Cel-Fi GO+, a truly different and promising cell booster

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

14 Responses

  1. Greg Young says:

    I have been using the CellFi Go (stationary model) in my boat for around 18 months, and echo Bens comments about performance and features. It works very well and is “set and forget” in australia — our rules differ a little, we have been allowed to use the 100dB gain even in a marine aka non stationary mode. However I rarely ever see it deliver this type of gain — which is impacted by antenna isolation ((RF seperation) and various other factors.

    My setup
    Outdoor antenna (7.5dB to 4.5dB colinear – gain varies with freq band) mounted on radar arch (approx 5m above sea level)
    Indoor patch style antenna – mounted inside cabin 2m below donor .. but about 4m horizontal.

    Antenna isolation seems quite good and I have seen Wave App report gain of 90+dB. One thing I’ve noted: the Rx signal level as reported by my phone (same app as Ben uses) shows the Rx SS – standing “next to antenna”) is similar to that reported by the CellFi Go, which demonstrates the importance of minimizing the cable length between donor antenna and CellFi unit.

    The cable length between CellFi & “server” antenna is a lot less critical, so if possible – keep the CellFi as close as possible to the donor antenna (shorter cable) .. and run a longer cable to the server antenna.

    One important point to note – the “stationary” model accepts input voltage to “28.8V” and hence is suitable for use in a 24V system (which Im using) – however as Ben notes – the Go M/Go X versions are “only” suitable for 12V systems… (dont know why they changed this?)
    Electrically and performance/specs appear the same between stationary/M/X (aside from the IP rating – important in marine – depending of course on location)

    On my unit – a cable tie and some heat shrink solved the “captive” power plug challenge .. but good to see they have improved this on the M/X models

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Greg!

      Another way to minimize signal loss between donor antenna and the booster is ultra low loss coax cable like LMR400.

      Also, I think that the various Cel-Fi GO system names — Stationary / Mobile / GO M / GO X / GO+ — are pretty confusing until you realize that there are only two underlying booster models, G31 and G32. Plus the early firmware apparently did not allow mobile/stationary or maybe even carrier switching in the field. But now the GO M, GO X, and GO+ — all model G32 — are functionally the same, I’m pretty sure, with only included power sources being different:

      https://cel-fi.com/go/

    • Steve Pazzo says:

      Hi Greg, nice write up. I can confirm that the North American Cel-Fi GO can support a DC input of up to 24VDC. It just isn’t documented very well. It’s an outstanding feature and another impressive addition from the folks at Cel-Fi

  2. Greg Young says:

    Ben
    depending on current operating mode (3G or 4G ) there are a few key parameters to interpret.
    I found a simple table for 4G which I use when snooping on the wave app.
    I cant attach it to the comments, but its at this URL
    https://www.cablefree.net/wirelesstechnology/4glte/lte-rsrq-sinr/

  3. I have used this booster as well, and it definitely has some of the strongest / highest amplification out there. I absolutely love the app and being able to tune things, and their product overall is of very high quality.

    There are also a few limitations. First is the fact that you have to choose a specific carrier which can be limiting for those of us with dual radio devices. I use a Peplink MAX Duo as my primary router which has two radios, and I use two different SIMs from different providers simultaneously. The Cel-Fi will only boost one of the two radios. They also have much more limited band support than a traditional booster.

    Second, and you can find this elsewhere online as well, their firmware has been a long and bouncy road. Initially there were a lot of issues, and over the last 2 years things have been updated, but it took a long time. I think this is directly related to one of the things I love about the product – it isn’t just a simple amplifier and antenna, but a software controlled system. With that comes more complexity in both a good and bad way.

    Finally, the price of almost $1000 makes this double the cost of a similar non-software booster, so you really have to make sure you need the extra amplification, and are OK with only boosting one signal at a time. It is a fantastic piece of hardware, but just like everything else in the tech/marine world, you have to weigh the pros and cons!

  4. 100db gain is 10^10 power increase. 30db gain would be 1000x power. Next thing you know companies will be claiming to create energy. Good to hear it’s working well.

  5. Chris Dunphy says:

    Great overview, Ben.

    But – there is one important thing to keep in mind when testing cellular boosters – for the most part, bars are meaningless.

    You really shouldn’t pay much attention at all to the increase in bars / signal strength, and instead should compare A/B speed tests with the booster turned on and turned off.

    You will quickly discover that it is not at all unusual for a “weaker” signal to actually be faster, and sometimes enabling a booster will actually slow down download speeds. In fact, sometimes boosters can cut downloads speeds in half, but at the same time way more than double upload speeds.

    This is why a booster should never be left on all the time – they are tools to be used only when you need them.

    We’ve got a lot of general guidance on cellular boosters for boats and RVs here:
    http://rvmobileinternet.com/boosters

    Cheers,
    – Chris

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Chris. I know that you’ve had the Cel-Fi Go in your test program for quite a while, and wonder how the latest firmware version is doing?

      https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/gear/cel-fi-go-m/

      Also, I totally agree about boosters being an “as needed” tool, and in my experience with Verizon, they are not much needed along the coast from North Carolina to Camden, Maine… unless you go offshore or up a remote creek. But Downeast of here is a real challenge perhaps regardless of carrier, and I’m hoping that the GO will deliver.

      However, I do often find a correlation between increased signal strength — as seen in a good app like Network Signal, not the phone’s optimistic little bar graph — and actual data performance. For sure, improved signal strength does not necessarily mean improved data performance, but it’s often the case in my experience. And usually easy to determine, because (unlike this initial bench test) I don’t mess with a booster on the boat unless I’m having trouble doing what I want to do online.

  6. Ron O'Blenis says:

    Hey Ben

    Interested if you have been able to get on the water tests done this summer. Really interested in the Perry Creek results as that is the most frustrating place to try and connect and stay connected. Hoping this works as well as the promise shown in the review so far.

    PS Was in Northeast Harbor last week and was pleasantly surprised to have great Verizon cell service – must be new tower somewhere near now.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Ron, I’ve been slow but just installed the Cel-Fi antenna on Gizmo’s masthead a couple of days ago. First time I’ve had a cell antenna that high, and if anything can conquer Perry Creek, this may be it. Hope to test that concept this month or early Sept.

      Also, great to hear that Verizon is better in Northeast. We’d love to get there again soon, but getting online has been an issue in the past, even with the Public Landing WiFi.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Ha! I’m back in Perry Creek actually on the same mooring where I couldn’t get the normally good Surecall/Shakespeare cell booster to work. But the Cel-Fi is making it happen, though it took the extra power of Stationary mode and its still not exactly speedy.

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