Cell phone mast head antennas/amps ??? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 5 Old 05-29-2006 Thread Starter
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Cell phone mast head antennas/amps ???

Any suggestions on what is possible/practical as far as extending cell phone range on a sailboat?

HAVE: GSM phones (cingular/nokia)

GOAL: To sail near coastal and be able to make internet data connection for weather/email.

WONDER: What is the range of optiions and price/performace for each?
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post #2 of 5 Old 05-29-2006
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First you need to determine the Cingular coverage in the area you are going to be in. If they don't have good coverage there, it's a moot point. If the nearest cells are well inland, I doubt a masthead antenna would make much difference.

I'm not positive on this, but I believe there is a problem with the length of the cable run necessary, as well. As far as weather goes, you might do better with XM or Sirus satellite radio weather.

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post #3 of 5 Old 05-30-2006
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While XM is an excellent solution for weather data, it doesn't really do much for your e-mail needs. A masthead cellular antenna and a microcell internal to the boat might solve your problems, but if the cell towers are not near the water, I doubt that it would work.

First, I would recommend that you find out what kind of coverage you have without an amplified microcell site in the areas you normally sail. If you have nothing, then it is very likely that even an amplified micro cell site would be of any use to you.


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post #4 of 5 Old 05-30-2006
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Cell phones are line of site. Raising the antenna would probably help.

Some friends of mine use a Wilson Trucker Cellular Antenna:

with a 3 watt signal booster from JDteck:

for their cabin in the north woods.

It's pretty impressive. From no signal to full bars by plugging it into the antenna jack on the phone.

The thing that you have to realize is that the cell phone signal will not go around the curvature of the earth. If the top of your mast can't see the receiver, no signal. Putting the antenna on the mast would improve distances to about three miles.

By the way this is all hypothetical. You probably should check in with JDteck and Wilson to see if they have something that could suit your needs
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post #5 of 5 Old 05-30-2006
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I have done this ...

This started about 5 years ago and was my first encounter with Jeff Halpurn. He suggested that height may help and he was correct.

Background. In our marina was limited or no reception on my original Nokia handheld. Pager from phone company also did not work. It was suggested I try a bag phone as they are 3 watt. So I "upgraded" from an analog handheld to an analog bag phone (Audiovox PR92 I believe - at a cost of $150 on a plan with "free" upgrades)

The bag phone would work if you held it outside the boat and about 5 feet off deck. Had to be played with to find the right position for the signal strength to be sufficient to place an outgoing call. Worked better at high tide than low. In the Bay while sailing reception was generally good.

The next year I purchased a Shakespeare 4801 marine cell antenna (2 foot). Was $189 CDN and had to be special ordered. Then another $100 worth of cable and fittings were needed. The results was 100% usability of the cell in our marina using the bag phone. As we were weekend livaboards this was very nice. We had the only reliable phone in our marina.

Last year I finally decided that a handheld is more useful in the city and was tired of constantly having the provider switch my phones back and forth. We were now staying in a cottage (a small cottage is as roomy as a 50 foot sailboat!). I upgraded to a Samsung X426 GSM phone which has a diagnostic jack that can be used for an external antenna. Bought the adaptors, etc ...

The external antenna idea worked poorly in the car but was a bit better than the internal phone antenna. On the boat neither the bag phone nor the GSM phone would work (I suspect corrosion somewhere in the cabling). Result was no cell reception on the boat.

The GSM phones work great in areas of GSM coverage but their analog reception is pretty limited. In rural areas with no GSM coverage it seems that the technology has taken a step backwards. I actually sent the first phone back because it dropped calls, etc... I was used to my bag phone!

The simple answer is YES a marine cell antenna at masthead improves reception in marginal areas. Get a 3 watt bag phone and forget the gimmiky handhelds in this case.

One of my projects this year is to remove the marine cell antenna from the forest at mast head. It is no longer used - but was very useful for 3 years. The project was $450 upgrade from handheld to bag phone and antenna - on an account that normally does free upgrades...

I still maintain that the best cell phones are the three watt monsters and that all handhelds are junk - but in the digital world the coverage of analog is going away making the bag phone less and less useful. Also one cell company finally put a tower in our area - hopefully the provider I use will soon follow suit.

That is my rant

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Last edited by mikehoyt; 05-30-2006 at 10:08 AM.
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