While we'd gotten by without a booster for several months (about 9) traveling all over the East coast to Maine and back, it wasn't without issues. After testing the booster for the last few months, we now know it's something we should have had all along.
What is a booster?
A cellular booster is a fairly straight forward device. It simply takes the cellular signal from outside the RV (any major carrier), passes it through an amplifier, and rebroadcasts it inside the RV. It does this amplified rebroadcasting in both directions. The end result is a much stronger cell signal in both directions. There's a catch, though. A cellular booster only does all of this awesome boosting on a single channel, which means it can degrade your data performance as much as improve it depending on the situation.
When to use (or not use) a booster?
Modern cellular data devices use a technology called MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output). This allows your device (phone, hotspot, etc) to communicate on more than one channel and increase the amount of data that can be sent and received. However, a cell booster only boosts a single channel. Therefore, you should only use a booster when having a single strong channel is better than two weak ones. So, only use a booster when your cellular data setup is under-performing without it. If you're getting great throughput (speedtest.net), a booster will most likely degrade that throughput by killing MIMO.
Only use a booster when your cellular data setup is underperforming without it.
When we get to a new site, the first thing I do is the same thing I outlined in our mobile internet video. I test (using a speed test app) both AT&T and Verizon using our MIMO antenna. If I get less than 5Mbps download, I try them both in different windows (pointing other directions of course). If, I don't get an improvement after that, I set up the booster.
Sometimes when I do the initial test with the MIMO antenna, I get a great test, only to find out later that it has degraded. Perhaps the test got lucky, or maybe weather sent things south. This can be an indication that we're on the fringes of a good coverage area. In that case, I go ahead and set up the booster.
While there are certainly a plethora of ways to install this booster, the basic idea is very simple: Antenna outside mounted to something (PVC pole, RV ladder, etc), cable run to the inside (more on this), which attaches to the booster, then cable to an inside antenna.
Mounting the outside antenna is fairly straight forward and the hardware to mount it to a PVC Pole or RV ladder is included in the kit. We opted to use a section of schedule 40 PVC along with the suction cup mount from TechnoRV. This affords us a lot of flexibility for antenna location and height. You want to have the outside antenna as high as possible to eliminate any signal blocking from nearby RV's, terrain, etc. Additionally, you want as much separation between the outside and inside antenna as possible to avoid feedback loops. We've also seen antennas mounted directly to an RV ladder, or to a pole-mounted to an RV ladder, which are also great options.
The most difficult part of the installation will be running the coax cable from the outside antenna to the booster inside. For us, it's a very simple matter of running into the office over our 3 season garage doors. This works for us even with the patio/ramp closed as the rubber seal is thick enough to go around the cable. For those without such a door, running the cable in through a window might be an option. For a more permanent installation, one can use the included hole saw and cable routing hardware to run the cable in through the side of the rig. This is a good option (maybe the only option) for RVs with no door or window through which to route the cable, or for anyone wanting a more permanent mounting solution.
For the inside components, it's a matter of picking where you want the booster and the inside antenna. The booster comes with a mounting plate, or one could use command strips to mount it to a wall. The inside antenna should be placed three to four inches from your hotspot. If not using a hotspot, try to place the inside antenna as close to where you'll be using it as possible. Note: It is not designed to cover an entire RV.
A Cellular booster is a critical piece of any RVer's mobile arsenal. However, it needs to be employed only when appropriate. Using a cellular booster all the time will degrade performance rather than helping it in many locations.
At the time of this writing (and filming), this booster is the same price everywhere we've looked. We highly recommend buying from TechnoRV. In doing so, you get TechnoRV's spectacular support and will be supporting a US business owned by fellow RVers, Eric and Tammi. They are also the only one's selling the suction cup mount we use.
If you'd like to see the other products we use and recommend, please visit our Amazon Store.