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How to improve cell phone reception

Lets face it. Cell phone reception in most rural areas just isn’t very good. Standing in a farm field trying to complete a call with one bar or less of signal strength means you need to talk fast and hope the call doesn’t get dropped. But there is a way to improve that situation. Retailers marketing cell phone signal boosters claim those systems can help keep you in touch with the world by greatly improving the strength of signals received and transmitted back to a tower.

Installing the booster

To start the process we selected a spot on the truck’s dash for the mounting base, which has an adhesive backing. After cleaning the dash surface, all you have to do is stick the mount in place and let the adhesive set up for 24 hours.

Next, place the antenna on the cab roof. It has a magnetic base, so no holes to drill here either. Just set it where you want it. The antenna cable is designed to simply run under the door weatherstripping and down into the cab. Again, without drilling any holes. We ran the line under the floor mat and used a couple of zip ties to keep it secured up under the dash.

Plug the antenna lead into the booster and the power supply cable into the truck’s power port on the dash and that’s it; done. It was all finished in barely 15 min- utes. The Sleek also has a USB out- let so you can charge your phone while its in the booster cradle.

So, installation is a piece of cake, but how does it perform? 

Booster performance

We found out right from the start if we were going to get a ben- efit from the booster. The location where we worked on the truck, in front of the farm workshop, has hit-and-miss reception when using a phone. Outside the truck, the phone registered one bar on the signal strength indicator, and some- times even that disappeared. We then put the phone in the Sleek’s

booster cradle and within a couple of seconds the indicator rose to four full bars and remained there.

Making a call with the phone in the booster was noticeably dif- ferent. The reception was crys- tal clear, much better than when using the unaided phone in that spot. To see if we could get similar results elsewhere, we went around to a few dead spots we knew about.

For more detailed comparison data, we switched to using the cell phone’s numeric signal strength readout feature, not just the visible bars. In one spot with no boost, the phone’s indicator read -111. After putting the phone in the booster cradle in the same loca- tion that dropped to -75 (much better). Anything over -105 is vir- tually no service. -50 is a maxi- mum signal. So the Sleek bumped us up to pretty good service where we had none at all before. The results were similar in all the loca- tions we tested.

However, the cell phone must be left in the booster cradle to get an improved signal. That means you’ll need to use the phone’s “speaker” feature or connect to it with a Bluetooth device. Wilson does make other booster systems that broadcast a signal within the vehicle, allowing you to use a phone in the normal way. But you’ll pay more than twice as much for one of those.

If you want to boost a cell phone signal inside a building, the Sleek kit will work for that application, too. Wilson sells a “Home/office accessory kit” to adapt the Sleek for that use. It includes a suction-cup, window- mount bracket for the antenna, a desktop holder for the booster and a 110 volt power cable.

This option would work well for improving reception in an office located inside a metal-clad farm workshop. Those buildings typi- cally block cell signals completely,

making a phone useless inside them. Once again the cell phone needs to stay in the cradle to work. But if the phone is sitting on a desk it’s even easier to use the “speaker” feature.

It’s also possible to purchase a high-output booster kit that will provide a strong signal anywhere inside a building, so you can walk around and use your cell phone normally. Wilson also sent us their DB Pro system, which can do that, and we’re soon going to install it in a farm workshop to see how it performs. Watch for that in an upcoming Grainews issue.

The Sleek booster kit is available from a variety of Canadian retailers and it can be ordered online from retail sites like www.futureshop.ca.

To get a video look at our instal- lation of the Sleek, watch for a new episode of E-Quip TV coming soon to www.grainews.ca/videos.  

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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