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Cell Phone Signal Boosters for Boats and Ferries

Jan 06, 2019

Cell Phone Signal Boosters for Boats and Ferries

In January 2018, the Kitsap Sun reported installation of signal boosters onboard the MV Chimacum. In United States, our options from low cost to high cost kits include Fusion2Go 3.0 Marine, Drive 4G-X + Marine Kit, and ultimate Shakespeare Halo. All of them boost cell phone signals of all mobile carrier networks such as AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. - Simultaneously!

Repeated cellular-related complaints from commuters triggered this initiative from the vessel's annual maintenance committee. The MV Chimacum is the third vessel in the Olympic-class auto ferries in the Washington State Ferries System. This $123 million vessel commenced its operations on the Seattle-Bremerton route in May 2017. Built by Seattle-based Vigor Industrial, the Chimacum has metal-coated windows to keep the heat out and the vessel cool, thereby avoiding additional maintenance for cooling in the future. However, with mobile signals dwindling inside the vessel on one of the busiest commute routes in the city, it looks like the committee has to finally address a much-overlooked problem here i.e, poor signal reception quality for commuters traveling on the ferry.

For one, metal has been one of the biggest enemies for cellular signals. We have already reported how buildings made up of metal prohibit cellular signals from penetrating inside. This results in a weak signal quality inside the building. This is where cell phone signal boosters come to the rescue.

Ferries and boats make a similar case. Water vessels are at the mercy of a piece of land nearby to catch signals from the nearest cellular tower. Some of them to travel miles offshore, with cellular signals dwindling with each mile. Add metals and fibers used in their bodies and you have a dead zone in the middle of the sea.

In a commercial vessel that connects two essential ports of a bustling city, poor signal quality is hardly easy to live with. It takes about 60 minutes for the Chimacum to travel its distance which comprises of a valuable chunk of a commuter's (there are about 1500 of them on board at a time) workday. Also, there are "dead spots" on the way. One of them is the Rich Passage waterway between the Bainbridge Island and South Kitsap. Some users have reported completely lost connections with cellular towers on one end of the Puget Sound and failed to automatically restore the connection when they come out of the other

Of course, the same commuters have also reported stronger signals on Chimacum's car and sun decks and other ferries experiencing perfect signals on the same "dead" routes. These are reasons enough to believe that the vessel's metal-coated windows are the main culprits here.

In an attempt to relieve the commuters of their woes, Washington State Ferries spoke of spending about $20,000 to equip the Chimacum with signal-boosting technology. The system's spare parts funds will incur these expenses. Resulting improvement in cellular service will pay for itself as commuters utilizing it will report an improvement in their onboard productivity, believes State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.

Washington State Ferries spokesman, Ian Sterling, expresses that the welcomed initiative was is worth a try. Chimacum's low emissivity glass panes keep out heat and UV rays but seemingly cut off cellular signals, especially in areas such as the Rich Passage that are already battling weak signals, he confirms.

If executed successfully, there are talks of the similar technology being installed on other ferries of the Washington State Ferries' Olympic-class vessels.

For instance, WSF's fourth Olympic-class vessel, Squamish, launched in July, is Chimacum's sister vessel. It is likely to face similar challenges as the Chimacum. Sterling stated that if the boosters work on Chimacum, they will also be installed on the Squamish likewise.

This much-looked-forward-to initiative was expected to hit the floors as a part of the ferry's two-week annual maintenance to be carried out in April 2018. However, due to pending higher priority work, signal-booster installation took a back seat. Now, the task is expected to be undertaken in the next maintenance cycle in May 2019, though there are chances that it could be sooner, if a statement from Sterling is to be believed.

Meanwhile, many popular cruises in the world have enhanced their coastal cruising experience by means of a marine booster. Good boosters have gifted those on-board with the joy of a good 4G connectivity as far as 21 nautical miles offshore.

So how do you decide which marine signal booster to pick? It is important to know here that the dynamics of marine boosters is quite different from a normal signal booster. On-shore, the booster that you select majorly depends on the type of vessel you own. For boats with enclosed cabins, the exterior antenna can be mounted on the top of the cabin and the interior antenna is mounted inside the cabin. The more powerful the uplink power of the signal amplifier and outside antenna, the better signal reception on multiple devices. As long as you are sailing in regions where cellular signals operate on the same frequency as North America and Canada, you can enjoy a good boosting experience.

For an open-air boat, it becomes trickier as there is no space to mount the interior antenna. In this case, you can go for a cradle cell booster. Such a booster will do its job of boosting all major carriers’ signals across all of the North American and Canadian shores. It also eliminates the risk of oscillations, allowing you to have a state-of-the-art boosting experience even in open air.

An unbelievable part of this deal is that boosters are capable of enhancing signal even miles offshore. Of course, like all boosters, even for a marine booster, some outside signal is necessary for it to work. A booster cannot create signals. It can only enhance existing weak signals.

You can now embark that boat, or ferry or even go sailing on your personal yacht without having to worry about digital communication problems.

Being caught without cellular signal miles away in the middle of the sea is scary. Own a boat or a ferry? Contact us for the best USA marine signal boosters or best Canada marine signal boosters to meet your needs, today.


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  • Another good DAS for dummies primer (yes, I’m a dummy when it comes to distributed antenna systems—but I’m getting better). I know I’d be thankful to see boosters on boats and ferries, especially with the constant ferry disasters and occasional cruise ship problems. A good signal is a must for me wherever I go—land, air, or sea.

    Julio Rivera on
  • This seems like an idea that’s long overdue. I’ve read about offshore cell phone boosters for personal watercraft so it’s logical they have them for ferries and big boats. I’ve been on ferries and I know it’s next to impossible to get cell phone signals once you’re offshore. These sound like a good safety precaution too. Anyone else agree?

    Sharon J. on

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