WeBost Cell Signal Booster Test


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Sometime back we bought a WeBost Cell Signal Booster and tested it carefully on the boat.  We tried putting the phones in a low corner of the engine room to degrade the signal as much as possible and then tested the cell booster off and on. The signal booster made absolutely no difference across a wide variety of tests.

The system appeared to be very close to useless, but since we spent just over $550 on it, we didn’t want to condemn it. But we also didn’t want to fool ourselves and become convinced it was helping if it wasn’t.  We figured the poor results were possibly due to testing it in a fairly high signal-strength area, so we decided we would test it again in a rural area where the signal strength was poor.

Today we ran the second test, at a poorly-connected location. Here, depending upon which way the wind blows, we have to move the cell connection to the end of the boat closest to the cell tower. The obstruction of the boat itself is enough to prevent the signal from getting through, so it’s a perfect location to test the cell booster.


Click image for a larger view

Again it completely made no difference. We tried the booster off and on where the phone was connected and watched the cell connection signal quality measured in DB and saw no difference on repeated tests.  Then we moved to a location where the cell device is just barely connected and tried the booster off and on. Again no difference. As a final test, we moved the cellular device to a location where it could not connect and tried the booster off and on and it made no difference.


Click image for a larger view

All tests were done with the outside antenna up above our flybridge bimini and the indoor transmitter in the same room as the phone.  The WeBoost was always showing steady green, signaling that it’s on and operating properly. There are no other supported configuration options on the WeBoost, so our conclusion is that the device simply doesn’t work.

Given that this cell signal booster is the Amazon #1 Best Seller and is 4-star rated, we found our results surprising. But, it was a very extensive set of tests done in two different locations. The device is fairly expensive at $550, so we’re disappointed with the results. The WeBoost doesn’t deliver any measurable difference in signal strength or ability to connect in difficult to connect locations.

Update 2020/04/20: Blog reader Chasm points out the issue is likely the device is only capable of handling North American cellular frequencies.


 

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25 comments on “WeBost Cell Signal Booster Test
  1. Doug Bakker says:

    I am a certified weboost installer. Depending on model you have, most often if the antenna and sending unit are too close it will not work. What model do you have? Love your Blog and your Youtube channel.

    • Thanks for the feedback on mvdirona.com and youtube.com/mvdirona. The WeBoost is a weBoost Drive 4G-X RV (470410) Cell Phone Signal Booster (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N705CF3). We had the antenna outside about 25′ above the water and 10′ to 12′ away from the inside antenna. It seems like the test configuration is within the WeBoost requirements. We are currently in Scotland. I suspect the problem is the frequencies used by EE and Vodafone in the UK are not compatible with those supported by WeBoost.

  2. For what it’s worth, on our boat we’ve been using a WirEng GigaMIMO 5G (https://www.wireng.com/gigamimo/), and have pretty great demonstrable results on how much it improves connectivity — both in terms of bandwidth improvement in higher-signal areas, as well as ability to produce usable signal when the phone is otherwise completely signal-less. We use that antenna with 2 lines plugged directly into a 2×2 MIMO router (Cradlepoint IBR1700 right now, but also used it on a MOFI4500 to same effect), and swap between the two SIMs we have (currently Verizon and AT&T, but we’ve used it with Google Fi in Canada just as well), and simply use it for data only.

    So, depends what you’re trying to accomplish with the boosting — if it’s internet, then that sort of solution may do well for you (it’s doing amazing for us on the Great Loop in the US now). If you just want phone calls on your phones, I’m not sure how to best use that sort of system + a booster, but we’ve been able to do plenty of Verizon wifi-based calls over the cell antenna when the phone has 0 bars and made and received calls over just data. Again, no clue on how that translates to international plans. :)

  3. Chris J says:

    Hi James,

    I had a question for you on thermal cameras. Seeing as this is the most recent post regarding hardware I figured why not ask on this post. I’m about to do a sizable electronics refit on my 49ft Hampton Pilothouse. I’m setting the boat up for an eventual trip to Alaska and a circumnavigation of Vancouver island. I’m working with the group over at Emerald Harbor Marine and the topic of thermal cameras came up. I’ve identified the Flir M232 as being a decent unit with pan and tilt. It appears that you have a thermal camera. How do you like it? Do you feel it’s worth the added cost? I don’t do a lot of night boating but am planning for early departures. As you know Puget Sound has a ton of dead heads that would be my biggest concern. I look forward to your input.

