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Old 08-30-2015, 12:32 AM   #1
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4G LTE Signal Booster

I just bought a new 2015 GMC Sierra that has a built in 4G LTE Wifi hotspot. I'm able to get a much better data signal by connecting my iPhone through the vehicle's Wifi hotspot than I can by using my smartphone without it. For example, we are camping this weekend at a remote location and my iPhone won't pick up a data signal, but if I connect through my vehicle's Wifi hotspot, I can get a signal without a problem. I'm guessing it's because the truck's antenna is much better than my iPhone's. I work from home and need a reliable internet data connection while camping. My new truck with the 4G LTE Wifi hotspot option through OnStar seems to do a a better job of getting a signal than my stand alone iPhone. However, my OnStar free trial period is almost up and I want to know if I should pay to renew the OnStar service, or if there is a better way to get a signal through a permanently attached antenna/amplifier to my RV that can use my existing Sprint data service. I am grandfathered in to an unlimited data service with Sprint and I don't want to give it up to start paying an additional fee for OnStar data through my truck's Wifi if there is a better way to get a signal through an RV antenna. In other words, is there a way to increase the data strength from the cell tower for my cell phone data other than renewing through OnStar? Thanks in advance for any advice. FlyNavy!!!
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Old 08-30-2015, 02:00 AM   #2
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I'm no expert by any means, but doesn't OnStar use satellite instead of cell phone towers? That might be why it's working where it shouldn't.
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Old 08-30-2015, 08:07 PM   #3
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It is my understanding that OnStar uses cell towers for their 4G LTE network. It uses a satellite for GPS. Antenna on top of the vehicle can send/receive the signal much better because of the size/power of the antenna on the vehicle compared to a cell phone's antenna.
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Old 08-31-2015, 04:55 PM   #4
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You are absolutely correct in your thinking that your vehicle has a much better antenna than the phone which you hold in your hand. That is exactly why it works better.

There are a wide range of stand-alone cell phone coverage extenders available for purchase and a couple of different methods to gain coverage.
Some use an internet connection to "boost" cell coverage. This isn't the kind you need.

Most carriers offer something that works using just the cell signal and boosting it. They are sometimes called cell repeaters. I would guess Sprint has them too. I don't have that company but know both ATT & Verizon do. Keep in mind... coverage extenders fall into the "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" category. Good cell phone extenders are not cheap. Plan on paying $300-$800 for something that actually works.
Don't believe in the $30 dollar miracle stick on antenna gimmick.
Only you can decide if the fee OnStar charges is as economical as the purchase of a good extender.
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Old 08-31-2015, 05:12 PM   #5
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I work fulltime from "home" (home is where you park it). Having solid and reliable internet is a requirement for me. I'm still assembling my kit, but for cellular boosting, here's what I'm planning on installing on top of the camper. Either a weBoost Drive 4G-M (list price $379.99) or Wilson Electronics Mobile 4G (generally discounted to under $330).

I'm not sure which just yet.

As well, if you do enough camping/working- you'll be MUCH happier if you add an actual hotspot to your arsenal. Using tethering/personal hotspot on your phone is nice and works; it's just not the same. ESPECIALLY if you need to talk and use the internet at the same time. I ultimately took conference calls with my wife's phone and tethered through mine before picking up a hotspot. They are cheap to buy and add to most plans.
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Old 09-02-2015, 08:18 PM   #6
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To the OP, the On Star 4G LTE device in your vehicle uses the AT&T wireless network. You said your smartphone uses the Sprint network. While it's possible that the antenna in your vehicle is better than an antenna in your smartphone, I think the primary reason your vehicle works better as a hotspot is because it's connected to a much superior wireless network. Independent testing puts AT&T side by side with Verizon at the top of the national network coverage and speed rankings (Verizon has a slight edge in some areas, AT&T has a slight edge in other areas). Sprint and T-Mobile are a distant third and fourth. The quality of your phone antenna (or antenna booster) won't mean much if it can't locate a decent cell signal.

To those of you interested in opinions on wireless solutions ...

A "stand alone" MiFi/Hotspot device on AT&T or Verizon is definitely the way to go if you're working from your RV and/or using lots of data because the battery life on a MiFi is so much better than trying to use a smartphone as a hotspot for extended periods. Sure, there's a small monthly cost to add an additional device to your plan, but if this is how you earn your living then get the right tools for the job.

If you only need a hotspot on limited occasion then a smartphone on AT&T or Verizon is the way to go. BUT, make sure you clearly understand the limitations you may face if you select Verizon ...

If ependydad is using a Verizon phone then that should explain why he needed to use his wife's phone for conference calls while using his phone as a tether/hotspot. Most Verizon phones do NOT support simultaneous talk and internet on a cellular connection. That also means with most Verizon phones you can't be on a phone call while using apps (search for an address or a restaurant, use the web browser, post to the forum, etc). This limitation is also true for Sprint.

I prefer AT&T because AT&T's devices support simultaneous voice and data, meaning you can use an AT&T smartphone as a hotspot while at the same time make/receive voice calls. With an AT&T smartphone I can talk on the phone while at the same time use Trip Advisor to search for a restaurant, or use Amazon to find the price on an item, or use Maps to search an address for driving directions, or research anything else that I might need to know while talking with someone. You get the idea.

I look forward to reading other opinions on this topic.

Dave
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Old 09-02-2015, 08:28 PM   #7
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We installed an Ellipsis JetPac hot spot in the TT as the hot spot on our phones would not stream Netflicks or our security cams at our home. It is a Verizon device, but I bought it from Walmart. Much better service than our phones.
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Old 09-02-2015, 08:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david-o View Post
To those of you interested in opinions on wireless solutions ...

A "stand alone" MiFi/Hotspot device on AT&T or Verizon is definitely the way to go if you're working from your RV and/or using lots of data because the battery life on a MiFi is so much better than trying to use a smartphone as a hotspot for extended periods. Sure, there's a small monthly cost to add an additional device to your plan, but if this is how you earn your living then get the right tools for the job.

If you only need a hotspot on limited occasion then a smartphone on AT&T or Verizon is the way to go. BUT, make sure you clearly understand the limitations you may face if you select Verizon ...

If ependydad is using a Verizon phone then that should explain why he needed to use his wife's phone for conference calls while using his phone as a tether/hotspot.
I was (and am) on AT&T. While technically true that you can do both- I found that with internet intensive applications running, the phone/service just couldn't do both.

I also have found that the hotspot device provides me a faster Internet experience overall even when I'm not on the phone. But, you're right- if you're an occasional user, there's no real "need" to buy a new device and add it to your monthly bill.
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Old 09-02-2015, 08:59 PM   #9
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Not only is the antenna better, but hand held phones are limited to 0.6 watts, the Onstar system is 3 watts.
I have found the Onstar will get voice and internet in places my phone does not. May not be 4G, might be 3G, but it still works. And I've tried it out in some very out of the way places.
As for price, I pay $15.00 for 1 gb a month, and will only keep activated the months I camp.
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Old 09-02-2015, 09:00 PM   #10
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The Wilson booster repeaters work great. So rather than getting the onstar you could use this with your current sprint plan. I have used one in our trailer in a remote area and it was great. Expensive but a one time cost and in the long run may be cheaper than another subscription.

Wilson Signal Booster 4G Extreme RV Kit
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