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Install a Cellular Booster: Step 1

Story and photography by Capt. Vincent Daniello

Click to enlargeHaving the external antenna too close to the antenna inside the boat can produce a feedback problem. “And the feedback sends interference to the cell tower,” says Broc Jenkins, technical support manager for Wilson Electronics (www.wilsonelectronics.com). “A poorly designed booster can disrupt a cellular tower.” Wilson’s boosters detect feedback and stop boosting.

With the 60-dB gain capability of our booster, we wanted 18 feet between antennas, which wasn’t achievable. Fortunately though, Wilson’s amplifiers allow for lowering antenna gain (and therefore signal enhancement), making antenna placement more forgiving.

On my brother’s Contender 35, we mounted Wilson’s 21-inch cellular antenna atop the tuna tower. We put Wilson’s highly directional panel-type internal antenna 13 feet below, mounted vertically under the helm console nearest the starboard hull side. It covers from near the bow to the transom, but not the upper helm station. As noted above, we turned the gain down slightly to avoid feedback. 

Of course, antenna separation must be balanced with coaxial cable length. “At 2 GHz, cellular frequency losses through coaxial cable are much higher than the 156-MHz marine VHF frequency,” says William Hart, owner of Marine Electronics Services of Jupiter, Florida (marelsvc@yahoo.com). Wilson’s prewired 10-foot and 20-foot antenna cables don’t require DIY installers to solder or crimp coax connectors.