Tired Of Poor Cell & WiFi Service

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Kevin Means

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We?ve grown tired of having poor, or no cell/data service when we?re boondocking, and since we love to boondock, it?s a frequent problem. Campground WiFi has also been a problem, even if the system isn?t crammed with users, because we've never had any boosters or external antennas.

I decided that I wanted a cell phone booster with a Yagi (directional) antenna, and a boosted omnidirectional WiFi antenna for campground connectivity. I also wanted a remote tilting and rotating system for both antennas, but I couldn?t find one. Tarheel makes a remote antenna lift, but IMO it?s waaay too expensive, and it doesn?t rotate.

I decided to build my own system using an RCA TV antenna rotator, and my own lift design. I haven?t been able to do a lot of testing to see how much better it?ll connect, but when combined with the directional Yagi antenna, our new weboost cell booster indicates that the cell signal where we live is too strong. That?s a good sign.

Our youngest daughter lives a quarter mile away, and I?m able to surf the web on her WiFi network with no trouble at all. Before this, we couldn?t even see her network with our tablets and phones ? even when standing outside.

Here are some pics of our system. There?s also a youtube video of the system if you want to click on the link.

Kev

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuBduBQb1eU


 

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Nice job, I did notice you had some RG6 there.. that cable is quite lossy for UHF cell bands,
I would have suggested LMR400 as a better solution.


 
MartyB said:
If I may ask.  What would a setup like that cost?
I like it.

I am sure Kevin will come along and give you more accurate information, but here are the prices for some of the parts he used.  Not sure these are the exact parts, but if not, these are similar.

Wi-Fi Ranger  $699.99

WeBoost Cell Phone Booster  $549.99

RCA Antenna Rotator  $89.99

Kevin's Electro-Mechanical Engineering Skills  Priceless
 
Thanks for the nice words everyone. I appreciate it.  MartyB, we haven't decided if we're going to add this to our solaRVector product line or not. SolaRVector orders are already overwhelming. If we do start offering it, we will not be selling the boosters and antennas - just the lift. The prices PJ listed for those things are pretty accurate.

The price would depend on what you want. For example, if you only wanted to tilt an antenna, you'd only need the lift. If you also wanted to rotate the antenna, you'd need a lift with a rotator. If you needed to lock either system down, you'd need the locking mechanism too.

I don't think a locking mechanism would be needed for most installations. The only reason ours locks is because our antenna mast faces forward, into the wind when it's stowed. Tilting it toward the rear of the RV, like Winegard stows their TV antennas, would make it (aerodynamically) much less likely to be grabbed by the wind. Our Yagi antenna stows behind an AC unit, out of the wind, and force from the actuator holds everything down well, but I just wanted additional security.

Our antenna mast tilts forward, because I wanted to reduce the likelihood of shading our solar panels, and our weboost system is the more powerful residential booster. It needs to be as far from the inside antenna as possible. Our inside antenna is as far forward in the RV as I could get it. (Practically)

You're probably right about the coax Solarman, but the RG6 is what weboost provided with their booster. 

Kev
 
If you do decide to market the system, keep in mind there are FCC limits on the maximum signal a wifi hotspot or cellular booster can put out, and these can be easily exceeded by substituting a high gain antenna for a lower gain one included with the hotspot or booster.

Individuals may stay below the FCC's radar, but advertising and selling something that facilitates an illegal antenna substitution could put you in the FCC's cross-hairs.
 
Very impressive, I?m seriously considering something along those lines for my place up in the Rockies, I have just enough service now to be annoying, great to see your system spelled out like that. I already have the weboost, and it helps, but being able to rotate would be great.
 
It will be interesting to see how your system works when boondocking.  We have been a few places where we had to have the directional antenna about 20 feet above the ground to get a decent signal, and if I had more conduit, I would have raised it higher.  Also, we have found that the weaker the original signal, the closer we have to be to the inside antenna with our phones or hotspots for them to work.  Many times we have the inside antenna lying on a flat surface and put mi-fi right of top of it, or when talking on the phone, we get as close to the inside antenna as possible.
 
Lou Schneider said:
If you do decide to market the system, keep in mind there are FCC limits on the maximum signal a wifi hotspot or cellular booster can put out, and these can be easily exceeded by substituting a high gain antenna for a lower gain one included with the hotspot or booster.

Individuals may stay below the FCC's radar, but advertising and selling something that facilitates an illegal antenna substitution could put you in the FCC's cross-hairs.
Yeah Lou, I learned a lot about those FCC rules & regs when I was researching which booster to buy. Weboost is able to offer their higher Db gain residential system to RVers, because it's not supposed to be used while the RV is in motion. The antenna mast they sell with it is a 25 foot collapsible pole. My antenna lift system obviously can't be used while in motion either. Well, I guess it could... once.

Weboost's internal residential antenna is also different than their interior vehicle antennas. It's significantly larger and directional. Unlike their interior vehicle antennas, you don't have to be right on top of them to make them work. Weboost claims that they'll cover the entire RV, which is why the interior and exterior antennas have to be so far apart. When I have a chance to really test it, I'll let you know if that claim is accurate.

In any case, I'm not going to be selling boosters or antennas. If we offer anything, it'll just be the antenna lift system, then customers can put whatever antenna(s) they want on it. Any WiFi system, cell phone booster, MIMO or carrier aggregation system can benefit by getting the antenna higher. For RVers, it's the convenience of doing it repeatedly, without a lot of headaches, that makes these kinds of products so useful.

Kev
 
That would be my choice Kev. I am pretty happy with the omni directional antenna I am currently using, and the Wilson power booster works well. I would love the ability to raise the mast from the ground without having to climb my ladder and do it manually.  The only adjustment I would need is that the antenna would have to self orient to a vertical position when stored as we actively use the on board wifi while going down the road. 

Other than that it's my dream antenna mast!
 
We're on a trip out west, but we were able to give our antenna/booster system it's first real test, and it worked well. We had a family reunion at a small campground in Clarkia, Idaho, and in our group were people with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. No had any cell service at all. Clarkia is in the North Idaho mountains, and it's pretty isolated. The town has a population of 51 and exists to provide service to logging trucks, so it's not surprising that cell service providers haven't put up any cell towers in the area.

Our phones were displaying "No Service" but when we raised the antenna and turned on the booster, we able to find an "Extended Service" signal from a Sprint cell tower (somewhere) by repeatedly rotating the antenna 10 degrees until we got the signal. We were able to send and receive texts, and make calls, but we had to stand within 15 feet of the inside antenna. We couldn't get online and surf the web, but, hey... it was a lot better than nothing.

Kev
 

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