Wilson marine cellular, the testing begins

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. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

17 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    It would be really nice for boaters if they also did WiFi from the same unit. The frequencies are right there…

  2. Joe Kosheff says:

    When I replaced my old cell phone with an android smartphone, my onboard Digital Antenna DA 4000 amp and antenna became obsolete (I thought)because the new phone had no external antenna port. However I came up with a really cheap solution.
    Wilson cradle to DA 4000 amp to DA antenna. A male mini UHF to male FME adapter was added to my existing female mini UHF aft cabin bulkhead connector. The cradle was “free”. I borrow it from my desktop Wilson booster when I go cruising.
    Works well. I know I am getting a boost since the phone alone is often otherwise unusable below deck.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Joe, but you reminded me of another complication with these boosters, which is all the darn connector types in use. I think I like the FME style Wilson has mostly settled on — the female looking particularly easy to fish through tight places — but notice that they used an N Type connector on the panel antenna. I know the N is better for larger diameter coax cable like LM400 and thus, I guess, the two FME-female-to-N-Female adapters they put in the test box (seen in the SOHO 60 amp photo above).
    Unfortunately the nice coax connector site I found years ago — http://tinyurl.com/panbo-connectors — doesn’t seem to include FME. Anyone know a better place to figure out how to connect miscellaneous cellular doodads together?
    Peter, I agree that a combo cell booster and high power WiFi radio would be nice for a boat but I fear it doesn’t fit well in the other (and larger) markets Wilson works in.

  4. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    A good boating feature to consider, is a switch that would frustrate inbound calls and text messages. Only outbound calls would be boosted. Ideally it would trigger automatically if the boat is underway, so we can concentrate on sailing the boat safe without calls that interrupt.
    I am not suggesting blanket jamming, just a feature that gives boaters that ability to say I must have been out of range, while giving them the freedom to make calls if they desire or an emergency.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Gosh, Dan, I hope you’re kidding?

  6. Bob Austin says:

    I have been using a dual band Wilson amp (no adjustable gain–which is a good feature) for almost 3 years–three antennas–one car, one boat and one RV. I use the small plate antenna in close proximity to my cell phone or MiFi hot spot. I often can get signals where no-one else can. Not much of a problem with feed back, but you have to watch for it.
    You still need good line of site, but it definitely extends the range.
    Definitely worth having aboard! Thanks for testing.

  7. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Yes, I am kidding. While there are times I don’t want to promote / enable telephone conversations on the boat, staying connected is an addiction many people have of recent, and I find my self enabling them so their addiction doesn’t become an impediment to enjoying boating.
    For example I bring my MyFi/hotspot device onto the boat so my racing crew can use their laptops to finish up work while we are motoring out to the race course.
    I can see a need for the Wilson product. MiFi doesn’t work outside of cell range nor does it help folks aboard that have a cellphone.

  8. Skip says:

    You could just turn off your phone. No cost/ no complication solution.

  9. JonM says:

    I have had a Digital Antenna repeater (not sure of model, it’s on the boat) for the six years I have been at a marina with severe cell reception problems.
    The repeater never seemed to do anything, but I finally found a directional antenna and initial tests seem promising.
    Another boat in the marina has done well with a directional antenna and some people sit on his deck when they need to make calls.
    I find that I usually connect to a cell tower on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay rather than two towers that are closer (you can see that in mapping apps before GPS kicks in). Pointing the directional antenna at a closer tower seems to help with signal strength.
    I also note that the NOAA weather and tide station in my marina has a similar directional antenna pointing to a nearby cell tower.

  10. Eric says:

    Ben, the difference between 90db and 65db (in your screenshot) is massive. 65dbm is about .0000000003 watts, 90dbm is about .000000000001 watts – a 300% difference.
    I have just purchased a SOHO 65 for our home out in the boonies and will let you know how it goes. Of course I get to use directional antennas, so I am looking forward to an easy set-up.

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eric! Did you notice Wilson’s “coming soon” AG Pro Quint? Highly adjustable, with a small LCD to see what you’re doing, and supports 700MHz 4G. http://goo.gl/ejkQC Probably overkill for you, but sign of things to come. By the way, I wouldn’t have predicted 4G for midcoast Maine any time soon, but we got it from Verizon a few weeks ago.

  12. Patrick Harman says:

    At Ben’s invitation I did write up my experience with cell phone amplifiers in 2010. It is now three years later and I am still using the same equipment with excellent results. I am not aware of any interference issues. I still attract people using their cell phones on the dock next to my wherever I am moored.
    The single most important benefit is getting Internet access with my iPhone out on the water. The multitude of marine weather information om the WEB far exceeds what NOAA weather radio provides. I consider a cell phone amplifiers near essential equipment on my boat.
    Related issues to cell phone amplifiers is:
    1) Affordable cell phone access in Canada for Me.
    2) I am still waiting for a long range form of WiFi.
    Patrick Harman
    Oak Harbor, WA

  13. Peter C. says:

    I’m using a Zboost which is not designed for marine use but works for me.
    Right now the antenna is just hoisted up my mast but works great and is just a small one with no ground plane.
    The base unit repeats the cell signal to about 30 -40 feet,so it works all over the boat.
    My marina is tucked into a bay on the north side of a hill on the other side of where the tower is.
    With out the Zboost I usually have no signal.
    Yeah I have seen people wander down to my end of the dock to get a signal..they don’t know they are going thru my booster.
    Zboost is $400 for the basic model I have; I don’t know if that is comparable.

  14. Alan Spicer says:

    Um, WiFi is at 2400 Mhz, or 2.4 Ghz. Cellular 2G, 3G, 4G is at 700 to 1900 Mhz with some 2600 Mhz in Europe. Not very close to what MOST repeaters or amplifiers can do. And then there’s the antenna being able to work on 2400 Mhz band as well.

  15. Alan Spicer says:

    It’s called a power button on a hand phone or smart phone … or put it on vibrate and ignore incoming calls. On your PBX if your boat has one turn down the wheelhouse extensions volume. Other crew members on bigger boats can answer calls and take a message – telling them you are driving the boat.

  16. Bill Lentz says:

    WiFi uses TDD signaling timed signals on the same frequency, where most cellular providers use FDD or sperate UL and DL frequencies the same amplifier is not compatable even if the signals were in the same bands which they are not.
    I’m a so-so fan of the direct connect amplifiers or the newer cradle amplified units but believe that open loop boosting of cellular signals on small fiberglass boats can cause more harm then good.
    Amplifying a poor quality signal from one carriers signal while having a strong signal from the other cell carrier will cause these amplifiers to shut down or provide little usable gain for your device. Not many low end BDAs have the filtering needed to block other carriers unwanted signals.
    At best it’s a crap shoot.
    This can be a real problem in the US PCS cellular bands.
    Now using an outside Omni and low loss cable direct connected to a data modem or MiFi will usually result in stable good results without any chance of oscillation. Just convert or forward your cell number to a VOIP line for the best overall performance when your on the boat.
    Bill Lentz
    Wireless One

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Bill, I just put up a testing entry about the Wilson AG Pro Quint booster and I believe that it can manage multiple bands causing feedback loops on even my 37-foot fiberglass vessel (also without overpowering cell sites). But it’s not inexpensive and it does have to be adjusted when the boat changes location.

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