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Getting a boost

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Consider this: Canadian astronaut Chris
Hadfield was able to exchange tweets recently with Queen Elizabeth II
from the International Space Station, but many Canadian farmers can’t
make a cell phone call from their own farmyard. It doesn’t seem quite
fair, does it?

But according to manufacturers of cell
phone signal boosters, there is something we can do to help improve

that situation. And it doesn’t involve just waiting for telephone
companies to install more cellular towers in rural areas. Using a
cell phone signal booster can, they say, significantly improve your
chances of getting good service from your phone. So in true Grainews
fashion, we decided to put that claim to the test and see for
ourselves.

In the May 6 print issue of Grainews
(www.agcanada.com/issue)
you can find the lowdown on our test of a Wilson Electronics “Sleek”
model cellular signal booster kit installed in a pickup truck. But
here’s a little bit of behind-the-scenes information on how that came
about.

Early this spring I contacted Wilson
Electronics of Utah to ask them about the boosters they market. It
turns out that company is the dominant manufacturer of these systems
in North America. For anyone who was around during the CB radio craze

of the 1970s, you probably remember them as a major manufacturer of
CB radio antennas. And they are still involved in that, too.

When I spoke with Blake Seese at
Wilson, he explained that cell phones must not only receive a signal
from a tower they must transmit one back, and the booster is designed
to increase the strength of both. When he offered to send us a couple
of systems to try for ourselves, we were pleased to have an
opportunity put them to the test.

Wilson sent us a Sleek system designed
to mount in a vehicle, or any other farm machine, along with a
conversion kit that will allow it to be mounted inside a building.
The company also sent us a DB Pro kit which is ideal for installation
on something like a metal-clad farm workshop. Watch for our report on
that one in Grainews later this summer.

But to kick things off we started with
a look at the Sleek. Installing it is simple, and it doesn’t require
any tools. For a closer look at the installation process check out
the video under the E-Quip TV heading that will be up on the Grainews
website within the next couple of days at www.grainews.ca/videos.

It was easy to measure the impact the
Sleek had on our android-based cell phone by using the phone’s own
signal strength indicator. It provides a numeric readout on the
strength of signal the phone receives. After installing the kit and
putting the phone in it (the phone must be placed in the Sleek’s
cradle to get a boosted signal), we drove the truck to several
different locations to see what kind of difference it made.

Thumbnail image for P4010007.JPG

To get a boosted signal, the cell
phone must be placed in the Sleek’s cradle, which we mounted on the
truck’s dash

In places where we knew the unaided
cell phone had hit-and-miss reception, the Sleek improved that
significantly. Boosted calls made from those locations were clear
and weren’t dropped. To really challenge the Sleek we parked the
truck at the bottom of the Pipestone valley where we previously
couldn’t get any reception at all. Using the booster, the phone
registered three bars of signal strength and we had pretty good
service. That test result impressed me.

So overall we saw a marked improvement
using Wilson’s booster. The Sleek is available from a variety of
retailers in Canada. Futureshop.ca had one listed for about $100 last
time I checked.

Have you tried a booster? Did you get
the same results we did? Let us know.

Scott

About the author

Contributor

Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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