Get Cell Phone Coverage in Your RV

Nicholas Jones | April 6, 2018

 

We get this question a lot from RV owners. “How can I get cell coverage (or better cell coverage) in my RV?”

The causes of poor cell signal inside an RV are the same as everywhere else. The only two causes are (a) distance from the cell source, which weakens the signal, and (b) obstructions between the cell source and the phone user which also block and weaken the signal.

In an RV, a big part of (b) above is the aluminum skin that covers most RVs. It’s wonderful at protecting the vehicle, and also at blocking cell signals from coming inside the RV.

 

Our Tips for Boosting Cell Reception in an RV

We gave you some suggestions (including some that cost nothing) for overcoming these cell reception challenges in a previous post Tips for Boosting Cell Phone Signal in Your RV. Click that link to read the post.

So here is our best tip if you want improved cell coverage in your RV: Install a cell phone signal booster, because it can boost the cell signal up to 32x in any vehicle, including your RV. There are booster models designed specifically for RVs, whether you have a Class A or Class C motorhome or you tow a fifth-wheel or toy-hauler.

A cell booster is specifically designed to detect and collect weak cell signals from outside the RV, amplify those weak signals and then redistribute the amplified signal inside the RV so your phone can receive them.

The process works the same in reverse order to send signals from your phone back to the cell tower and complete the communications loop. For more on how it works see www.weboost.com/how-it-works.

If you want to see cell boosters for your RV right now, click the red button at bottom of this page. If you want to learn more about RV cell boosters, keep reading.

 

What Can an RV Cell Booster Do?

A cell booster has three basic components – a tower antenna mounted on the RV exterior, a signal amplifier, and a device antenna located inside the RV. They are connected by coax cable.

Boosters work with any North America cell carrier, and any cellular device that operates on those networks. They also allow simultaneous connections from multiple devices. A cell booster is a one-time purchase with no monthly fee.

In addition, weBoost cell signal boosters are self-monitoring. They have an auto-gain-control feature to constantly adjust the booster for peak performance and provide the best signal cell possible as you travel in your RV, whether you’re on the road, in the city or at a campsite.

However, there are a couple of things a cell booster can’t do. First, it can’t create a cell signal out of thin air. Second, it can’t change the laws of physics. People are mostly accepting of the first. They sometimes get pretty annoyed because they don’t understand the second. Let me explain.

Boosters work by detecting and collecting existing cell signal. If your RV is in an area that has absolutely no signal, a cell booster can’t help you get a signal.

This also means the signal coverage area inside an RV depends on the strength of the available cell signal OUTSIDE the RV. If you’re in a weak-signal area, you may have to sit right next to the booster’s device antenna in order to use your phone.

Some people feel a booster system should provide cell coverage throughout the entire interior of their RV, regardless of outside signal strength. But again, a booster can’t rewrite the laws of physics. It can only amplify the signal that’s available. If the available signal is weak, coverage inside the RV will be diminished.

Conversely, if there’s a strong cell signal outside the RV, the cell booster will provide a larger signal coverage area inside the RV.

 

What Kind of Cell Booster Should I Get for My RV?

What kind of booster you need depends on how you will use it. You may need enhanced cell signal only when at a campsite, as you would in a fifth-wheel wheel trailer. Or you may also need better signal while on the road, as with a Class A or Class C motorhome.

If you only need enhanced cell signal when parked, a signal booster with a directional antenna is the best choice. A directional antenna provides greater range from the cell tower than does the other choice, an omni-directional antenna.

As the name suggests, a directional antenna must be pointed directly at the nearest cell tower for best performance. The tradeoff for the directional antenna’s greater range is that each time you park the RV in a new space, you would need to re-orient the antenna to point it at the nearest cell tower. A directional antenna does NOT work to boost cell signal in a moving vehicle.

If you need enhanced cell coverage in your RV while driving, then a cell booster with an omni-directional antenna is the right choice. The omni antenna does not need to be pointed at the tower, because it receives signals in a 360-degree pattern. And that’s what you need for cell coverage when driving. Of course the omni antenna also works when RV is stationary.

 

RV Cell Booster Tips

Mounting the tower antenna on the RV exterior can be the most difficult step of installation. The antenna needs to be mounted vertically, not horizontally nor at an angle.

It’s sometimes easiest to mount the antenna on the RV ladder or on a roof-top vent pipe. Just make sure the entire antenna is above roof line of RV, and above any nearby obstructions like the AC unit.

Typically, the higher the outside antenna is located, the better signal you will receive inside the RV. But be aware of height restrictions on vehicles. Each state sets its own limit, but generally in the western U.S. max vehicle height is 14 feet, and in eastern states it’s 13 feet 6 inches.

It also helps to mount the tower antenna on the driver’s side. Generally the antenna is less likely to hit branches or other overhanging obstacles when on the driver’s side.

This next part is important. Be aware the booster’s tower and device antennas must have sufficient distance between them for the booster system to operate at full power. Less than adequate separation of the two antennas will create oscillation, a feedback loop that forces the booster to compensate by reducing signal amplification, or in a worst case, completely shut down.

If you buy a powerful cell booster for your two-person teardrop trailer, you probably cannot get enough distance between the antennas to allow the booster to operate at full amplification.

The amplifier unit needs adequate ventilation and must be located within reach of a 110v or 12v power source, and within reach of the antenna cables.

Another RV booster installation tip: Do a “soft installation” first. Connect all the booster components using the supplied coax cables. Run the outside antenna cable through an open door or window. Make sure everything connects and is working properly before you attempt a more permanent installation.

One final note: be careful about using the “bars” on your phone to judge how strong the available outside cell signal is, or how much strength improvement you’re getting from your cell booster.

The bars graphic on our phones is unreliable because they’re not subject to any standards. Each device manufacturer can make the bars represent anything they want. A more accurate alternative is to put your phone in Test Mode and then take a signal strength reading.

To see a video on how to do that for iPhones, go to How to Access iPhone Field Test Mode. Click here to see how to access Test Mode on Android devices.

Click here for tips on getting Wifi in your RV!

 

To learn more about cell signal boosters for your RV, click below.