

The reason I was looking to do this now is because we are totally not handy with modifications and thinking that ETI doing part of it might make it feasible for us. In our (tent) camping vacations around here (South-/North- West), the cell phone coverage has been quite poor, and we have been staying in the National Park/Forest campgrounds for the most part - with no wifi.

Thanks!
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Old 12-04-2020, 05:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Vermilye View Post
On my last trip to & back from NY to Quartzsite (2019-2020) I found only one location where the booster was useful. I either had sufficient coverage on either AT&T or Verizon without it or found that even with it there was no signal (rare, but a problem in a couple of locations). Cell coverage has improved over the last couple of years.

My suggestion would be to try a trip without a booster & see if you really need it. If so, go ahead & purchase one.
I have found my experience to be similar to Vermilye. When on the road, my wife works connected to the internet 3 days a week. We have been from Chilliwack to North Carolina and many places in between. We like to travel the side roads as well and avoid freeways.

I bought a WeBoost booster way before getting the trailer knowing that we needed data on the road. So far we have had great luck not using the booster. I waited to install it until experimenting with it some and still have not permanently install it (it'll likely be up for sale here one day).

We had one incident in a Washington State Park where we could not a signal with or without the booster. We needed to drive 18 miles up the mountain to get an LTE signal with the booster. Once there we didn't need the booster. I am not that versed on wireless phones, but It seemed to me it does boost the ability to make phone calls, but not data.

We also had slow service in a State Park in West Virginia and extremely slow in in the Shenandoah National Park (Virginia). In Shenandoah it may have boosted the signal some (the signal came and went so it was hard to tell if it was helping or not), but if so we had very poor data service.

I bought an antenna for the MIFI device. I am impressed with the performance of it. It does boost the signal and is likely the reason we haven't had the need to try using the WeBoost more.

I know we haven't been to all parts of the country, but I am not sold on a booster's benefits at this point.

Netgear 6000450 MIMO Antenna with 2 TS-9 Connectors
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Old 12-04-2020, 05:50 PM   #7
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Thanks a lot, Ronn! I will discuss with my wife tonight and see if we want to bother. Our needs are mostly focused on data and light on audio - not video streaming but emails, documents, Zoom (with/without video), etc.

Perhaps we will hold off on this item. Our truck comes with optional FordPass Connect™ with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot. That uses AT&T network, and the antenna is built into the vehicle. So, perhaps that will address our need. And, we can add the Verizon MiFi device like you have. That'd give us the top 3 cellular networks.

Our regular provided is T-Mobile. I have a booster that T-Mobile provided for free. Unfortunately, it seems to be worth exactly that much and doesn't seem to do anything at my home. Maybe we can try it on trips with E5.0. It might do better with fresh air
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Old 12-04-2020, 06:07 PM   #8
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I know you are not in Canada but here we can drive for 5 hours along highways (20 for example) and not have any cell coverage. Sometimes it is just not there.

Either way I would personally mount any antenna as far away from my head as possible.
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Old 12-04-2020, 07:20 PM   #9
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Keep in mind Starlink service is coming and may make all these items unnecessary in any location.
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Old 12-04-2020, 07:29 PM   #10
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That's a good thought, Eggscape! I'd admit to being somewhat addicted to internet. Thankfully my other additions (biking, hiking) serve as antidote to some degree...

More seriously, my wife will be editor-in-chief for an academic journal for the next 5 years (thought of talking her out of it but it is a significant honor and achievement for her as well). So, she will be reluctant to be completely offline for too long.

I am trying to forestall no internet access as a possible objection to camping trips. I have promised that she can do her editing tasks while I am driving (we will have some WiFi in the truck) and in the evenings at the campground while I cook
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Old 12-04-2020, 07:35 PM   #11
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Keep in mind Starlink service is coming and may make all these items unnecessary in any location.
Thanks for pointing this out. I haven't been paying attention. Read up on it after your post and signed up for updates with them... Seems quite pricey at $100 a month. I know they promise a lot - but I will hang on to my wired gigabit connection a while I hold my breath
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Old 12-04-2020, 07:43 PM   #12
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I know you are not in Canada but here we can drive for 5 hours along highways (20 for example) and not have any cell coverage. Sometimes it is just not there.

Either way I would personally mount any antenna as far away from my head as possible.
TEd, to put this into perspective, I think you are saying that a booster would not be of help in this scenario. Am I reading you right?
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Old 12-04-2020, 08:05 PM   #13
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More seriously, my wife will be editor-in-chief for an academic journal for the next 5 years (thought of talking her out of it but it is a significant honor and achievement for her as well). So, she will be reluctant to be completely offline for too long.
Weak link is T-Mo in the hinterlands, however you could get a Verizon jetpack that will get better overall data coverage- even over AT&T in most areas and if needed be boosted with an amplifier. Also, most newer phones can make calls on wifi, so if no T-MO signal, yet have Vrz data signal then you can makes calls off of the Jetpack.
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Old 12-04-2020, 08:38 PM   #14
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TEd, to put this into perspective, I think you are saying that a booster would not be of help in this scenario. Am I reading you right?
Correct. Here is a map of the cell phone coverage in Canada. If the area is white, there is no coverage.
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Old 12-04-2020, 08:50 PM   #15
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Weak link is T-Mo in the hinterlands, however you could get a Verizon jetpack that will get better overall data coverage- even over AT&T in most areas and if needed be boosted with an amplifier. Also, most newer phones can make calls on wifi, so if no T-MO signal, yet have Vrz data signal then you can makes calls off of the Jetpack.
Thank you, Ross! I agree. T-Mo is quite middling in coverage, particularly outside of the high population areas. It works OK for now for what we need - but we know that it is a low price/low service provider.

