The telcos tell us that they have so much of Australia covered with cellular phone coverage, but they’re usually talking about population coverage, not geographical coverage.
As travellers we know only too well that once you break free of the capital cities and regional centres, mobile phone coverage can be sketchy at best, and non-existent in most places. For many of us, that is what we want, while others go blindly into the bush thinking that their mobile phone will give them security and safety when they are off the grid.
We’ve all had times where the phone shows a flickering bar of signal yet it is too weak and unable to make calls. If you’re lucky and your car is still operable, you might be able to move to a stronger signal, but if you’re in an emergency situation you could be in trouble.
A product we’ve used on a few trips now is the Cel-Fi mobile repeater from Powertec. The Cel-Fi unit acts like a funnel for phone signal and picks up on the weakest signal and boosts it so that you phone is operational for both calls and data transmission.
Example #1; We often head out to Eldee Station near Silverton in Western NSW to do vehicle testing. It’s a big property about 55km west of Broken Hill and the mobile coverage there is sketchy at best. The Silverton Hotel uses a boosting repeater to give you signal in the beer garden and further out on Eldee property owners Steve and Naomi use a Cel-Fi stationary unit to get signal at their homestead.
Get away from the hotel or the homestead and you’re phone signal disappears. Even on the road between the two repeaters there is no signal.
We stopped in at ARB Broken Hill where Jonathon Oliver told us he sells and fits around half a dozen Cel-Fi units to locals’ cars every week. He reckons they work well out of town where the signal is weak and in some small town the signal is now stronger in the car than in the satellite-fed houses.
Jonno fitted a temporary install to one of the cars on our 4x4 Of The Year test last year and it powered our Telstra phones all over the district. The Cel-Fi Unit is available to suit Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and most other popular providers on 3G and 4G.
Example #2; We fitted a mobile Cel-Fi unit to one of the X-Class utes on our Corner Country adventure and there were places that no other car in the convoy had phone reception, but the phones in the X-Class were showing four to five bars of signal. We were even able to steam music via Spotify. Brilliant!
Parked up near Mutawingi National Park the X-Class had strong signal while no one else did. Stand beside the car and you could receive and send emails, but walk 10 meters away from it and you couldn’t make a call or receive a text.
This is amazing technology that works. It will not give you phone service where there is no signal, but where there is the weakest of signal, it will boost that signal to get you chatting and downloading in the most remote places.
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