So how’s your cell-phone reception from the camp site? Do you have four bars? Or did you find the greatest campsite right next to the water, but your phone is relegated to two bars on the edge of the network, or even worse...you get no service!
The crafty Signal Booster from Wilson Electronics promises to increase your cell signal up to 20 times, reduce dropped calls, and increase data communication rates. Although we can’t verify any of those statistics, I can say that it’s pulled some miracles from the front of our bus. For example, parked at the Coon Hollow Long-Term Visitor Area in Southern California, all of our phones registered no service. Linked to the Signal Booster, we had three bars of 3G and although our connection was slow, we were able to make phone calls, send and receive e-mail, and browse the Web.
Wilson has many different kits to meet any need. A quick call to their tech center helped us pick the right one. For our bus, we chose the No. 301127 indoor antenna, No. 301101 outdoor antenna, the standard booster, No. 271201, and a 12-volt DC power supply.
02. The Signal Booster is an easy Saturday install. For those on the road, it can be done at a campground with minimal tools (we only needed four common hand tools). It installs just like a CB or ham radio with one exception—there is an indoor antenna. The Signal Booster is a cellular repeater that takes the communications from the inside antenna, boosts them up, and sends them to the cell tower via the outside antenna, and vice versa.
03. In order to fool your cell phone into communicating with the Signal Booster instead of directly to the cell tower, your phone needs to be within 12 inches of the indoor antenna. Take this into account when choosing your mounting location as we’ve found you’ll spend a lot of time at this spot. These installation guidelines and others are well explained in the instruction manual; the tech support team at Wilson Electronics is very helpful and easy to reach should you get in a pickle during installation.
We mounted our inside antenna on the wall next to our couch so we would have a comfortable place to sit. We’ve found that a Bluetooth headset is a very practical addition to this setup and lets you keep the phone in the necessary range of the booster, especially if you need to mount the booster in an inconvenient location.
04. We mounted our outside antenna, trucker style, on the rear view mirror. This larger outside antenna is a standard CB mount, so there are a lot of mounting choices depending on your rig. If the mount that comes with it doesn’t seem appropriate, a quick stop at a local truck stop’s CB aisle can help you find the correct one. There are also magnetic mount and short flexible antenna for roof top installations on fifth wheelers and trailers available from Wilson, so pick your best fit.
05. Standard antenna mount rules apply: Higher is better.
06. If you are not able to use a pre-existing entry point, be sure to seal your penetration point in your vehicle where you place the antenna cable.
We chose to hard wire the DC power supply into our 12-volt bus bar, thereby eliminating the lighter plug-style switch. If you aren’t comfortable diving into your RV’s nether regions, it can be mounted easily under a chair or in a cabinet and plugged in to the cigarette lighter just as the instructions indicate.
07. For our installation, the most timeconsuming part was routing the wires, but that was to be expected. Once the wires are run, there is no configuration or programming to be done, just turn it on and start talking.
08. Goodbye, dropped calls and no-service warnings. Hello, full bars!