Cell service booster? Any good?

TantoTrailers

Well-known member
Not sure if this is the best place for it, but does anyone use a cell service booster in their RV, van, trailer, truck, etc? I am looking for a 12v solution to extend my ATT cell and data service. I know getting away from all of that is sometimes the purpose but I am looking for a solution for when I need to be online but also want to be in the sticks. I am finding a bunch on Amazon but they run $150+ and that is a hefty experiment in my book. I would like to know if these even work or if anyone has any experience/recommendation for one.

One Amazon example: https://www.amazon.com/Cell-Phone-Signal-Booster-Truck/dp/B07XP1BNW5/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=att+signal+booster+12v&qid=1576076038&sr=8-3&th=1
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
The best option is to get a mobile hotspot that supports an external MIMO antenna. Mount said antenna on the roof of the trailer, and do what you need via the local wifi network. The external antennas are a dramatic difference compared to internal ones. And unlike cell boosters which will simply amplify a already low margin/noisy signal they MIMO design allows for much higher gain and with no rebroadcasting, higher throughput.
 

kwill

Observer
The best option is to get a mobile hotspot that supports an external MIMO antenna. Mount said antenna on the roof of the trailer, and do what you need via the local wifi network. The external antennas are a dramatic difference compared to internal ones. And unlike cell boosters which will simply amplify a already low margin/noisy signal they MIMO design allows for much higher gain and with no rebroadcasting, higher throughput.
Great advice. Can you recommend something specific?
 

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luthj

Engineer In Residence
What carrier? Each carrier has their own devices, and its rare for any to cross over due to the different bands, Wimax/4g standards, etc.
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
An example from a few years ago is the Verizon AC791L MiFi hotspot. Its local wifi network is not the best, so combining with a pepwave soho created a robust combination (tethered via USB).
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
MIMO isn't important for fringe service on a single cell with few users. It helps when you're in an urban environment with lots of transceivers and interference, which is why most cell phones already use it.
I agree, but depending on the orientation of the antennas, and local reflection/obstructions, mimo can provide enhanced reception even in rural/remote areas. For example increasing diversity for better throughput, even when communicating with a single tower. In the case of a very high error rate, this can be traded for a connection that is marginal but functional, compared to a connection with unusable packets due to high errors.

Regardless a good external antenna helps any unit, especially if beefy coax is used with the shortest run possible.
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
Sure, lots of different possible situations. But better all around performance, both remote, in crowded campgrounds especially, etc, is had with a mimo setup. For those who have minimal knowledge it helps them pick a decent unit

Prior to 4g I had a friend who used an old compact satellite dish with a homemade antenna for voice. Required aiming but did the job. Or back with the lower frequency cell service (2g?) you could just point a yagi in the general direction of the tower.
 
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luthj

Engineer In Residence
If you need decent data rates a large omni may work. Looks like ATT uses 850 and 1900mhz for 3g (and most 4g). That may not be necessary though. Assuming you have at least minimal service, going with a good external antenna (even a small one) with a hotspot will often result in usable data throughput. The 4g bands also appear to include 2100mhz, but I am seeing mixed results. 10DBi units look to be about $50, but you will need to source the correct cables.

ATTs coverage in remote areas is poor in my experience. Switching carriers, or just getting a hotspot from one carrier may work.

I have seen some people talking about using visible mobile service on verizons network. They have some pretty reasonable data plans supposedly.


I still think a good combo is a modestly priced roof mount MIMO setup with mobile hotspot. Its not going to be perfect for every situation, but will dramatically extend coverage compared to just a phone. If the OP has a specific area they must have service in, it can make sense to pick a specific high gain omni and mount it on the roof of the trailer. Obviously the correct band and hardware needs to be selected.


For the OP, if you are in areas which are mountainous, You will find dead spots less than 1 mile from a tower. Line if sight is critical, no getting around that.
 
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moto-treks

On the road
I've been using the weBoost Drive X RV for the past 2 years. It can work when all else fails. I also have external MINO antennas that I connect to my mobile hotspots (ATT & Verizon). I'd say the 80% of the time the external antennas work the best if there is a signal available. 15% if the time I switch to the booster and the last 5% - well nothing works. It's pretty much trial and error for the different options to get cell reception for both talk and data. I've had times when the booster enabled me to talk but no data and times I have data but can't call. The good part is I cal call over wifi so if I don't have an AT&T signal but I have Verizon (data only) I call call over wifi on the Verizon network.
 

Bravo30

Active member
Weboost is great if there’s an existing single, even if very faint and you don’t want to pay a monthly bill for the mobile hotspot. When we’re not on the road we generally go to one of the local forests here in Pa and our Weboost works where as our cellphones never had a chance.

Ideally you’d want a dual sim wifi router with nice external antennas and a weboost as back up like mention above.
 
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