The latest weBoost Drive 4G-X RV cell-signal booster keeps RVers connected wherever they roam
Industry surveys consistently show that RVers want to stay connected, and they want the connection to be good. That’s hard to achieve in areas where internet connectivity is poor and cellular signals are sparse. Campgrounds typically offer limited internet service because of local infrastructure, leaving cellular and satellite as the remaining options for connectivity. Satellite is extremely expensive and can be slow, based on speed packages, which leaves the best and most prevalent source of mobile internet the cellular network.
The major carriers continue to improve their cellular systems by upgrading to 4G speeds and adding towers to cover more areas, but in many places where RVers like to travel, the towers can be far apart and blocked by topography.
To counter this dilemma, Wilson Electronics has been manufacturing cellular-signal boosters for years, and its newest offering, the weBoost Drive 4G-X RV, is its most powerful to date, providing up to a 32-times-stronger cellular signal and increasing the reach by a maximum of 50 decibels, according to the company.
We recently installed and tested the system, which is designed for do-it-yourself setup. The unit will accommodate up to four users across all carriers simultaneously, enhancing talk, text and high-speed 4G LTE data, as well as 3G-network signals, as claimed by weBoost. We installed this kit on a Dutchmen Coleman travel trailer, but the installation process is basically the same on any RV.
The packaging is carefully thought out and designed to help guide the installation. Inside the big box are labeled and sealed smaller boxes marked A and B, along with easy-to-follow directions. To install the Drive 4G-X RV, you’ll need a screw gun, drill, 1-inch hole saw, silicone or similar sealer, a set of wrenches and a tape measure. You can get power to the main unit by using the included AC adaptor to plug into an AC outlet (limiting use to when AC power is provided) or using the kit’s DC wire harness. Wiring to a 12-volt DC circuit will require electrical tape and Scotchlok connectors or other DC terminals to make the connections.
The first step is installing the external omnidirectional antenna. This wide-band antenna is a marked improvement over previous versions, which required aiming. The best place on an RV to install the antenna is on the top of the ladder. This is not to say it can’t be installed elsewhere, such as on a side wall or a custom-fabricated bracket of the installer’s choice, but installing it on the ladder with the included hardware is the simplest option.
The next step is drilling a 1-inch hole through the side wall of the RV. Plan this step carefully, avoiding inner-wall structure and making sure both inner and outer holes will be in a good location. In this case, there was an inside cabinet in the upper-rear corner of the trailer, which made it easy to route the cable. Structure in RV walls always runs across the top of the wall, with studs running as frequently as every 16 inches (laminated walls may have far fewer studs, as a rule).
Make certain no wiring or piping interferes with the planned hole location before drilling. This may take some investigation. Tapping and pressing on the wall may be helpful, or using a stud finder (available at most home centers) will do the trick. It’s best to start the hole with a small bit, to make sure there are no obstructions, and then use the hole saw, cutting the inside panel first, followed by locating the pilot hole on the outside and drilling from there. If you have any doubts about where to drill, contact the RV manufacturer for clarification.
The antenna kit comes with a clamshell cover. Once the cable is passed through the hole and run to the antenna, the cable is connected to the antenna, and the cover is positioned over the wire and hole for a test fit, preattaching the screws to the side wall. The cover is then removed, sealer is applied, and the cover is resecured.
The rest of the installation is simple. Run the wiring in an acceptable location to where the base booster unit will be installed, securing it with the included cable mounts and ties. The base unit needs to be in a spot where power is accessible and the antenna cables can reach it. The mount attaches to any surface, and the base unit snaps into it.
The inside antenna is a bottom-weighted, rubber-based tabletop antenna. We drilled a hole in the side of the fireplace cabinet and ran the cable inside the cabinet to the base unit, which was mounted on the wall behind the TV. Again, the base unit can be mounted in a cabinet or any other dry location. The connections were made, and the installation was completed.
While the installation was done in a city environment, cellular service was spotty. In fact, a weBoost signal booster for home and office use had been installed at the location to serve the building. Inside the RV, cellular service had been one to two bars max, but when the new Drive 4G-X RV was turned on, as expected, the signal went to five bars.
The printed and online instructions show how to change the signal-strength meter on Apple and Android phones from bars to decibels to get a truly accurate reading. According to weBoost, a signal increase of just 3 decibels provides two times more power and signal amplification, so even a small increase can be the difference between a good call and a dropped one.
A point worth mentioning is that this is an open signal repeater, so, theoretically, the neighbors or other nearby cellular users could piggyback onto your system. All this means is that they could benefit from the strengthened signal, not that they could use your data or cellular service.
The Drive 4G-X RV comes with a two-year warranty, carries an MSRP of $499.99 and is available through the company’s webstore and on Amazon.
weBoost | 866-294-1660 | www.weboost.com