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The Thompson River north of Lytton, British Columbia. Photo taken yesterday.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Where are they going next? Crescent Beach, British Columbia.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Installed our weBoost Drive 4G-X RV Cell Signal Booster

A bit of a rainy afternoon yesterday so I took a couple of hours and finished the installation of our new weBoost cell signal booster. We don't get a very good signal here at the park, so I was excited to try it out here and see what difference it makes.

Heading up to the wilds of the Yukon and Alaska, we want to be able to share our adventures with you, and there aren't that many cell towers up there. So if this thing works as advertised, we should be able to get much further from a cell tower and still be able to get on the internet.

We don't often use our cell phone as an actual phone, so the priority for us is getting on the internet through a cellular connection. There's not a big difference in the installation methods, but it turns out that it does matter a little bit.

The box.

Everything you get in the box.

I had done the outdoor work installing the antenna a couple of weeks ago. This was the first glitch. The installation manual and the material they supply you with is all top notch and easy to follow for do-it-your-selfers. However, one small glitch. They recommend that you install the antenna on your RV's ladder, but the clamp that they supply you with to do that is far too big. Considering the whole kit is designed for an RV, it's surprising they've made this error. I had read other reviews that made the same complaint.

But, minor detail. I ended up installing it on the vent cover. It sits a little higher up that way anyhow.

The outdoor antenna installed on the roof vent cover.

I found the most difficult part of the whole job was deciding where to run the cabling and where to have it enter the RV... and then where to install the interior parts as well.

The outside antenna and the inside antenna have to have a minimum separation of about 15 to 25 feet. But that is variable, because it also depends on vertical distance and horizontal distance... and probably what material your RV is made out of. Anyhow, the more you can separate the two antennas, the better. Then, in between the two antennas you need to have the electronic box mounted and supply power to it!

I decided to place the indoor antenna in a cupboard above the couch. Then I ran the cable above the entrance door, through the wall, behind the refrigerator, through the wall again, and into a cupboard in the bathroom. That's where I mounted the electronic box.

The indoor antenna.

The placement of the indoor antenna is important. It's actually made to simply sit on a desk or table. But the device you're using (phone or hotspot) works better the closer it is to the antenna while you're using it. But, you're not supposed to have the antenna within 8 inches of a person. So because we rarely use our phone for voice, this way we can have it sitting right beside the antenna, and yet far away from us. The phone then gives off the wifi hotspot signal for our laptops to connect to the internet.

I ran the cable behind the decorative cover above the doorway.

All nicely hidden.

And I installed the electronic box in the cupboard above the toilet.

And I ran the power cable to the outlet in the bedroom.

They give you the choice of two power supplies. 120 volt AC, or 12 volt DC. For now, I used the 120 volt AC because I figure we will have the inverter turned on anyhow for the laptops, so that can supply this as well.

But there's another glitch that I'm surprised they've missed. There is no on/off switch. So as soon as you plug it in, it is powered on. They actually warn you with the hardwired12 volt DC option that there is no on/off switch so be careful that it doesn't drain your battery.

So why isn't there an on/off switch? I dunno. But I think I'm going to buy one, and hard wire it to the 12 volt.

Anyhow, another fairly minor detail, but considering they seem to have thought of everything else (including a drill bit to drill through the wall or roof) it's surprising they've missed this.

So, I got it all installed and plugged it in! Everything seemed to work properly and there was a solid green light. A flashing red would indicate that the two antennas were too close together, so I'm glad that we got enough distance between the two.

Now to find out how well it works.

I noticed right away that my two bar signal was all of a sudden four bars! That's a good sign. But bars actually don't mean a lot... they are just a general guide and I wanted more detail. In the settings of your phone you can find the signal details.

Check out where it says "Signal Strength".

Normally, a really strong cell signal will read around -70 dBm and around 75asu. The lower the dBm number the better, and when the dBm number is lower, the asu number will be higher.

A really bad signal will read around -120 dbm and 25 asu.

Notice in the photo above the numbers with the booster unplugged. But as soon as I plug it in and set the phone next to the indoor antenna, I get this...

-77 dBm and 63 asu is a good strong signal.

So, it definitely does what it's supposed to do.

