As may be evident by the name of the blog, as well as my username, I live in Alaska. Alaska is a really big state. Alaska also has relatively poor cell phone coverage, in my opinion. Often when driving around, I will loose signal, drop calls, or even have no connectivity, which can be a real problem if there were to be an emergency.

So, I decided to do something about it. I decided to buy a “mobile booster”. Of course, I was really concerned about gimmicky devices that actually wouldn’t help me, and I wanted to make sure that I was buying something worth having, without paying an arm and a leg for it. So, here is what I bought (no paybacks for me if you click on it, just a link showing what I bought) :

Car Mobile Booster 850/1900mhz Cellular Signal Repeater Cell Phone Amplifier For Truck,RV
by Protone Led

Why did I choose this one? Well, there are many types out there, particularly of interest is what bands it supports. This model doesn’t help with LTE bands, but it does help with the 3g bands that are in use in my area. I figure that I need this to make phone calls or send texts, not to surf the web. Aside from that, it had good reviews and seemed to me that people who actually owned it thought that it helped their signal.

Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t give it a good test, of which I did two.

The first test I tried to use it at my home, where there was already fair signal, to see if it would “boost” it up to great signal. I couldn’t tell the difference with the thing on or off. I decided that I needed a better test.

For my second test, I took the unit to my work. At my work is a steel enclosed room, like a Faraday cage, in which I receive almost no cellular signal. As you can see from the screen shots, while in that room, I have -118 dbm of signal. With the booster off, I tried a speed test, but it would not receive a return. I then tried a phone call, which told me I had no available network. Great! Perfect for my test.

Then I set up the booster by placing the receiving antenna outside of the room, with the cord pinched in the door weatherstripping to the inside. I hooked up the unit and broadcasting antenna inside, but didn’t plug it in. I tried several more tests to make sure that the antenna itself was not somehow a “conduit” from which my phone would receive signal. Nothing, still no usable signal.

Then I plugged the unit in.

Immediately my signal strength maxed, and SatStat showed -89 dbm of signal! I then proceeded to make a phone call: success! I was able to connect and talk to the weather station via phone. Great! I decided to get more information by running a speed test. I was able to pull 0.46 Mbps downloads, and 0.02 Mbps uploads. Latency was also pretty high, as the ping took 248 ms to complete the trip. However, compared to 0 connectivity before, I thought that was a bit of an improvement.

I also did several tests based on proximity of my cell phone to the inside repeater antenna. It didn’t seem to matter. I could walk around anywhere in the small room and still have signal. Signal would degrade a bit, however, when I put my cell phone into some of the server racks (that seems reasonable to me, though).

So, overall impression: it really does work! However, it seems best suited for a “near nothing” situation, rather than to boost signal to a decent connection. I guess now I’ll have to try it out on the road.

Linux – keep it simple.

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