Once we get the Escape, we will need to ponder the question of switching from T-Mo to Verizon and, in conjunction with AT&T WiFi through Ford Connect, have coverage through both Verizon and AT&T. If one has the Verizon coverage on the phones - is it still desirable to have a Jetpack? Alternately, does Jetpack get better signal in the hinterlands than, say iPhone? Is the WiFi better than hotspot thorough the phone?
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Old 12-04-2020, 09:29 PM   #16
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Your Last question first: you're hotspot on your phone (rate plan dependent)IS your wifi connection to any other device. I only mentioned the Jetpack if you were locked in to T-Mo or otherwise wanted to keep it. If you have VRZ phones I don't see a need for Jetpack, unless you want to use a laptop or non-cellular tablet. Then, depending on amount of usage it could be a better option.

We have Vrz, and with our plan(20GB) hotspot is included, although with Unlimited you can add it for $10/phone you need it for. Sometimes in weak signal areas I can be in the dinette near the inside antenna and Susan can be up front in bed and have signal via my phone's hotspot. Also works outside to a certain distance.
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Old 12-04-2020, 10:27 PM   #17
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Thank you! We are not locked into a plan with T-Mobile. It is cheaper but we can switch to Verizon. We do have non-cellular tablets and laptops. Obviously, we would not expect to use them in a major way while camping in a remote location - we do end up needing the data on the non-cellular devices for work related reasons.

I have used the phone hotspot in a pinch but seemed to be quite limited. That's why I was wondering if Jetpack was much better.

Seems like these details can be things we can figure out (if we decide to switch or otherwise).

This has been a valuable discussion. We will likely forgo the booster idea for now - (likely) switch to Verizon and see how far we get with Verizon + AT&T solution before considering the booster or, even better, Starlink options.

Many thanks!
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Old 12-04-2020, 11:31 PM   #18
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If one has the Verizon coverage on the phones - is it still desirable to have a Jetpack?
Is the WiFi better than hotspot thorough the phone?
Things may have changed now, but at the time we got our Jetpack plan (aka MIFI) it was much cheaper than Verizon's phone's unlimited plans, our MIFI plan is totally unlimited data (it does not cut back after a certain data threshold is attained). Rather it can slow down when the tower is busy and then comes back to full speed when there is less congestion. We have only noticed that it may have slowed a few times and that was when streaming and that may have been a weak signal issue.

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Your Last question first: you're hotspot on your phone (rate plan dependent)IS your wifi connection to any other device. I only mentioned the Jetpack if you were locked in to T-Mo or otherwise wanted to keep it. If you have VRZ phones I don't see a need for Jetpack, unless you want to use a laptop or non-cellular tablet. Then, depending on amount of usage it could be a better option.

For us, due to the amount of data we need (Colleen on computer 3 days a week & we use the MIFI for streaming television) the MIFI was a better financial choice than using the phone as a Hot Spot
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Old 12-05-2020, 12:13 AM   #19
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Things may have changed now, but at the time we got our Jetpack plan (aka MIFI) it was much cheaper than Verizon's phone's unlimited plans, our MIFI plan is totally unlimited data (it does not cut back after a certain data threshold is attained). Rather it can slow down when the tower is busy and then comes back to full speed when there is less congestion. We have only noticed that it may have slowed a few times and that was when streaming and that may have been a weak signal issue.
Thanks a lot, Ronn! I will look at the Jetpack plan from Verizon carefully, Thanks again!
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Old 12-05-2020, 11:24 AM   #20
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Thanks a lot, Ronn! I will look at the Jetpack plan from Verizon carefully, Thanks again!
Their (Verizon) plans seem to come and go. When I got ours I got in on the last day it was offered (it was available for about 10 days only).

Research of Verizon will show that some of their older plans are actually grandfathered in and owners of those plans actually rent them to others. If you don't find something available right away don't quit as another plan will likely come along.

Our plan has nothing to do with our regular phones (they are Verizon as well). Our plan is a "prepaid plan". Also, many of the Verizon employees are not familiar with the history of these plans. So if you are looking for someone to help you keep changing personal until you find someone familiar with these older plans or maybe you'll get lucky and find something right away.

Our plan cost us $65 month, if we let it go without paying one month we can not get it back. Maybe they are offering something better now, if so let me know as I would be interested in paying less.
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