The real test will be when we don't receive any signal at all, or an unusable 1 bar signal. 

Normal cell tower range (depending on a lot of variables) is between 5 to 15 kms (3 to 9 miles), but iIhave read reports of people being able to use this booster setup to 50 kms (30 miles) away.

Sounds like this is going to work just fine for our trip up to Yukon and Alaska and we look forward to reporting back to you as we use it!


It's not cheap... at $499 USD it had better be something that gets us online, but we also realize the limitations. It will not boost a cell signal where no signal exists. But, it will pick up signal where your cell phone may not show one.

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28 comments:

  1. Interesting info. Thanks. How many GB's do you get and use on your telus plan for data? Do you find it enough?

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    1. We don't have a Telus plan...

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    2. We are still using a Telcel SIM card from Mexico. When I recharge it, I will get 4 GB of data with unlimited facebook, texting, and calling within Canada, U.S., and Mexico for 500 pesos ($33 CAD, $26 USD).

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    3. Interesting. I have had a Telcel sim card before but never thought about keeping on using it in Canada. But that price for 4GB is great. I pay way more than that with Telus - the connection must use Telus or Rogers?

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    4. Oh so even with the Weboost you can only connect to Bell? Have you looked at the coverage maps of the various carriers? It might be a good idea to have another sim for Telus or Rogers for this trip. Although they all suck in BC and Yukon but Bell seems the most sparse.

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    5. I haven't used it enough to know. The coverage maps look all pretty much the same to me.

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  2. Sounds pretty good and glad it works for you. A little to pricey for us though, we can always wait until we have a signal

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    1. You spend a lot of time in developed campgrounds, so it wouldn't make sense for you.

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  3. Nicely done. I was wondering how mounting your antenna as the highest point on the roof would fare with overhanging vegetation?

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    1. We will just have to be a little more careful!

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  4. I like the difference that booster makes but like you say, the proof will be in the actual usage. It does look very promising though. Just to pick a nit though, -77 dBm is actually a much HIGHER number (and signal) than -105 dBm. Remember, you are on the other side of zero so a smaller negative number is actually higher. However, what you have is a 28 dBm difference which amounts to a 630 milliwatt boost in signal which is pretty impressive!

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    Replies
    1. Yes... thanks for the clarification Croft!

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  5. For WiFi, may I suggest that you download the ShawGoWiFiFind App.It will show you the multitude of FREE WiFi locations that Shaw have in Western Canada. You are supposed to be a Shaw customer, but you can borrow a signin from any one who is using Shaw Open.

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    Replies
    1. I would love to, but I already have reached my limit of eight (8) devices registered. Perhaps someone else could help you.

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    2. Do Google search for :Shaw Go WiFi Guest Access

      You will be able to register as a "Guest" to access WiFi in many towns, (see the list on that site).

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    3. Thanks for that. Limited to 500 MB in 30 days, so it might help for a couple of days!

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    4. Don't count on it working. I try and use it to save the small amount of data I have on my plan when we are out and about. Have only ever been able to connect once. Too many people trying to use it and it is very slow when you do get on.

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    5. That would not surprise me.

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  6. I mounted an external wifi antenna to the end of my TV antenna. That way it lies flat against the roof when the TV antenna is down, and is up high when I crank up the antenna. I know you don't have a TV, but you might still have a mast up there.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, good idea but the TV antenna was already gone when we bought the motorhome 11 years ago.

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  7. Hello there , Kevin you could modify the old 12 volt outlet for Tv to a regular 12volt cigarette lighter. I just took a holesaw 1" I believe...whatever size you need for your cigarette lighter plug , and drill the old plug out under the cable plug. Put your new cigarette lighter plug and you could plug your Weboost in there when you need it, no switch needed. I can't wait to see how your two new toys perform.

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    Replies
    1. Yes... except that there is quite a large hole in behind that wallplate. I think I prefer to hard wire it with a switch.

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  8. Someday we are going to see a question in a forum that asks "Does anybody know what this thing is for?" Lol

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  9. Hi Kevin,

    I gotta get one of those WeBoosts! For sure!! 😍


    Thank you sooooo much! 😍

    George


    .

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