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EVDOinfo Tip of the Week #9: Boosting Your MiFi's Signal

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Friday, 12 June 2009

tip of the week by evdoinfo.com

 

EVDOinfo.com has long been your source for tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for getting the most out of your EVDO service, and each week we will be highlighting a particularly interesting or popular topic in the "Tip of the Week" feature. To suggest future Tips of the Week, contact us at suggestions@evdoinfo.com or post your suggestions in the EVDO Forums

 



Boost Signal to Your Sprint/Verizon MiFi 2200

The new Novatel MiFi 2200 has a lot going for it and is quickly becoming one of the hottest mobile broadband devices available for Sprint and Verizon. People love the convenience of being able to share their EVDO connection wirelessly with up to five computers without needing a separate aircard and router! There is a lot to love about the MiFi, but there's one thing it's missing: a port to connect an external antenna.

While all of the currently available aircards from Sprint and Verizon feature antenna ports, the MiFi does not. This is unfortunate, as many MiFi users either live in signal-weak areas or are travelers, meaning they may encounter weak signal spots. Both Verizon and Sprint have wide 3G coverage throughout the US, but neither has coverage "everywhere" and many customers could benefit from boosting their signal.

We've already told you the bad news - there's no antenna port on the MiFi. There's good news, too, though: it IS possible to boost your Sprint or Verizon signal for your MiFi wirelessly!

The concept is not new - many cellular users utilize wireless amplifiers ("repeaters") to boost the signal to their wireless devices. The basic concept of a repeater set-up includes one antenna to draw in the cellular signal, an amplifier to boost it, and a second antenna or transmitter to re-broadcast the boosted signal to the cellular device, plus the appropriate cables and connectors. Putting together a repeater setup can be a little confusing, but there are several easy-to-use kits available that include all of the necessary components! Below are our recommendations for boosting the signal to your Sprint or Verizon MiFi:

 

 Option A: SignalBoost Mobile Pro

The SignalBoost MP is the most portable wireless signal boosting solution, requiring no permanent installation. The kit includes everything you need to boost the signal to your Sprint or Verizon MiFi on the road or at home: AC & DC adapters, USB cable (for power), dash & suction mounts, pouch and 12" magnetic mount external antenna. It is not the most powerful option, however, and the range is rather limited - your device must be very close to the amplifier to benefit from the boosted signal.

Pro's:

  • Cost 
  • Portability - the MP comes with AC & DC adapters and requires NO permanent installation. You can move it from your car to your dorm and back again in the pouch it came in!
  • Supports multiple devices - your cell phone(s) will also benefit from the boosted signal the SignalBoost MP provides (please note that while there is no technical "maximum" number of cellular devices that can benefit from the boosted signal, the effectiveness will be limited by the available signal. The better the signal, the more devices that can benefit. All cellular devices must be close to the amplifier to benefit).

Con's:

  • Because it is powered by USB, the range is limited. Devices must be within a few feet of the amplifier to benefit.

Bottom line: Because of the limited range, the SignalBoost MP is best suited for folks who do not have the option of permanently mounting an amplifier in their vehicle or those living in a small apartment/dorm where installing an external antenna is not an option and range is not important.

 

signalboost dtOption B: Wilson SignalBoost DT

The SignalBoost DT is a great solution for the home or office and includes everything you need for a stationary setup: amplifier, antenna, mounting kit, 50 feet of cable and wireless antenna. The receiving antenna is a directional antenna, meaning you must know (or be willing to find out via research and/or trial and error) the general direction of the cellular tower serving you in order to properly install the antenna and obtain the best gain possible - this makes the DT an impractical solution for travelers but excellent for home or office use.

Pro's:

  • Greater range (2-5x what you'll see with the MP) - your devices can be further from the amplifier and still benefit from the boost.
  • Directional receiving antenna provides a higher gain than an omni-directional antenna, allowing you to grab signal from towers that are further away (but only if you know where the tower is or are willing to do a little testing to find out)
  • Supports multiple devices - your cell phone(s) will also benefit from the boosted signal the SignalBoost DT provides (please note that while there is no technical "maximum" number of cellular devices that can benefit from the boosted signal, the effectiveness will be limited by the available signal. The better the signal, the more devices that can benefit).

Con's:

  • Directional receiving antenna requires additional effort and testing and makes this inappropriate for mobile use
  • Higher cost

Bottom Line: For stationary use, the SignaBoost DT is an excellent choice. It's FAR more powerful than the MobilePro and you'll have quite a bit more range. If you aren't comfortable doing a little extra work to make install the directional receiving antenna (remember, if it's not pointed properly it won't do anything!), this setup is not for you, but the results are definitely worth the effort!

 

Wilson Sleek BoosterOption C: Wilson Sleek All-In-One SignalBooster

The Sleek is a universal signal booster for both voice and data, meaning you can use it with just about any cell phone (except Nextel/iDen) or MiFi, and Wilson has set the price to make it accessible to users with any budget - just $129.95! It includes everything you need to boost the signal to your MiFi (or a cell phone): the cradle, which has the amplifier built into it; the 5" tall magnetic mount antenna, which has a 12' of cable attached; a 39" mini-to-standard USB cable for power; and a DC plug-in power supply (for your car's cigarette lighter port). A home/office accessory kit (sold separately) is also available for using the Sleek inside (it includes an AC adapter, window mount for the antenna, desk mount for the cradle, and a carrying case).

Pro's:

  • Price: Wilson's MSRP for the Sleek is just $129.95! This is far cheaper than any other wireless signal boosting option available, making the Sleek accessible to just about everyone, regardless of budget.
  • Size: the short magnetic mount antenna and compact cradle/amplifier make the Sleek easy to fit in just about any environment
  • Portability: no permanent installation is necessary - you can easily take the Sleek from one car to another, or even use it inside (with the optional home/office kit)
  • Versatility: works with just about any phone from any North American carrier (except Nextel/iDen) as well as the MiFi.
  • Simplicity: It is SO easy to set up and use the Sleek.

mifi in sleekCon's:

  • Boosts signal to only one device at a time (device must be in the cradle)
  • If you want to use the SignalBoost with Cradle at home, you must purchase the optional home/office kit 

Bottom Line: With an MSRP of just $129.95 and impressive performance, the Sleek is a great choice for anyone who spends a great deal of time in their vehicle and wants to make sure they have the best possible signal. Unlike most repeaters, though, this kit can only provide a boost to ONE device at a time (whichever device is in the cradle), so if you're hoping to boost the signal to your MiFi and cell phones at the same time, this would not be the best option.

 

What if NONE of these options fits your needs? These kits do not represent the entire spectrum of available repeater setups - as we mentioned earlier, another option would be to build your own setup by selecting the repeater, antennas, and cables separately. If you decide to go that route, we highly recommend contacting 3Gstore to discuss your goals and ensure that you select components that are compatible with each other and your equipment.

 

Not sure if you even NEED to boost your signal? If you're looking for a signal boosting solution for your MiFi for just one location, we highly recommend doing some simple testing (called a "site survey") before buying equipment so that you can make sure you're buying the right equipment. Check out 3Gstore.com/signal for instrutions on how to find your MiFi's signal and how to do a site survey.


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Last Updated ( Friday, 11 June 2010 )
 
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