How to Get Great Cell Phone Coverage in Your RV
Posted on 10/13/2021 by Nicholas Jones
Whether you’re partaking in a cross-country road trip or simply headed to the local campground for some rest and relaxation, you’ve likely faced more than your fair share of cellular connectivity problems in your RV. A strong signal is especially important when you’re on the road, so how does an avid traveler go about improving their coverage?
The first thing to understand is that poor signal in your RV is typically caused by the same two variables that cause poor signal elsewhere:
- You’re too far from a cell tower and your phone doesn’t have a strong connection.
- You’re in range of a cell tower, but obstructions are weakening your signal.
For wayward wanderers, the first problem is bound to happen often. Even the very best cellular provider doesn’t have towers in every corner of the country.
The second problem, however, could be caused by the very thing that lets you travel in comfort and style. The aluminum shielding on your RV is fantastic at protecting you from harsh elements. Unfortunately, it’s equally adept at protecting you from cellular signals. Thankfully, there’s a way to alleviate both of these problems.
Boosting Cell Signal in Your RV
There are plenty of free ways to improve your cell signal when you’re on the road. If you’re a seasoned traveler, you’re probably familiar with doing things such as heading outside to find higher ground or stopping on the side of the road when you lock on to a strong signal.
But when you’re enjoying the great outdoors, the last thing you want to do is grapple with a cellular signal. For this reason, the single best thing you can do to improve your coverage is to install a cellular booster on your RV.
Boosters designed for RVs are versatile. They can be installed on the roof of a Class A motorhome or mounted on top of a popup camper — and everything in between. They’ll work to alleviate connectivity problems by boosting cell signal inside your RV by a factor of 32. That means no more stopping on the side of the road or driving toward the highest peak to find a decent signal.
A Closer Look at RV Cell Signal Boosters
Generally speaking, cell phone boosters are designed to detect and latch on to weak signals and then amplify and redistribute them to a specific area. Models made for RVs differ slightly from those made for residential locations, but the premise is the same. They work by combining three main components:
- A tower antenna mounted on the exterior of the RV
- A signal amplifier
- A device antenna located inside the RV
These three components are connected via a coax cable that runs from the outside antenna to the amplifier and then to the inside antenna. The outside antenna captures overhead cell signal, pushes it through the amplifier, and re-broadcasts it inside your RV. It also does the same in reverse. The inside antenna captures your phone’s signal, amplifies it and beams it back to the cell towers.
In other words, a cell phone booster for your RV can significantly improve your signal in most areas. But they aren’t without limitations.
RV Cell Signal Booster Limitations
It’s important to understand that boosters can’t generate a cell signal out of thin air. They work by capturing and amplifying existing cell signals. Even if the signal is weak, a booster can help amplify it enough to provide good connectivity to your RV. But if there’s no signal at all, there isn’t anything for the booster to capture and amplify.
This can be a source of frustration to some travelers, especially those who like to wander off the beaten path. But it’s important to keep in mind that how well a booster works is correlated to how much signal it can capture overhead.
Likewise, if the signal outside is very weak, the booster may provide enough amplification to let you make a call, but you might have to sit closer to your inside antenna.
That said, boosters can provide enough amplification to alleviate many of the problems travelers experience. For example, in an area where the signal is spotty but not completely unavailable, a booster can provide enough amplification to prevent you from running in circles to talk on the phone.
Picking the Right RV Cell Signal Booster
There are a couple of different RV signal boosters to choose from. The one you’ll want depends on how you’ll be using it. For example, you may be looking to enhance the signal in your camper while you’re at your favorite campground. On the other hand, you might want to improve signal when you’re on the open road in your motorhome.
Directional Antenna Boosters
For those looking for a stronger signal in a handful of locations, a booster with a directional antenna is the best choice. Directional antennas are designed and configured to point directly at the nearest cell tower. Because of this, they offer superior range and throughput. In many cases, they can turn an extremely weak signal into a perfectly usable one.
The downside to using this kind of antenna is that every time you change locations, you’ll need to re-orient your antenna to point it toward the nearest cell tower. It also doesn’t work to boost signals in a moving vehicle. In other words, this setup is better for those who frequent one or two spots where they want to improve their signal.
Omnidirectional Antenna Boosters
On the other hand, if you’re more of a traveler, you may want to consider an omnidirectional antenna. These kinds of antennas don’t need to be pointed toward a specific cell tower. Instead, they capture signals in a 360-degree pattern. And while they don’t have the same range as a directional antenna, they’re much more versatile. You can even use them whether you’re stationary or driving down the road.
When looking at boosters for your RV, you’ll want to take into account specific features the booster offers. For example, some boosters only work with certain carriers. While you may not be planning on switching carriers, a better investment would be to choose a booster that works with any North American carrier. This is also beneficial for those who often have family or friends who tag along on their camping trips — after all, they may not use the same carrier as you.
Other features to look for in a quality booster are things like self-monitoring and gain control. Cheaper boosters simply work in an on-or-off state. A booster with self-monitoring and automatic gain adjustments can continually adjust its signal capturing and amplification to provide the best possible signal.
Tips for Installing an RV Cell Signal Booster
Installing a booster can seem a little daunting at first. But once it’s completed, you’ll enjoy ample signal in all of your excursions and road trips. Here are a few tips to help you get everything set up and working seamlessly.
Mounting Your Antenna
Your outside antenna needs to be mounted vertically, not horizontally or at an angle. It’s often best to mount it on your RV’s ladder or a top vent. Just make sure it’s above the roofline and any nearby obstructions such as your AC unit.
The higher you mount your outside antenna, the better your signal will be inside your RV. But keep in mind height restrictions for vehicles in your state. Every state has its own limits but most fall within 13 and 14 feet.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to mount the antenna on the driver’s side. This makes it less likely for overhanging branches and other obstacles to hit or snag the antenna when you’re driving down the road.
When you’re placing your amplifier, it’s extremely important that you have enough distance between it and both antennas. This helps ensure the booster system can operate at maximum efficiency. If the amplifier is too close to one of the antennas, it causes oscillation — or a feedback loop. This causes the booster to reduce signal amplification or even shut down completely.
Keep in mind, your amplifier also needs access to a 110v or 12v power source. It also needs to be in a spot with adequate ventilation, so be wary of mounting it inside of a pantry, a closet or another enclosed space.
The best way to figure out how and where to mount your booster is to run through a “soft installation” before mounting anything. Connect all of your booster components and plug everything in. Then, run the outside antenna through an open window or door and make sure everything connects and works properly before mounting anything permanently.
Boost Your RV’s Cell Signal With weBoost
At weBoost, we provide a variety of mobile cell signal boosters for your car, truck or RV. But don’t just take our word for it — we’re the official partner of Subaru Motorsports USA.
If you’re looking for a high-quality cell signal booster to improve your cellular connectivity on the road or in your favorite camping spot, look no further. Start shopping today.
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