It is a delight to venture into the mountains far from ‘civilisation’; when we do however we don’t have to forego the opportunity of all contact. A carefully chosen antenna system will draw in mobile phone and internet connectivity to quite surprisingly remote places.
Note: You need less signal to send an SMS than a voice call: This may get a message out when other means will not. See also: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/emergency-dial-112/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/emergency-cb-radios/
We have two antennae conjoined (with a balanced splitter/joiner) 6.5 Db fibreglass antennae such as these (https://telcoantennas.com.au/site/rfi-cdq2195-quick-removable-65dbi-bullbar-antenna) Joining two together like this increases the gain by about 3 Db (so to approx 9.5 Db). You should remember that each 3Db equals approximately a doubling of the signal, so that this arrangements represents an over eightfold increase in signal strength. We chose these antennae as they are the highest which will allow the vehicle into the garage without damaging them – else we would have chosen two 7.5 Db = 10.5 Db total. However, we CAN stow two 9 Db antennae (like these: (https://telcoantennas.com.au/site/rfi-cdq2199-quick-removable-9dbi-bullbar-antenna) under the tray, giving us 12 Db when we attach them (or four doublings ie sixteen times the signal strength!)
It is important the antennae are connected to the splitter thence to the phone with the shortest possible and best co-axial cable. Antennae usually come with 5 metres of RG58U cable which loses .79 Db per metre, a total of 3.95 Db. If you can shorten this to 2.5 metres (you can!) of 1250 coax with a loss of .0675 Db/metre, you can reduce this loss to .16875 Db, or an effective gain of 3.78 Db (more than a doubling of the signal strength which you are likely losing right now!). (See https://telcoantennas.com.au/site/guide-antenna-cables-connectors
& http://www.comnet.com.au/epages/shop.sf/en_AU/?ObjectPath=/Shops/comnet/Categories/Cables/Cables_with_connectors/1250_Ultra_Low_Loss_Antenna_Cables) Cable is very important: you can easily lose 1/2 or 3/4 of your signal!
A patch lead which connects physically to your phone through one of the small connectors on the back (of all Samsung phones anyway if you take the cover off) will mean that you get ALL of this signal. It IS difficult to plug in though, easily broken and CAN damage the phone. Instead, for a loss of only .6Db you can connect with one of these passive pads (http://www.comnet.com.au/epages/shop.sf/en_AU/?ObjectPath=/Shops/comnet/Products/CK589-AMD) which will hold any phone securely. There is a model which powers/charges the phone as you go along too. I am informed that this is a better, more expensive cradle: http://www.bury.com/cms/us/products/kategorie/add-on-units-s-9-2/produkt/bury-activecradle-universal-new-3.html
You can buy these Universal Antenna Patch Lead Phone Cradle Mount Holders more cheaply eg on Ebay for A$40. NB You will now need a 4GLTE or etc antenna as the network has been upgraded.
Great Little Booster Kit: This magnetic antenna + phone booster plus indoor antenna may be a solution for you too. Telsrtra sells legal ones for nearly ten times more. Ebay Version at approx A$120 inc antennae (indoor and outdoor). That’s it on the right hand side with its 3 Db antenna. . To the left is a 7Db antenna from Jaycar for about A$40. That will get you about twice the signal strength. My own testing indicates this unit performs as well as the $800+ Telstra one.
NB If you want to connect one of the above Cradle Mounts to the Booster Kit you will need a SMA Male to FME Female Adaptor Convertor Connector available from Ebay for $5. It will provide superior Db strength – about 10 on the signal strength meter Network Cell Info Lite App recommended below.
If you need even more gain, you can purchase a 16 Db ‘Yagi’ antennae (like a television antenna https://telcoantennas.com.au/site/rfi-16dbi-yagi-directional-antenna#) which you can mount on a telescopic pole. This would be a good antenna to use at home if you are in a very poor reception area. If you get the antenna say 3 metres above ground you will effectively get another 3 Db, so approx 19 Db of gain (ie over 6 doublings – or 64 TIMES the original signal strength!) Of course you can only use the Yagi setup when you are stationery; it will also take a while to FIND the signal if there IS one.
There IS a signal strength metre on your phone – apart from the signal strength display on the front. (https://telcoantennas.com.au/site/phone-engineering-menu) Network Cell Info Lite is an excellent signal strength App you can download. The Yagi/pole combo would be a great option though if you were camping in a very fringe area. Obviously continuing to get your mobile services (phone/internet) in fringe areas is much cheaper than accessing the same via a satellite phone – though I would recommend that anyone traveling in remote areas purchase one – or at least a satellite messenger.
NB1: This Spiderbeam 7 metre telescopic pole would make a great temporary antenna if you need to access a weak signal on your travels. That extra height will equate to even more gain.
NB2: Telco have updated their outdoors antennae choices as the introduction of new phone technology dictates. See: https://www.telcoantennas.com.au/antennas/home-office/outdoor/
NB3: It is HIGHLY illegal to use an electronic booster (without a licence) – there is a huge fine for so doing – but a booster won’t get you more gain than this by itself – though it would if you boosted through the array. A booster will knock everyone else off the Network though, and may even lead to someone’s death in an emergency situation – why it IS highly illegal. You CAN buy one here, if you dare (http://www.quantel.co.nz/). If used ONLY in an emergency situation, it may be justified, but a satellite phone would be a better insurance policy – but see below.
At home you CAN get a booster licence (we have one) if you are in a poor signal area https://telcoantennas.com.au/site/catalog/home-office/repeater-kits This has been a real boon to us, but obviously only works inside the house.
Update: As of 1 May Telstra are offering fixed and mobile boosters (for vehicles, caravans etc) which are legal: https://exchange.telstra.com.au/new-telstra-go-repeaters-bring-mobile-coverage-to-more-places/ These also operate on their new 4GX/LTE system. (of course they are now rolling out 5g but it will not be available in remote areas because of the close proximity if towers needed!)
Telstra’s 700 Mhz Band 28 is the best available by a long shot at the moment for long-distance 4G and internet communications. Make sure your phone and antennae are optimised for it.
Telco have this special telescopic antenna kit for caravanners: https://www.telcoantennas.com.au/remote-data-setup-for-caravans-campers-trailers-mi
You might also find this post interesting: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/mobile-phones-apps-for-bushwalking/
First Published: May 28, 2015
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