Mod #7: Cellular Antenna Signal Booster

Mod #7: Cellular Antenna Signal Booster

Submitted on: 06/11/08

     Category: electrical, featured
Mod Rating: 12345

(39 ratings)

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Mod Description:

Ever had to use your cell phone while camping at a remote state park and you just don’t have enough signal to make the call? Have you tried climbing up on the roof of your RV to see if you could make those little signal bars go up even just one tick to no avail? Tired of driving in to town from the campground just to get a signal? The cellular antenna signal booster mod will let your Verizon crew camp along with you.

Mod Difficulty:

There are several ways you can install a booster antenna depending on whether you want a portable or permanent solution. There are basically three kinds: in-car, home/small office, and RV/trucker. Since we are modding the RV, let’s stick with the purpose-built solution. The RV/trucker booster can be had in a nice kit from Wilson Electronics that will be sure to serve your most demanding needs. Options in the kit include a booster amplifier, antenna, cabling, cell phone/AirCard adapter, and mounting hardware.

A very popular and economical kit is the SIGNALBOOST RV kit from PowerfulSignal. It is a semi-permanent solution that comes with a 3-watt dual-band booster amplifier that plugs in to any 12-volt receptacle. There are a variety of antenna mounting options such as magnetic base mount, glass mount, roof mount, and mirror/ladder mount. The 19″ antenna has a built-in ground plane which allows it to be mounted on any surface material, such as metal, glass, wood, etc. If the antenna doesn’t have this feature, it must be mounted on a metallic surface of a specific size in order for the antenna to work properly. With the mount options and ground plan antenna, you shouldn’t have any issues on where you will put the antenna. Just make sure it is as high on the RV as practical for best signal.

Other goodies in the kit include the universal cell phone adapter and extension cable. The adapter uses a Velcro patch to attach to the back of any cell phone, AirCard, or wireless cellular router, and provides the connection to the booster amplifier, which in turn is connected to the antenna. If you need more cable length, just use the cable extender. This makes the whole setup so simple that most anyone can do it in a very short amount of time.

Tests have shown that signal boost is usually around 2 bars on a cell phone. Using a booster with a 3G AirCard significantly increased throughput by as much as 40% in a low-signal area. When your surfing the ModMyRV ModTalk forums using your AirCard, you can read many more topics since you won’t be waiting around for a page to load! But remember, if there is no cell service in the area, the booster will do nothing for you.

ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:
Wilson Electronics MobilePro Dual Band Wireless Cellular Amplifier Kit with 12-Inch Magnet Mount Antenna

General Reference
Wikipedia Cellular Network Reference Article

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10 Comments For This Mod

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  1. Bob Vaughn

    I have looked at a signal booster antenna but wonder if it would be in danger of being knocked off the roof of an rv . We have been in some parks that the tree limbs are just low enough to destroy this investment…I would like to have one that I could stick on the tow vehicle then move it to the TT when we are parked….

  2. ModMyRV

    You could use a magnetic mount antenna and just swap from the TV to the TT when necessary. Use quick disconnects for the TV and TT wiring connections. You could add a stainless steel plate to the TT roof as well to hold the magnetic antenna base.

  3. tvman44

    A magnet will not stick to stainless steel.

  4. ciirvs

    A magnet MAY stick to stainless depending on the type it is. However, I agree with TVMAN in that you shouldn’t count on it and should verify it before you commit. A painted steel plate would probably provide the magnetic attraction you need. You may also consider putting a thin sheet of plastic between the magnet and the steel plate, since the magnet may scratch the paint.

  5. mr_whit

    Up in the santa cruz mountains, I used the truckers antenna attached to the cargo rail on the top of the coach, ran the wire secured to the ladder (or attach by clamping onto the ladder) and into the rig through the elect cable door, to the wilson amp, to velcro to the phone. Worked great BUT you need to “find” the signal between the trees. On raining days, we raise the antenna up on our flag pole to “find” the signal. If the cell tower is broken down, nothing will help-whit

  6. Alex

    Here is the way I did mine.

    I used a standard NMO mount antenna for my wilson booster. The antenna is only 13″ tall.

    http://www.theantennafarm.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=191_192_201_237&products_id=1001

    1st, I need a piece of scrap steel panel about 18″ X 18″, clean and primed and painted. These antenna need this as a ground plane.

    2nd, mount the NMO mount to the middle of the steel panel,

    3rd, cut a hole that is bigger then the 3/4″ antenna mount, I cut a 1.5″ hold in the roof. it makes fishing cable a lot easier if you can actually move the fish tape / cloth hanger around.

    3rd, position the antenna mount/ground plane to the location of your choice…. highest part of the roof would be good. and fasten it with machine screws. Position the screws close to the edge of the ground plane. I mounted mine directly over the cabinet where the booster is located to reduce the cable run.

    4th. tape the seem with ethernabond tape.

    Works great! I always find a signal, even my virgin mobile mifi gets full signal inside the camper.

    I also has a similar setup for my wifi repeater.

  7. Joe Crash

    I bought the Wilson booster which is portable. I use it in the camper, the office, and other out of the way places. It does a fine job as long as there is a signal to boost. I mounted a metal 3″x5″ flat platform for the magnetic antenna on the docking light of my toyhauler. It boosts the cell phone and the Verizon MiFi broadband connection. We have the ability to have up to 5 computers liked by Wifi to the internet on our own boosted hotspot.

  8. jparker66

    I also use a the Wilson setup like Joe. This strengthens the connectivity, but does not help the internet speed. I am considering mounting a Wilson uni-directional antenna on a painters pole and fasten if to the rear latter. This will allow me to go up as high as the trees allow.

  9. 4rjbrooks

    i went with the newer wilson setup. http://www.wilsonelectronics.com/ProductDetails.aspx?Product=42&title=MobilePro%C2%AE+(801240)&Category=6# I got the unit 801241 it has a 12″ antenna. I have tested this in my office, and my signal strength went from 84% to 96% inside my office building. i’m hopeful that it will work this well when boondocking this summer. I just have to put some metal on my TT to mount the magnet mount antenna now.

  10. kfecher

    Remember, there is a standard separation required of the two antennas. If you don’t you will get oscillation between the two, thus diminishing your results. Most, like the Wilson, suggest at least 15 foot high for the outside antenna and 10 feet horizontal for the interior with a structure in between.

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