Articles: Communications,Cruising

Boater’s Test – Cell Phone Booster

Quite often we boat up at the end of Indian Arm, behind Croker Island and across from Granite Falls.  The cell reception is spotty at best and it really depends on where you are standing on the dock or where you are in your dinghy out in the bay.  There are a number of cellular to WiFi modem solutions, such as the Rogers Rocket Hub or the Telus Smart Hub, but I didn’t want to sign up to a monthly service. I also didn’t want to spend a lot on the initial hardware purchase or have something hard-wired to the boat.

I decided to try out one of the less expensive cell boosters to see if it would actually make a difference.  There are two choices, a wired booster which only works with one device at a time or a wireless booster, which has weaker amplification but serves multiple devices at once.  I chose the Wilson 811214 Cellular Signal Booster which retails for about $200.  The kit comes with a powerful, solid 3-Watt Dual Band (850/1900 Mhz) amplifier, an external antenna and a cradle kit. The updated cell booster is the Wilson 460107 Sleek 4G 5-Band Cradle Signal Booster which now supports 4G LTE. Additional cell phone booster kits suitable for boats can be found here.

For this experiment we used a Telus iPhone, a Rogers Blackberry Q10 and an older Rogers Blackberry Bold.  To start the comparison the Telus iPhone and Roger’s Blackberry Q10 had 2 – 3 bars and the Roger’s Blackberry Bold had little to no service.  Email for all three was off and on and accessing a video on-line was not possible.

The Wilson Cell Booster is easy to set up, the amplifier has a power cord (or cigarette lighter adapter), a corded antenna which we ran to the top of the arch, and a corded cell phone holder.  It makes for a lot of long wires but it will be easy enough to hide so we can leave it installed, if we choose.  You simply place your phone in the cradle and the Wilson does its stuff.  All three devices immediately went to full bars of service.  We were even able to watch a hockey game on our iPad!  I was quite impressed with this unit and will keep it on the boat.

 - Melissa, Pacific Yacht Systems Inc.

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