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Long Term Usage Report: WeBoost Cell Signal Booster Greatly Expands my Camping Site Options and Saves the Day on Internet Access

Back in July of 2018, I began using the WeBoost Cell Phone Signal Booster in my Sprinter Van. See that post for why a personal hot spot and internet access is critical to my business operations.

UPDATE: the weBoost Drive Reach (470154) Vehicle Cell Phone Signal Booster is a substantial upgrade over the weBoost Drive 4G-X. Testing is in progress, but I am seeing more than double the upload speed with the 'Reach' vs the 'Drive 4G-X'—WOW! The 'Reach' is also better built with better antenna and easier to connect cables and heat fins for the main unit, so I expect excellent longevity.

Poor cell signal in your home or office? Check out weBoost Home Booster.

Original post...

weBoost Drive 4G-X 470510 Cell Phone Signal Booster

After 18 months of usage, I can now report exactly as to its value: worth every penny!

Background

I travel for photography in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van often in remote areas where cell phone coverage ranges from excellent to barely there to not at all. My #1 issue when traveling is the availability of a good cell signal.

I frequently upload 100MB to 500MB (half a gigabyte) to my server at a time, for my photography publications and photo blog and cycling blog, with many high-res images. But it’s not just about lots of data—even email can take half an hour with a weak cell signal because it is very “chatty” back and forth with high latency so that even a 64K email can take 30 seconds when the signal is just usable.

I hugely prefer locations where I have peace and solitude free of the noises and campfire smoke and idling engines of other people (I never stay in campgrounds for that reason). But I also need a cell signal or I am forced to make as much as an hour round-trip to get one to check on business. So it’s a Big Deal if I can get a usable signal versus not.

View external SSDs excellent for travel.

Experience

See the tests I did back in 2018 in my original report on the WeBoost Cell Phone Signal Booster to get a sense of the improvement possible. The numbers don’t tell it all however.

Many desirable locations have signals that are so poor that a reliable phone call cannot be made and/or with the phone sometimes losing the signal entirely. I am writing this blog post in such a location, shown below.

Without the booster in this location, I get No Signal inside the van, and even climbing up another 100' on a nearby hill the signal is not usable and phone calls drop. This would rule out one of the best locations I have ever found for complete peace and privacy, a good thing when recovering from COVID-19—peace and quiet and rest to boost the immune system. The 100°F heat in the valley would be very stressful nor is noise acceptable.

So in this location, the WeBoost cell phone signal booster totally saves the day! While speed with this weak signal is only a few hundred KB/sec, that is perfectly usable even for large uploads—and even Netflix at low-res streams just fine. All that vs unusable.

Summing up, the value of the cell phone booster for me has proven out not to be so much as increasing data transfer speed (which it does well), but about turning unusable locations into usable ones.

Self isolation high above the Owens Valley with weak/intermittent cell signal
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 64; 2020-04-25 19:10:26
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0mm f/1.8 ENV: altitude 6982 ft / 2128 m

[low-res image for bot]

Notes on roof height and external antenna

My Mercedes Sprinter is 9.5 feet high and the external antenna at top rear gets it up and out of the van, avoiding any blockage from the metal carapace of the van. While the extra height might help in some situations, I deem this of little significance in most cases. I expect that an SUV with a 6-foot-high roof should see be little difference, though there may be situations where large rocks and such matter such that the height is a variable.

The main thing is the external antenna. Driving sometimes in tight quarters, it is critical that the antenna be able to be pushed out of the way should I miscalculate. I am happy to report that this is exactly what happens; it just ends up on the rear of the van with no harm done.

Sprinter in National Forest, Mt Whitney Foothiills
f13 @ 1/40 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2020-04-18 18:03:26
Fujifilm GFX100 + Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5 R LM WR @ 40mm equiv (50mm)
ENV: Whitney foothhills road 100S103A, altitude 6430 ft / 1960 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected, push 0.55 stops, +100 Shadows, -90 Highlights, +56 Whites, +10 Dehaze, +20 Clarity, USM {8,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]
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