Mobile 4G Cellular Booster Field Testing Results (Fall 2015)

We have just conducted in-depth field testing of the mobile 4G boosters currently on the market to determine which work best in what situations. We are working on our summary overview of our findings, which will be available to our members soon.

Currently in our testing arsenal are:

You can learn more about each of these models, compare specifications, and get current pricing in our free public comparative guide:

Guide to Cellular Boosters 

For our current testing rounds, please visit our Testing Lab.

Our testing procedures:

Our setup for head-to-head booster testing.

Our (temporary) setup for head-to-head booster testing on our Mini Cooper until our RV renovations were completed.

During our testing, we visited a variety of locations with all of the above equipment installed, using the stock antennas that come with the boosters. We sought out a variety of locations with both marginal & optimal signal conditions for each of the major carriers. Our 2015 testing locations started in Elkhart, Indiana and followed Route 66 into New Mexico, and then around the desert southwest. They include urban, suburban and more remote rural areas - RV Parks, crowded events, public campgrounds and boondocking.

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We took 3 baseline readings with each of our cellular devices with no booster on. Each device is tested independently, with all other devices in airplane mode.

We then turn each booster on, one at a time, and repeat taking 3 readings for each device, and then average them out. All readings were taken with the device being right next to the interior antenna.

The devices & carriers we are testing include:

  • Verizon - Netgear AC791L, Novatel 6620L MiFi and (when time permits) iPhone 6s.
  • AT&T - iPhone 6s and/or Unite Pro mobile hotspot.
  • T-Mobile - iPad Mini 4 and/or iPhone 6S (testing for Band 12)
  • Sprint - iPhone 6S (added 10/10/2015)

The readings we are taking:

  • Coverage maps

    Coverage maps

    Coverage? Map snapshot, showing high level view of anticipated service at each location.

  • Signal strength db reading, on devices that support it using Field Test mode.
  • Signal bars/dots present & service type - HSPA, LTE (and specifically which band, when possible), 3G, 1XRT, Edge, etc.
  • Download speed.
  • Upload speed.
  • Ping
  • Calculated Scores
Baseline testing, for one carrier, for one device. We repeat this for each booster.

Baseline testing, for one carrier, for one device. We repeat this for each booster.

Scoring Systems

For each booster at each location, we are assigning two scores score:

Qualitative formula:  (Booster Average Download Speed / Baseline Average Download Speed)  + (Booster Average Upload Speed / Baseline Average Upload Speed). Will it capture all of the nuisances like switching bands, ping time and signal strength? No. But it will capture actual performance increase. The higher the score, the better the performance noted. This gives us something to average out over time.

Subjective Grading: On a scale of A, B, C, D & F each booster and location is given a grade based on relative performance. These scores are then given a  numerical value based on scholastic grade point averages, to give us an overall GPA.

  • A - 4.0 = Solidly created a more usable signal
  • B - 3.0 = Solid performance, but not signifiant gain, nor loss
  • C - 2.0 = Comparable performance with the booster as without, with potentially mixed results with improved upload speeds and somewhat degraded download speeds.
  • D - 1.0 = Degraded performance with the booster engaged, but still usable. You are better off with it off.
  • F - 0 = Signal was useable without a booster, but unusable with the booster engaged.

For speed and ping readings, we are using the Ookla Speedtest app. We take the readings directly on device on our smartphones & tablets we are testing on. When testing mobile hotspots, we test on one of our iPads while connected via WiFi to the hotspot.

Each testing location took nearly 3 hours to complete the testing, and burned through a good chunk of data. It's a very time intensive review process conducted from August - December 2015.

As of December 2015 we have completed this round of testing, and the results of that testing is available below, and are now also reflected in our Review Center.

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All of the individual field testing results and observations have been shared with our members below during the entire process. Not only have the results shown the performance of each of the boosters, but also what to expect in different types of signal situations.

Number of field locations tested: 16

2015 Booster Testing Locations

2015 Booster Testing Locations

This round of testing is now complete, and the raw field testing data & analysis is available below to members. Boosters in this round of testing have also been added to our Review Center, and our indepth reviews for each provided there.

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