    Thank you and safe travels.

    Chris
    M/V Brigadoon

    • The team at Emerald Harbor Marine are excellent. They have helped us with two boats over more 20 years and have done good work. On the imaging camera, almost everyone I know that has installed one, just loves it. They demo well in a marina and generally I’ve heard mostly positive remarks. Our experience is less effusive. They don’t help find debris in the water (same temp), don’t have the range of RADAR so are restricted to close quarters operation, and in close quarters we don’t find it game changing. Generally, if it’s night, ours is on but we find we lean on RADAR and visual assisted by lights on the boat ahead of the IR camera. It’s a good backup systems, but not vital. The one mission where it is amazingly good is spotting large bits of ice in the water. Ats spotting bergy bits or bigger the IR camera is super effective.

    • Tim Morris says:

      Excuse me for perhaps hijacking a small corner of your Post for ChrisJ. I have a Flir M232 and have found it a great toy. I do not navigate much at night. Depending on the rest of your Nav setup, it can be hooked up to show and integrate with your Plotters, so the camera can visually track other ships day or night. It’s useful at night in an anchorage also. At the same time, I also added some various other RayCams and 2 x 16” pro plotters plus more. Was it all worth it for my boat use, no. But I wanted it!

      btw James, I installed a RoguePro some years ago. Hopeless!

      • We also have a Flir. WE don’t find it game changing but we do use it at night. We rely more on RADAR and visual than the Flir. We have bright side and forward floods that we an use when moving around in Marinas or very tight quarters at night and find that preferable to the Flir. It doesn’t seem to able to detect debris in the water probabaly because the temperature of the debris is the same as the surrounding water. But, where it really shines is in spotting ice chunks in the water. It’s impressively good at that and perhaps justified for that alone.

        I can’t think of anything we needed to avoid other than ice that we detected first on the Flir

  4. William Domb says:

    Just one other little thought. The cell phone itself needs to be right next to the sensor pad and that away from the main body of the unit. Otherwise, some weird multipath resonances can occur.

    • There is no sensor pad on this design. It’s an outdoor antenna, a control box, and an indoor antenna. They recommend that the phone be 4′ to 6′ away from the indoor antenna. In our test the outdoor antenna is 10′ above the indoor antenna so it’s as far away as reasonable and further away than most installs.

  5. Greg Moore says:

    James-
    This site:

    https://seabits.com/weboost-drive-reach-cellular-amplifier-installation-and-testing/

    has done extensive testing on the the unit MV Freedom is using and its the unit I bought but have yet to install. It probably doesn’t help with the international cell issues but he seems to get it to work well stateside.

    Stay Healthy!

    • Since the system has no way to report errors other than a single blinking light, there really is no way to know why it is producing no result but it fails to do anything. The reason we chose this item is the extensive positive reviews. Although reading through the Amazon reviews more carefully the two most common reviews are 1) 5 stars, I love this thing, and 2) 1 star it doesn’t work. Either WeBoost ships a lot of broken units or they simply don’t work under some conditions.

  6. Alec Peterson says:

    For what it’s worth, we installed one of these on our boat recently. We have this (https://www.weboost.com/products/311155) antenna installed under the head liner in the pilot house. We were socially isolating in the San Juan Islands at anchor last week so we had a good opportunity to test it out.

    In the pilot house (ie, near the interior antenna) it made a noticeable difference, and we confirmed that turning it off vs on. I agree it would be nice if it had more range and I’m still exploring how that might be done.

    • Chasm below did the research and determined the device can only operate on a US cell frequencies. I’m so used to buying US cell phones and using them everywhere in the world that saying they do support US frequencies doesn’t usually imply not supporting any other frequencies. In the cell device world, US phones work well internationally but in the cell booster world, they appear to not work at all out of the US market.

      • Alec Peterson says:

        Fascinating! The most international I’ve ever gotten on my boat is Canada but it seems North America uses the same ones. That’s what I get for being US-centric.

      • Alfred Pike says:

        Strange, a sailing channel I follow on the tube is ” Gone with the Wynn’s “, they on a sail boat and have WeBoost installed and swear by it, ( they are far from USA ) they also use a product called WiFiRanger. James you could have a bad antennae or dead unit. There are also some other good reviews on the WeBoost. Just my thoughts, I have never used this.

        • Alfred Pike says:

          OK, I checked their web page and they use an upgraded internal and upgraded omni external antennae,

          • It may be possible to get the system working with more work but and a different antenna might help although arguably $500 should buy a system that at least functions prior to upgrading the antenna. One of the weak points of the system, is that it has no way to report errors other than a single blinking light. There really is no way to know why it is producing no result. It might be faulty, it might be unable to handle the frequency used at this location, or it might be something else. It’s easy to know it’s producing no results but there is no way to know why.

            The reason we chose this item were the many positive reviews. In subsequently reading through the Amazon reviews more carefully the two most common reviews are 1) 5 stars, I love this thing, and 2) 1 star it doesn’t work at all. Either WeBoost ships a lot of broken units or they simply don’t work under some conditions.

  7. Chasm says:

    MV Freedom is in the US. Other than output power both devices have similar specs.

    Different nations use different GSM/UMTS/LTE frequencies. Carriers then lease slices of that. America and Europe are in different ITU regions which only amplifies the differences. There is very little overlap between them.

    Looking at the Connect 4G specs sheet none of the supported frequency bands are used in Europe. It will work in the Americas and much of the Caribbean.

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LTE_frequency_bands
    the Connect 4G supports bands 2, 4, 5,12/17 and 13.

    • I think you have the issue. All the cellular devices we have are seem to support all international markets and have worked well all over the world but the booster isn’t much use outside of the US. Thanks for giving it some thought. We may keep it and see if it helps at all in the US market when we get back.

  8. T Hale says:

    MV Freedom did buy a different model booster – the Vehicle cell signal booster kit – ‘Drive Reach’.
    Appears to be this model on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/weBoost-Drive-470154-Signal-Booster/dp/B07PDVTMM6/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=vehicle+cell+signal+booster+drive+reach&qid=1587310625&sr=8-5

  9. Andras Bellak says:

    Good Morning From Quarantine…
    Just a thought – I’m pretty much guessing on this as I’ve never seen / used the WeBoost, and I’m also pretty sure that you’ve checked this out – but is that the cable you are running to the antenna on the mast what came with the WeBoost? I don’t know if they come with a cable at all, but my initial thought was that it is most likely the antenna cable run is losing too many db of signal between the antenna and the amp, so you’re basically amplifying no signal. Other options being a bad unit or that it doesn’t like non-US frequencies, though both seem unlikely.

    Stay Safe!

    • The cables I’m using are what is shipped by WeBoost so, presumably, these should produce good results since that’ll be what the vast majority of their customers are using. I agree with you that the cables they shipped don’t appear to be of the highest quality. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. Eric Patterson says:

    Interesting. Another couple who does a YouTube channel “MV Freedom” recently implemented the same product and showed a significant signal boost? Anyway, I was thinking about this and if the booster is simply pulling whatever signal and rebroadcasting it in the area then is it actually boosting it? This would explain their change from 2 bars to a full strength signal. I feel the best you can do is have quality antenna and cable and I suspect a good modem for data situations. For voice a repeater that can use a quality external antenna, rather than relying on your phones internal antenna. Another YouTuber blog is Technomedia who does extensive testing and reviews on Cellular products.

    • Yes, that’s the way it works. The booster just rebroadcasts the signal it receives from the antenna high up on the boat mast. That should work well and all reviews I’ve read are largely positive and some effusively so but, in careful testing, I can’t find any additive over the cellular device unboosted.

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