Mobile phone car kit and antenna value?

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:32
ThreadID: 110769 Views:3455 Replies:12 FollowUps:6
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We are looking to spend more time in rural/remote areas moving forward than we have done in the past. We are now seem to be more often in places where there is little or no phone reception for where we are camped.

I started looking for a car kit with a decent antenna to help improve our current reception limitations. After a fair bit of reading it seems that a car kit and antenna may be of marginal benefit and maybe NOT worth doing. While driving I can see there could be more value to having a hands free kit/antenna but this is not so important to us as we use the phone and internet more when stopped. The reasons for this seem to be:
- phone and data reception is predominantly about line of site and the distance to the tower and the arial on the roof of the Ranger is only a bit higher than a person standing. If it is all about line of site, if I walk or drive up a nearby hill or climb a tree or sit on the roof rack I am more likely to get better or just as good reception than using that car kit/antenna
- for email, web browsing etc with laptop/ipad we use Bluetooth to the mobile phone and use the mobile as a hotspot and its data plan to connect to the internet. A car kit/antenna may help this but it seems that if I connected the mobile to a telescopic device such as a GoPro stick and attached it to the roof rack as we needed it we would be better off (except when it raining). We have at least 5 metre bluetooth range from the handset when doing this.
- for phone conversations I have a bluetooth headset so again we do not need the handset within about 5 metres of where I am standing. i can make and answer a call from the headset.

In short I am struggling to find reasons to get an external car kit/antenna, this was not the conclusion I was expecting to reach. Am I barking up the wrong tree or is it not really worth doing in our situation? Thanks for any advice.

Other considerations that are as or more important than the car kit/antenna:
- be on the Telstra network (we are)
- get a handset that has a 'blue tick' or is rated good reception. I am in the market for a new phone so this is doable
- use the Telstra coverage maps to work out where we are likely to spend time and if there will any reception at all in these areas in the first place
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Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:46

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:46
I think most mobiles these days do not have an external antenna connector.
When we are out of range we just do not worry about it and enjoy the solitude.
AnswerID: 544437

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:53

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:53
Sam This comes up regularly and if you use the search function you will find the responses.
There are some phones without a Blue tick which provide good reception according to annual research conducted by Choice and the Kondinin Group. Have a look at that.

Unless you are going to get a big, ugly broom stick aerial (some one will help me with the proper term for one), an external aerial through a passive coupling offers marginal benefit (I've have one , with a couple of different phones).
I've found external aerials have lost their "extra range" as phones reception has improved and the loss of direct couplings/ patch lead phones
Most Ag people I know who work in marginal reception areas don't now bother aerials on their vehicles for extending range.
AnswerID: 544438

Reply By: TomH - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:58

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 20:58
For internet browsing we used one of the old blue Maxon"Toaster" modems.

Would get reception where the Iphone 3 didnt You can probably just stick your phones sim card in it when you want to use it. Or get a $10 a month data sim

Ours sat on the mudguard roll under the table in the van and worked away in most places. You can pick one up on Fleabay pretty cheap.

They are not fast but they work.

If you are going really remote you could buy an Iridium sat phone and also use your Telstra sim card in it. Calls are not cheap but better than nothing
Account needs to have roaming enabled to do this.
Dont believe coverage maps We live 3km from a Telstra tower and have bad reception permanently
AnswerID: 544439

Reply By: Bigfish - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 21:10

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 21:10
I know Tesltra make a smart antennae for weak mobile signals in household areas. Apparently it attaches to the roof and then magnifies and sends the signal to the customers handset. Not cheap..Last I heard they were around $700...They work well though. People right on the edge of a mobile tower reception limit are the main uses.

Maybe google could help you, or a Telstra shop..
AnswerID: 544441

Follow Up By: TomH - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 21:25

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 21:25
$149 on Ebay but need to be pointed in direction of the tower so not too good on a moving vehicle.

I had a broomstick and an induction cradle and it did make a difference.

We managed to talk on the phone when in the cradle 40km out of Carnarvon but if lifted out of cradle it dropped out.

Aerial was $149 also from a Telstra shop. They are about 900mm long
FollowupID: 831585

Reply By: Sam39 - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 21:25

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 21:25
Thanks for the quick replies. I did read quite a number of 'threads', reviewed Choice etc. I am unaware of the 'Kondinin Group' so I will check them out.

Most of the posts were reasonably old and had been archived so I was unable to do a new reply which is why i started the new post otherwise I would not have started one. i was also hoping something may have changed in the last 6-12 months or I may have missed something that someone can point me at. If I thought a big antenna and a phone with a patch connection would give me a 30% gain than i would still seriously consider it.

I also hadn't read anything that focussed on being stationery and wanting mobile and internet reception on Telstra with a decent handset and whether an car kit / antenna would really help. So far it doesn't sound like it will, so at this point in time I can save some cash and accept the Telstra networks limitations.

