Friday, February 17, 2017

Staying Connected on the Road: A Look at Cellular


We spend a good deal of time working with products that help RVers stay connected on the road. Our Wi-Fi and cellular seminars seem to always be popular at RV rallies, and our Wi-Fi and cell phone boosters are topsellers. There is no doubt that while RVers may travel to "get away," we do not necessarily want to give up the comforts of life, and staying connected to the internet seems to be at the top of the list. ManyRV park owners tell me that the number one amenity that RVers are looking for is a great Wi-Fi signal. Forget the swimming pools, shuffle board, and game rooms; give us our Wi-Fi and we will entertain ourselves!

Difference in Cellular and Wi-Fi
I want to now focus on cellular signal and cell signal boosting options. There is a difference in cellular signal and Wi-Fi signal, and when you are developing a plan to stay better connected, you don't want to confuse these two. In short, Wi-Fi is a set of media access controls designed for setting up a wireless local area network. Wi-Fi comes from an internet provider like Comcast, Cox, Mediacom, and so on, and covers a limited area. Generally Wi-Fi is for unlimited use and can be very fast. RV parks that offer Wi-Fi are simply taking the signal from the internet company and giving you access to it wirelessly.

Cellular Tower and Cell Phone BoostersA cellular signal comes from a mobile carrier like Verizon and AT&T and is transmitted through cell towers. A cell signal can cover a large area, can be fast, but is limited to the plan that you have as far as usage. If you go over your plan's agreed usage, then you could be in for a surprise when your bill comes in. My cellular plan for my phone charges 15 dollars per overage gig. OUCH!

So to make things simple, if you are trying to determine if a signal is Wi-Fi or cellular, just think of where it is coming from. Is it coming from a cell phone that you pay a bill to Verizon or AT&T? If so, then this is cellular signal. Have you turned your cell phone's Wi-Fi adaptor on, and are picking up the signal from theRV park? If so, now you are on Wi-Fi. What about a jet pack or MiFi pack? Well, these are pulling from a cell tower; you pay a cell provider for this service, so this is a cellular signal.

Your Resources for Connecting
Wi-Fi and cellular are the two main resources you will have to stay connected on the road. The cellular signal that you receive is dependent on where the cell towers are located in relation to where you are located. The farther you are from the cell towers, the weaker your signal will be. The different cell providers have different coverage areas, and this can also affect your experience. I don't spend a lot of time studying the cell provider plans and coverage areas, but if this interests you, there are some good resources at https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/resources/

If you find yourself in areas that have weak cell coverage, then there is a solution to this problem. Your adapter in your device that is trying to grab that cellular signal can only do so much, but by adding a cellular booster you will find in most cases that your experience improves dramatically. Communicating with a cell tower requires you to transmit a signal to the tower and to hear the signal coming back to you. Cell boosters work wonders in both directions to improve download and upload speeds. Watching the number of signal bars you have is not an exact science, but can give you a general indication of what your experience is going to be when using the signal.

Remember though, cell boosters are not magic, and can only do so much. If there is not a signal in the area to boost, then there is no booster that can make something out of nothing. One thousand times zero is still zero, and this applies to boosting cell signal as well. With that said, if you have found yourself with a struggling signal, and you are dropping calls and data speeds are super slow, adding a cell booster will make a big difference for you. Let's take a look at some options that we have available to help boost your cell signal. We only sell WeBoost brand cell boosters (formerly known as Wilson). As a company, we do not get mixed up in selling a lot of different brands of one solution. We locate and test what we believe to be the best, and that is what we sell.

A few questions to ask yourself when looking at cell phone boosters are:
Do you need to boost cell signal while in motion? If so, then you need to know that all cell boosters are not made to be used while in motion. The FCC cuts off in-motion boosters at 50 dB gain. If a booster has more than 50 dB gain, then it cannot be used while in motion. Keep in mind, 50 dB gain is a very strong booster, so it's not like you are getting ripped off by stopping at 50 dB gain.

Are you open to a permanent installation or would you rather the ability to put something up at each stop? Some cell boosters are made for easy set up, and others are a bit more involved. The set up for all cellular boosters are very similar. You will have an outside antenna, a booster, and an inside antenna. You will need to be prepared to run the cable from the outside antenna inside, so this is something to consider. If you do not do a permanent install, then you could just run the cable in a window; I have done this many times.

TechnoRV Cell Boosters
There are 3 options that we offer that should cover your needs and they are:
WeBoost Weboost 4G-M Drive Cell Phone Booster for RVers4G-MThis unit comes with the maximum allowed 50 dB gain and is designed to be used in motion or stationary. The unit has a small magnetic base outside antenna, a solid booster, and an inside antenna that looks like a small flat chocolate bar. As long as you are 18-24 inches from this inside antenna, then you will get the boosted signal. If you have a jet pack, then just set it next to the inside antenna. If you need the boosted signal for phone calls, then position yourself next to the antenna or use a blue tooth headset and leave the phone next to the antenna.
WeBoost 4G-XWeboost 4G-X Drive Cellular Booster for RVers
This unit is a set up like the 4G-M except it has a stronger transmitter. The transmit side can be 3-4 times more than the 4G-M. The 4G-X has 50 dB gain, just like the 4G-M. If you really like to get out there in the wilderness, then this is the unit to consider for maximum gain and distance. It is about 100 dollars more than the 4G-M, but really packs a punch. With that said, if you don't need the extra hit, then the 4G-M is a great unit.
WeBoost 4G-RVWeboost RV-4G Cellular Booster for RVersThis unit is designed for RVs. The gain is 60 dB, so it cannot be used for in-motion boosting. This is designed for easy set up when you get to the RV Park and to give you an enormous amount of gain. This unit comes with a panel directional antenna, and you simply suction cup it to the side of your RV (all included). You then run the cable inside, go through an amplifier, then to the inside tower antenna. I have found that this unit broadcasts the signal further inside your RV than the other systems. I have been as far as 5 feet away and could still see the signal boost on my phone.

Things to consider when installing
You need to create distance between the outside antenna and the inside booster. If there is not enough distance, then these two can start to interfere with one another, also known as oscillation. This is common with all cell boosters and is easily overcome by creating space between the two.

Another point to note is that the 4G-M or 4G-X both have a magnetic base antenna. Of course, most RVs do not have a metal roof so you need to create some metal space for this antenna. The metal base actually serves a purpose in the antennas design and the size of the metal plate does matter. There are some formulas to determine the proper size of the metal surface, but if you have around a 7-9 inch square, you should be covered. I have seen people use cookie sheets for this as a temporary measure, and by people, I mean I have done this a time or two.

Arm Yourself to Stay Connected
Don't let connection issues ruin a good day of RVing. You know going into it that there will be connection issues as you travel, and since you already know this it makes sense to arm yourself with the correct booster to make your trip more enjoyable. Cell phone boosters and Wi-Fi boosters can aid in connecting in these hard to reach places. Don't wait until you are pulling your hair out to think about your boosting set up.

As always, if you have more questions you can reach us for more information at info@technorv.com.