We’ve all experienced it. You’re somewhere in Maine, probably away from the Interstate 95 corridor or the coast, and you try to make a cell-phone call. But — no bars. You drive down the road and get a bar, pull over, and make the call. The bar vanishes. You might get through, but the call is scratchy and jumpy and you can’t hear the other person, and he can’t hear you.
The cause is simple: Not close enough to a cell-phone tower, or natural or manmade obstructions are interfering with the signal. The solution is also simple: More power at your cell phone’s source. Not too many years ago, the problem wasn’t as prevalent with the old-style bag phones, which powered off a car and had ample power. But these days, cell phones with their tiny batteries fit in shirt pockets and just don’t have the juice.
Enter the Wilson signal booster. It’s not much bigger than a smart phone, mounts discreetly in your car, and gives you the power you need. It’s powered off the car, hooked to an external antenna, and connected to your phone — no plugs, just attached to it with a Velcro-backed pad. And the boost it gives can be dramatic.
“If you got at least one bar, it will boost it up to four,” said John Kingsbury, president of Whitten’s 2-Way Service, a local dealer for the Wilson booster. “It’s an in-vehicle booster. In the rural areas where you have poor cell-phone coverage, it boosts it up to a full signal.”
If slapping the Velcro card onto your phone is too annoying, another Wilson model is attachment-free; so long as your phone is close to the unit in the car, it will work — and for anyone else in the car using cell phones.
Signal is a function not only of receiving from a tower but having the power to send to that tower. With 3 watts of power, the booster increases your cell-phone signal strength by 10 to 15 times normal. It works with virtually all cellular and PCS phones, and requires no adapters since it doesn’t plug into anything. For phone standards, it works on all generations of CDMA, TDMA, and GSM protocols
Wilson boosters can also be installed in your house or office. In fact, Wilson makes specialized whole-house setups to wire up a house, a camp, or any building so that everyone inside has strong cell coverage.
But the biggest use Kingsbury sees for the Wilson booster is its use for those who travel for a living, particularly in remote areas — of which Maine has plenty. “Every logger’s pickup pretty much has these — a two-way and a cell-phone booster,” Kingsbury said. “Those [pickup trucks] are their offices.”
Whitten’s has carried the Wilson boosters for several years, and they’re proven technology. There are many similar products on the market, but Wilson’s is consistently rated as actually working properly. A quick Web search for various related Wilson models reveals plenty of praise for their power, reliability, and ability to do exactly what they claim. In fact, three of the top ten cell boosters rated on TopTenReviews.com were Wilsons, and the number-one-rated booster is the model talked about here.
“Wilson Electronics is the leading cell phone booster company because they know how to produce quality products and keep their customers happy,” writes the reviewer. “You will be hard-pressed to find a comparable cell phone booster that is higher rated across the board and works in almost any setting like this product does.”
The Wilson booster isn’t just for cell phones, either. If you have a wireless wide-area network card in your laptop, the booster will amplify that signal as well, giving you more reliable Internet connectivity and better data throughput.
“As long as you have a signal, this will boost it,” Kingsbury said.