Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Model: ACE 29.2
weBoost Wilson 4G-X RV Cell Phone Booster
We have an older model weBoost, 4G cradle cellphone signal booster. It is powered by the 12v cigarette lighter outlet and the antenna cable runs to the car rooftop where the antenna stays put thanks to a very strong magnetic base. The antenna is about 4" tall. We got our current one a couple of years ago as an upgrade to the 3G version, which they (weBoost / Wilson) still sell. We used it with our travel trailer, but since we bought a Thor ACE 29.2 last fall, we've decided the cradle model just wasn't powerful enough, so we recently purchased a 4G-X RV booster and installed it today. We still have the cradle version and will install it in our "toad" so we get some benefit while roaming away from our RV going to town center, shopping, etc. And it's still good at home for around town since our Verizon signal can be spotty depending on where we are.
The 4G-X RV installation was not entirely "stock" since we wanted to run the wire from the outside antenna at the rear of the MH, forward to the compartment just behind the passenger's seat, but not too close since weBoost is quite clear that you shouldn't install an antenna nearer than 18" to someone's head. The outside antenna wire which comes with the kit is only 20 ft. long and was going to be about 5 ft. short, so we bought the 30 ft. Wilson ultra-low loss coax cable, and that worked with about 2 ft. to spare. They told us we needed a couple of adapters for both ends of the cable because both the low-loss cable and the connectors on it are much larger than the connectors on the amplifier or the outside antenna.
Before permanent installation, we took their advice and temporarily installed the system by bolting the outside antenna to the top of the rear ladder so it sticks up about as high as the air conditioner and has good, 360 degree coverage. We then ran the cable through the open door and attached it to the amplifier. Using 110v AC power supply and plugging in the amp allowed us to run a "before" and "after" comparison. At $650, if it didn't work, it was going back. Here are the results.
Instead of relying on "bars", we wanted to get the actual reading in decibels. Our Android phone (Samsung, Note 8) was used in the tests, so we went to Settings, Connections, Mobile Networks. I turned off wi-fi so the house router wasn't picked up and we rarely pickup up our neighbors WiFi because we live in the rural part of town, which for this test, was useful.
The readings are given in negative numbers, with the higher the number, the worse the signal.
Inside the house without any amplifiers turned on, the phone read -108db, which means essentially no signal at all. Outside the house, the signal jumped to -102db, a small improvement. Next I pulled the car with the cradle amplifier alongside the MH so that their antennas were more or less "parallel", though a good 20 ft. apart. Since I know where the Verizon cell tower is, this meant that both antennas had "equal access" though the MH is a good 6-7 ft. higher off the ground than the car.
Inside the car, without the amplifier on, the reading was the same as outside, i.e. about -102db. The new 4G-X RV signal booster was off at this point. Turning on the cradle amplifier, the cell signal jumped to -93db, a measurable gain. Not great, but most likely usable. The phone showed the 4G symbol as active, though I didn't try it. Turning the cradle amp back off, caused the signal to revert to -102db.
Next I went inside the MH without the new amplifier turned on and got a reading of -101db.
Then I turned on the new 4G-X RV amplifier, and the cell signal immediately went to -73db! That's a huge gain, and we know from experience that if we have anything in that range, we almost always have a good, fast internet connection, which is what we need since our use of the MH is for business. We travel to trade shows all over the country, buying for our small health food grocery stores, and we do a lot of work in RV parks while we're at the shows. Now, with the new MH, my wife can do the work while I'm driving (or vice versa) and when we get home, it's all done. Formerly, with the travel trailer, she had to sit still for 12-16 hours and that drove her crazy. Sure, she could have pulled out a laptop and worked, but it's nothing like the pleasure we have now belted into the kitchen table with two monitors and 4 browser windows running simultaneously.
