What is it?
When a company called Bolton Technical first introduced the WilsonPro A500 Signal Booster to South Africa in 2019, it came just in time for the work-from-home revolution brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, when mobile data signals became a new priority.
For those living in areas with spotty cellular coverage, it was a lifeline for both work and home use, giving a dramatic boost to voice and data signals. Until then, consumers had to make do with the slight amplification provided by portable boosters from mobile operators.
At the time, with cellular data becoming an essential element of the connectivity mix, whether as prime connection or backup, a good signal and a decent laptop battery was enough to stave off loadshedding. At the time, however, the country was not subjected to continual daily outages.
Since then, the dragon of loadshedding has come to loom large over business continuity, both for remote workers and in offices.
The A500, which is ideal for the home office, meets part of the challenge of a larger working environment. The next model up, the WilsonPro A1000 Signal Booster, supports a larger business environment.
Now, Bolton Technical has updated its range, and the A500 and A1000 offer an updated look and feel.
We tried the new edition of the WilsonPro A1000 Signal Booster.
It is around 50% more expensive than the A500, but twice as powerful. An external antenna is installed on the roof of a business and aligned with distant cellular towers. This is linked to a wall-mounted panel containing an internal antenna, which is linked to the booster unit.
Our tests were impressive during regular conditions, with normal power supply. A normal 28Mbps download speed was doubled, providing fibre-like connectivity. Where the A500 boosted a maximum download speed of 4Mbps and upload of 2Mbpsto 38Mbps down and 57Mbps up, the A1000 took our download speed to above 55Mbps, with similar upload.
However, it was during loadshedding that the solution truly came into its own.
Thanks to solar power, which is now accessible to small businesses due to rental options that balance monthly cost with electricity savings, the booster still functioned regularly.
Without a signal boost, during loadshedding, we had zero mobile data connectivity via MTN. With the WilsonPro A1000 activated, the MTN signal leaped to 13Mbps down and 28Mbps up. That may not be fiber-like, but it means that the dragon called loadshedding has suddenly had its teeth pulled.
Equally significantly, where we previously could barely hear a mobile call during loadshedding, we now had clear voice communications. The dragon’s flames were quenched.
How much is it?
R13,950 including VAT, at https://www.boltontechnical.co.za/products/wilsonpro-a1000
Why should you care?
Loadshedding will be with us for years to come and, even if we install solar power, cellular towers no longer have the battery or generator capacity to allow them to withstand multiple outages in a day. That results in data signals being near zero, and voice calls often being impossible to make. A powerful signal booster can fetch data and voice signals from distant towers outside a loadshedding area and keep work and communications going.
What are the biggest Positives?
• It works on MTN, Cell C, Vodacom and select Telkom bands,
• No monthly fees or data costs.
• Restores both mobile voice and data use.
• It comes as a D-I-Y kit, but Bolton Technical’s support team assists with more complicated installations.
* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee