We enjoy remote camping and exploring the back roads but also have the need to stay connected. For this reason, we purchased and installed a mobile signal booster in our RV. We decided to go with the weBoost Drive 4G-X mobile booster primarily because it claims to be the most effective in remote areas. I was a little skeptical about their claims so I took it on the road and put it to the test.
Reasons to stay connected
Safety: Having the ability to call for help, contact family, or have someone contact you in the event of an emergency or crisis.
Work Remotely: Many RVers these days earn a living working on the road.
Spotty or Poor WiFi: WiFi service in parks is often poor and unreliable. We rely on our 4G LTE as our primary source of Internet.
weBoost Drive 4G-X 4G Mobile Signal Booster
The Drive 4G-X comes with the booster (solid metal and well built), an external omnidirectional antenna, and internal antenna.
Wilson Electronics Dt Panel Antenna Upgrade (304447)
weBoost support told me that this antenna would be a worthwhile upgrade from the included internal antenna should you find the internal range to be insufficient for your use. I haven't tried it out yet, but I will update this description when I do.
Registering the Booster Before Use
First I had to register the signal booster with my mobile provider which in my case is Verizon. You must do this in order for your booster to work.
Verizon gives you the option to register the signal booster online instead of having to call customer support. I simply signed into my Verizon account and went to the section to Register Signal Booster. After entering some basic information (booster make/model, serial number, FCC ID) my booster was registered and ready for use.
I found the registration process to be very painless for Verizon. I've also heard that the same is true for AT&T.
What Is Included
The Drive 4G-X has three basic components:
The Booster and Power cord
External Omni-Directional Antenna
The booster unit is made of metal and is very sturdy. It will get a little warm while in use but not hot. There are status lights on it for each signal band that it is boosting. The lights turn red if the signal band is out of range and green if it is boosting.
The external antenna that comes with it is a small omni-directional antenna that will attach magnetically to a metal surface (like the roof of your car).
Note: It will not work properly without being attached to a metal surface.
Our RV has a rubber roof so I installed a small steel plate on the roof and attached the antenna to it.
The internal antenna can support up to four mobile devices. Place it as close as possible to your mobile devices in order to get the maximum signal boost possible. The maximum range is five feet, but I got the best results when within 12 inches of the antenna. Refer to the video for installation tips and options.
If you find range of the internal antenna to be insufficient, you might consider upgrading to the 304447 Flat Mount Antenna sold by weBoost.
Testing the Booster
I performed numerous tests especially in areas where signal strength was poor or non-existent. I switched my smartphone to read dBm (Decibels referenced to 1 milliwatt) during my tests so that I could get a true indication of signal strength instead of just signal bars.
I was pretty happy with the results. In fact on a recent road trip around the Southwest, we were able to stay connected in some pretty remote areas. In areas where there was already a moderate 4G signal, I was able to boost the signal all the way up to full bars.
What is a good 4G signal?
The closer the dBm value is to 0, the stronger the signal. Here is a guide:
-100 dbm or less = Unacceptable coverage
-99 dbm to –90 dbm = Weak Coverage
-89 dbm to –70 dbm = Medium to High Coverage
-69 dbm or greater = Strong Coverage
TIP: Check the mobile 4G coverage at your camping destination before you leave
This is a great app I use to look up the 4G coverage in an area by mobile provider and network type (3G, 4G, etc.). You can also test your current signal strength, locate cell towers and the nearest WiFi. The coverage map can also be browsed on the Open Signal website. Download it and try it out. It's free!
Signal Booster Test Results
Here are some results from a few of my tests.
At my home
Without Booster: -113 dBm
With Booster: -76 to -60 dBm
In the California desert
Without Booster: No signal
With Booster: -79 dBm
Campground near Zion National Park
Without Booster: No signal
With Booster: -94 dBm
In Zion National Park near Visitors Center
Without Booster: -98 dBm (2 bars)
With Booster: -74 dBm (full bars)
Overall I was able to get around 40 dBm of boosted 4G LTE even in some areas where I and "no service" initially. In a couple instances, I was able get up to the advertised 50 dBm of signal boost, but usually it was closer to 40 dBm.