Not too surprisingly, I went ahead and installed the new amplifier permanently, which was easy to do since weBoost includes all the parts, even the key hole drill bit with the right size bit for the outside cable connectors. I was very impressed. Of course, they forgot to include the larger plastic waterproof housing for going through the side wall of the MH. The included one is for the 20 ft. (smaller diameter) cable which comes with the kit. Fortunately, I have air tools and a slim grinder so I was able to enlarge the opening for the larger cable diameter and it works OK. They also suggest that the cable can come in through a previous opening, or through the rubber flaps on the side. I chose the "hole in the wall" option because I wanted to have the amplifier on the side away from the slide.
I chose to run the exterior cable on the rooftop all the way forward from the rear antenna to a point just forward of the front edge of the awning fabric, then down between the fabric and the awning arm, in a "loop" so water drips off the bottom, and back up through the hole I drilled in the side wall and into the cabinet. It's a good thing I didn't drill too high on the wall as there is an aluminum support running the length of the coach. If you install using this method, be sure to figure out where the upper supports are before you drill any holes and drill below them.
weBoost provided small, plastic squares with very strong adhesive and cable ties to keep the cable in place. I was able to place the ties about every 3 ft. on the roof and then, just for more security and so the cable didn't whip in the wind and make noise, I seated the entire length in Dicor lap sealant. That's the stickiest darn stuff and I'm glad I wore disposable gloves to do it.
Inside the MH, I installed the amplifier on the rear wall in the cabinet and found 12v, constant power from the light fixture over the couch, which is directly attached to the bottom of the cabinet. I had to drill a hole to find the wires, and here, the key hole saw weBoost sent provide useful again. I took the light fixture off to find the wire position, then drilled a pilot hole up through the opening into the cabinet. This allowed me to drill down inside the cabinet with the keyhole saw in the correct place. The light fixture gets power from two wires with wire nuts, so I attached the 12v to 5v power supply which weBoost included. There are 2 black wires, but one has a red band on it. That's negative and should be attached to the "black" power wire. The other wire on the power supply, which is also black, attaches to the MH positive white wire. I guessed that's what they wanted me to do as there were no instructions and it seems to have worked without blowing anything up. As a bonus, the light still works as well. The amplifier power input is on the bottom edge of the unit, and the amp fits snugly into a plastic housing which is screwed to the rear wall of the cabinet (note, no screws provided, so I used two #6, 3/8" SS, pan heads which worked fine). Since the amp is firmly attached, it is easy to feed the power plug into the unit one handed. This means the unit can easily be turned off for extended periods of non-use and just as easily turned back on by simply plugging it in, no switch required. Also, the 12v power supply is "fused", with a replaceable fuse.
The 4G-X RV model uses an internal antenna. It attaches to the top of the amplifier by an 11 ft., thin coax cable. I coiled the cable up and let it live inside the cabinet, but it can easily be brought out through the crack between the cabinet door and the frame so it can be positioned just about anywhere in the forward half of the MH. This is important for us as weBoost says that when the cell signal declines because we're in a really remote area and there simply isn't a very good signal to amplify, we may have to move our phone closer to the inside antenna. However, since the antenna is on a long wire, we can easily move it to wherever we need it, and here I should note that we use our phone as a "hot spot" rather than using the less secure WiFi in RV parks, Wal-Mart parking lots, etc. Inside the MH we use Bluetooth to attach computers and tablets to the phone as needed. My wife wondered if we could just leave the inside antenna in the cabinet with the doors closed, but a test quickly showed that we dropped from -74db to -82db so I think it's going to live outside while in use.
I've attached some photos showing the exterior antenna on the ladder, the layout and run of the cable which I sent up the middle of the MH to try to take up some of the slack since the 30 ft. cable was a few feet too long, the entrance into the MH under the awning, and the interior mounting inside the cabinet. Someday, when I have an open can of foam insulation, I'll squirt a little into the hole in the wall to stop any air leaks, but I hate to open and waste an entire can for one little squirt.
Overall the installation was easy and well thought out by weBoost. The unit certainly seems to work better than the cradle unit we had, but we won't know for sure just how well, till we're rolling down the road or at a RV park somewhere.