Cell boosters for pandemic times, testing Shakespeare Stream & SureCall Fusion2Go

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague.

25 Responses

  1. Keith Pleas says:

    Hi Ben – any idea if either of these devices would connect to the TS-9 connectors on a NETGEAR LTE Modem LB2120? They both connect to their own onboard antenna, but I’d rather run everything through the LB2120 and have all devices utilize my onboard network (wired / WiFi).

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hmmm… connect the booster port meant to go to the inside antenna to the modem port meant for an optional external antenna? I doubt that will work, but don’t really know.

      What should work is to simply put the modem or its antenna quite near the inside booster antenna, as suggested in the Shakespeare install excerpt above. That may also be a cleaner system when the booster is not needed, which may be a lot of the time depending on your location.

      Also, I think that Waveform and Shakespeare both offer good tech support, at least in normal times.

  2. Will Loe Will Loe says:

    Ben,
    Did the Stream follow the WebWatch which seems to have disappeared. I have been looking at similar devices for a while, Webwatch, Glomex and the KVH Tracphone LTE-1. I need the device to be pretty simple.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Will. The Stream is an addition to the recreational and commercial cell amps that Shakespeare Marine has long sold. And they show the WebWatch as still available, though I think that Ben Stein was hoping for some improvements before he reviewed it more thoroughly…

      https://panbo.com/winegard-connect-marine-wifi-and-cell-internet-connection-simple-and-functional/

      The story is similar for the KVH LTE-1 I’ve been long testing, at least here in Maine. It’s a powerful and super simple system that probably works great in many places but the two carriers they began with don’t even cover Camden Harbor reliably. KVH dealers in New England know that and the company has been hoping to offer a solution for some time…

      • The WebWatch is discontinued, due to poor performance. Units like the, Glomex Weboat or KVH LTE-1, the cellular signal is not boosted. The Stream or other Shakespeare cell boosters will extend your usable cell range.

        • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

          Thanks for WebWatch update, Matt. But I’ve seen the KVH LTE-1 extend cell range very much like a booster and that didn’t seem surprising because inside the dome is a customized Pepwave Max 4G router running dual high Db antennas in diversity mode.

          • Hi Ben
            Not sure if you allow image links, but I thought your readers might be interested to see the superyacht take on the KVH LTE-1. We’re putting the Celldome together at the moment amid coronavirus restrictions, it has 16 Promarine 5311 antennas on 2 groundplanes connected to a Peplink HD4MBX.

            null

          • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

            Thanks, Robert, very cool!

            (FYI, an image link like you posted does let readers click to the photo, and it also makes it easy for us to put it on the Panbo server so it shows right up).

            Also, readers curious about the celldome components can check Robert’s site: https://horizonme.eu/services/4g-5g-connectivity/

  3. Carl Nelson says:

    Maybe you could use the power of Panbo to get Verizon to add a couple of antennas. There is no reliable Verizon data service – even with a booster – on a line from North Haven to Southwest Harbor. Bizarrely, service is fine farther East even on most of Roque Island. Fortunately, AT&T still has an antenna on Swans Island that I use with a pay-as-you-go phone. For the last five years, I’ve called Verizon every September to complain. With little to show for it. I was told they were putting a short range antenna in SouthWest Harbor but don’t know if it happened.

  4. Keith Pleas says:

    Ben – interesting idea! Looking again, that Shakespeare guideline is “Place helm antenna within 1-2 inches of typical cellular device location” so I could make that work. But I hadn’t noticed “At least 8 inches (20cm) from any person” – that is pretty much going to dictate a Bluetooth connection to the phone – that’s three different wireless technologies strung together – and that sounds fiddly, especially for non-technical types.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      I can’t argue with “sounds fiddly” and especially what I’ve been doing for many years when using cell data, which is to point Gizmo’s high-power WiFi system at the (sometimes boosted) phone in my pilothouse. It accomplishes your goal of having all onboard devices online via the same WiFi router, but the diagram (bottom of entry below) looks wireless crazy:

      https://panbo.com/onboard-wifi-and-cell-booster-strategies-the-diagrams/

      Actually I’ve found this multi-hop wireless to be reliable and easy to use once set up and understood. Then again, I’m sort of advantage in that impaired hearing means I’m quite used to having devices in my ears.

      • Keith Pleas says:

        Ben – comparing these devices to what I have – a Wilson 301125 dual band (replaced by the 311125 tri band which it looks like I need now for the 700MHz) it looks like I have about 5db gain. Their 304420 is about the same and looks like the antennas in the packages you reviewed – it’s part of their marine kit https://www.wilsonamplifiers.com/weboost-drive-reach-marine-antenna-bundle-cell-phone-signal-booster-for-vehicles-470154-m/.

        So this cellular antenna thing is 4 factors: a better antenna, in a better location (higher, less interference), plus “boost”, minus cable and transmission losses. For my (data) application I think I’m going to stick with a good passive antenna – I’m just losing the “boost”. And saving some money – the Wilson passive antennae are like $20.

        • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

          Hi Keith, I can’t find a Wilson 311125 booster but if you have a tri band like this with manual gain controls …

          https://www.wilsonamplifiers.com/tri-band-4g-v-amplifier-only-70db-verizon-wilson-805165/

          … I think it’s from the middle generation where the boosters could detect “oscillation or overpowering” issues — even shut themselves down — but not automatically adjust for them. So that’s another factor in the equation. Apparently there are also numerous subtleties regarding how well a modern booster can squeeze real world performance within the modern booster standards. That’s why the Fusion2Go 3.0 is supposedly better than the 2.0. And why the WeBoost Drive Reach you linked to has earned some excellent reviews like:

          https://seabits.com/weboost-drive-reach-cellular-amplifier-installation-and-testing/

          https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/gear/weboost-reach/

          • Keith Pleas says:

            Hi Ben – the 311125 is a passive antenna, no booster. Thank you for that SeaBits reference – that is exactly the architecture I’m using – with a different Wilson passive antenna and a different router (the LB2120 automatically fails over from WiFi to cellular). On the WiFi side I’ve been using a 2.4 Ubiquiti (had one on my previous boat for more than a decade – a bit gnarly to configure but I’m used to it) but I just received the Reach DB based on your recent review and will be replacing that soon.

  5. Luis Soltero Luis Soltero says:

    Hi Ben,

    I have had Fusion2Go booster on Bliss for many years and it has proven very useful in our travels up and down the east coast. I originally started with the Antenna you featured above but have tried several different ones with the system. My current favorite is from poyinting.. i have the OMNI-400 https://poynting.tech/product/omni-400/ which has much better gain and propagation pattern.

    On biss the antenna is 18′ above the below deck antenna. On a recent crossing between SW Harbor, ME and Selborne NS, CA i was able to test and email 32 nautical miles off shore. That is a record for me. Interestingly but not surprising antenna hight makes a difference. Once the same passage a friend of mine using the same booster (with the Shakespeare antenna) was able to text me while 50nm offshore.

    I also noticed what while in Canso NS his system was provided faster and better connectivity than mine. So… although antennas are important installation location is also very important.

    Greater vertical distance allows the amplifier to amplify the signal more without creating a feed back loop between the antennas.

    Anyway… Fusion2Go has worked amazingly well for me and others and is highly recommended.

    –luis

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good to hear from you, Luis, and thanks as always for sharing the performance/install details.

    Steve Mitchell is also a fan of the Poynting Omni antenna…

    https://seabits.com/poynting-omni-antenna-testing/

    … and I’m newly enamored with a boosting beast known as the Cel-Fi GO+:

    https://panbo.com/cel-fi-go-a-truly-different-and-promising-cell-booster/

  7. Luis says:

    Hi Ben,

    Looking forward to your on-the-water experience with the Cel-FI GO+.

    Take care…

    –luis

  8. Hi Ben,
    Well, one of the designated projects this winter (while Atsa sleeps on the hard in MD) was to get ready to put in a cell booster in the spring. I scored the masthead antenna (same as the one you show here) and the 100′ of good cable to run up the mast (which I have to do anyway, since the RG-8 to the masthead VHF has water in it (grrr..) ). I’m about to pull the trigger on a Surecall fusion2go 3.0, but I thought I’d check back in and see if it’s still on the “recommended list” 🙂

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hartley, I still think that the Surecall/Shakespeare booster is a solid choice, but also that it and virtually all the other boosters are “old school” compared to the Cel-Fi GO+. I gave the latter quite a workout in various difficult to otherwise impossible Maine cell areas last summer and was quite impressed. Often it does a very good job completely automatically, but you can also see exactly what it’s doing and apply all sorts of tweaks that can be quite effective. It is expensive, it can only boost one service provider at a time, and it’s probably not appropriate for someone unwilling to learn the management tools that can improve performance even more, but at least you’re not the latter type.

      https://panbo.com/cel-fi-go-a-truly-different-and-promising-cell-booster/

      PS Yes, I got the Cel-Fi to conquer the Perry Creek cell hole, at the very same mooring where I emphatically learned that signal strength does not always equate to actual performance. Being able to choose which bands to use plus 100dB mode was the Cel-Fi advantage.

      • Hi Ben! Yes, I read your piece on the Cel-Fi, and I am more than a bit concerned about how it would perform in places like the Bahamas and Caribbean (assuming we get to go there again!) I also note that none of the Canadian carriers I’m familiar with show up in the list of compatible systems.
        For domestic use, it looks like a solid choice, albeit a bit spendy! I do like the look of the management ability – I have a lifelong distrust of “automatic” tools of any sort 🙂

        Thanks DE Hartley

        p.s. Having straightened out the rat-nest behind my nav station, I may actually write up that bit about our antenna patch panel (and other lightning measures) aboard Atsa.

        How does the Cel-Fi deal with “roaming”? We have Verizon, and we’ve been generally pleased, but I’ve noted that we are “roaming” in some places in the US.

        • OK, that was strange – the Panbo site re-arranged the paragraphs in my reply — the last paragraph should be the second one.
          HJ

        • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

          Yes, the Cel-Fi GO+ works with Verizon roaming, at least up here. In fact, that’s a problem it can solve, as at least up here the roaming “partner” does not seem to give Verizon customers decent data service. So with Cel-Fi you figure out what band is being used for roaming and turn it off hopeful that the Cel-Fi can then boost a weaker but much better performing Verizon signal. That’s what worked for me in Perry Creek and also over in the islands off Stonington.

          It should be easier to find the list of carriers that Cel-Fi works with online, but here they are for U.S. and Canada as of a July 2019 press release:

          Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, GCI Alaska, Rogers, TELUS, Bell Mobility, SaskTel, Freedom Mobile, Vidéotron, and Eastlink.

          I’m going to ask about Bahamas and Caribbean coverage.

          • John Hall says:

            Here in Prince William Sound in Alaska, AT&T contracts with Cordova Telecom as they have the only 3 cell towers sited on islands in the sound. I’m currently trying to select a signal booster, and this is our primary cruising ground……should I be concerned that I don’t see Cordova Telecom on your list? Could you perhaps inquire about that one as well?

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