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Boost signal, boost remote working

As remote working becomes the new norm, cellular signal boosting has become one of the keys to effective home working setups, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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What is it?

The WilsonPro A500 Signal Booster Kit for Homes has arrived in South Africa just as a new reality is dawning on people who work from home. It is designed to give a dramatic boost to voice and data signals, rather than the slight amplification previously provided by portable boosters provided by mobile operators.

More significantly, it addresses an increasing urgency to enhance signals.

For some, the transition from working in the office to working from home was as smooth as opening a laptop computer and connecting it to home Wi-Fi. But those were the fortunate few. For most, it took ongoing wrestling with temporary working space and procedure, and investing in new forms of connectivity.

Now, 18 months into the pandemic, it is becoming clear that this approach to work is no longer temporary. We could tolerate what seemed to be short-term shortcomings in this working environment but, when it became a permanent way of work, we also needed a sustainable approach. And fibre-to-the-home is not enough to keep one connected and working, if loadshedding and power failures are also a constant presence.

As a result, cellular data, is now an essential element of the connectivity mix, whether as prime connection or backup. With a good cellular signal and a decent laptop battery, loadshedding no longer threatens the business continuity that clung to the thin thread of remote working.

My own home office is a good example of what goes wrong. When I originally moved from Telkom ADSL to Afrihost fibre 5 years ago, I was for the first time able to build a fully digital working ecosystem, with little restriction on bandwidth, and none on traffic. With the arrival of the pandemic and remote work, I made a seamless transition to the virtual world, in a core part of my business, namely presenting insights about the future at corporate events. The message was: have Zoom, will speak; or have Teams, will talk.

Until the spectre of loadshedding returned, that is.

To overcome Eskom’s challenges, I loaded up with portable Wi-Fi devices from Telkom, Afrhost and Vodacom, and made sure the MTN data connection on my mobile phone could tether with my laptop as an instant hotspot.

Regrettably, this array was put to the test many times. And even more regrettably, it barely passed the test. Due to the peculiar topology of my suburb, none of these mobile signals were up to the job of streaming a video conference in high definition. I got away with it only because many online events are streamed in poor definition anyway. So it was good enough, and no one noticed the difference.

But as the remote mode became the norm, good enough was no longer good enough. It was obvious that serious signal boosting was needed. The WilsonPro A500, distributed in South Africa by Bolton Technical, was also an obvious solution. For around the cost of a year’s subscription to a high-speed fibre service, it offered to deliver a fibre-like experience to my mobile devices.

It took a few hours to install an antenna on my roof and align it with distant cellular towers. I then ran a test that proved to be as significant as the first time I switched on fibre. From a maximum download speed of 4Mbps and upload of 2Mbps, I suddenly had 38Mbps down and 57Mbps up. Subsequent tests saw both the download and upload speed range from 25Mbps to 60Mbps.

My remote presence had become sustainable.

How much is it?

R9,599 including VAT, from https://www.boltontechnical.co.za

Why should you care?

The three keys to successful remote working, according to research conducted by World Wide Worx and Cisco, are good task delegation, time with family, and good connectivity. The first two you may not be able to control. The third factor, however, is usually a matter of finding the right solution at the right price. The WilsonPro A500 is a bargain in terms of enhancing the professionalism of a small business’s remote presence.

Cell phone signal strength is measured in decibels, or db, with -50db regarded as an excellent signal and -110db as near-useless. My signal ranged from -100db to -114db. The WilsonPro A500 offers up to +70 dB gain of power. I achieved close to the maximum benefit: it brought my signal to an astonishing -49db.

What are the biggest Negatives?

  • It is only compatible with 3G and 4G signals, and will not boost a 5G signal. However, most people living in areas with poor signal will find it adequately addresses their pain points.
  • It needs some installation, of both the antennae and a signal booster box.

What are the biggest Positives?

  • It works for all phones and carriers.
  • The cost is once-off, and there are no monthly fees or additional data costs.
  • It enhances voice quality even more than data speed.
  • The Bolton Technical support team is trained by Wilson in the USA, and a field team assists with installation.
  • It covers any property ranging from 75 to 500 square metres.
  • More powerful options are available for larger buildings and large enterprises.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

* To purchase the WilsonPro A500, visit https://www.boltontechnical.co.za/products/wilsonpro-a500

* The WeBoost Drive AM100-Pro is also a great option for those who are on the road and need better mobile voice quality. The device amplifies your existing in-vehicle cellular service up to 32X for better talk, text, and faster Internet. For more info on this device, visit https://www.boltontechnical.co.za/products/weboost-drive-am100-pro

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