I will check out the other devices mentioned as I haven't heard of these. Any other replies are most welcome. Cheers
AnswerID: 544443

Reply By: broometime - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 23:10

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 23:10
I live in rural places as well as travel round aussie. I have 9db antenna on the bullbar with direct patch to s4 galaxy makes hugh diffence . the direct patch to samsungs is done by either removing cover or as I did putting a4ml hole in back cover.

AnswerID: 544452

Follow Up By: Sam39 - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 08:51

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 08:51
Thanks it sounds like its working for you. The antenna's I have been recommended so far are the GME 6DB (have been in a few different shops), what brand a yours and roughly how long is it?

It makes sense to me that you get a significant gain while driving, do you think that you would also get a good benefit if you tried standing on the sidebar while stopped and making calls or in my case standing on the tray on the back of the Ranger?

Do you also connect to the internet and have you found that you get more bars and faster web browsing when connected?
FollowupID: 831607

Follow Up By: wazzaaaa - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:58

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:58
we have the s4 patch lead and this antenna from this crowd
FollowupID: 831610

Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 23:30

Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 at 23:30
If you are looking at remote area travel, invest in a satellite phone. For an accident, a simple breakdown, or just peace of mind, only a satellite phone will give you coverage where you are least likely to find anyone to help.


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AnswerID: 544453

Follow Up By: Sam39 - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:01

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:01
Thanks, we will most likely invest in a sat phone for emergencies.

For this post I am really just trying to focus on mobile phone and internet connectivity using the mobile phone when we are camped.

Probably more important to us is good internet connectivity rather than making phone calls as we would like to do this most days.
FollowupID: 831608

Reply By: Ozhumvee - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:22

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:22
We use a generic Smoothtalker inductive cradle which we can use with either phone and an external antenna. Both phones have the hotspot facility for net access with other laptops etc.
When stationary we have a broomstick antenna on the roof with a Telstra 3G modem connected via patch lead which gives us a connection wherever available.
We're often amazed where we have coverage these days as we find that it is rare when travelling except in very remote areas to have coverage at least every few days at some point.
Use an Iridium satphone and inReach for emergency use.
AnswerID: 544460

Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:30

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 09:30
Sam, because of the places we camp, preferably well out of town and in National Parks, internet connection in the evening was rare in our outback travels. I had an antenna from the modem I could put on the caravan roof when in a marginal signal area, but I was not going to climb into the tree tops just to see if I could get recent in paces where there was not at caravan level. I communicate through computer and rarely by phone.

I would prepare emails whilst camped, and stop in the next town during the day to send them and catch up with family on instant messaging. We run a business (farm) and I was able to attend to all business and banking (and forums) while in a reception area, and the longest without was three weeks on the Gibb River Road.


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AnswerID: 544461

Reply By: Sam39 - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 10:58

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 10:58
Thanks for all the replies, I am reading as fast as I can to understand/investigate the responses. I found this which was really ueful and helped me make sense of many of several of the replies so far.
Improving mobile phone network guides

Like Motherhen I also have a business that works better if I can be more available for the odd time that I am needed to help make a decision but just generally be able to review and keep an eye on what is happening. In the past our routine seems to work better if I can do this in the first part of the day (I am a early riser), 30-60 mins every couple of days does the job. In theory if I can do about 4 hours a week connected to the Internet we can be away more often and for longer which is our goal. Our systems tend to be online these days so we need a web browser, chat or IM, Skype (nice to have), Dropbox and email to work.

As we are stopped at camp when we want the internet (not driving), have no inverter (but plenty of 12 volt), we tend to travel slow and stay for at least a few days when travelling and space in our rig is very precious. With this in mind it would seem that we should be looking at:
- an inductive cradle (the new phone I prefer has not patch lead connection)
- some type of directional antenna
- use an 'app' before we lose signal to work out which direction the nearest towers will be when camped
- as part of our bush camp set up attach the directional antenna

Does this sound like reasonable or best available approach for our scenario?

Is anyone doing this and do they find it worthwhile or is trying to get the antenna working more trouble then its worth? I am guessing this may be sometimes be a bit of a pain. (Our alternative is to stop and make use of the signal when we have it which is what we have done in the past)

If you do something similar, what are you using and are you happy with it?
AnswerID: 544465

Follow Up By: Gronk - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 21:36

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 21:36
I have used an inductive cradle with a windows phone and a broomstick aerial and got zero extra reception..

Took the aerial off and stuck it up a tree 15 ft...still zero difference..

Took the aerial off and use the cradle for charging the phone only..

If you want to get better reception, buy a Telstra phone that still has the rear port....even if its only use is outback reception...coupled to a broomstick aerial..
FollowupID: 831712

Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 21:55

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 at 21:55

I use a Telstra blue tick phone, a T54 I think, as we live in western Qld.

In my Landcruiser ute, I have a 900mm long 6dB broomstick, with a patch lead, and just plug it straight into the phone. Service is usually constant between cells, whereas the phone only loses signal part of the time.

On my sedan, I bought a magnetic base, stainless steel whip, about 300mm long and 5dB, and it sits on roof of vehicle giving quite good coverage with the same phone.

Don't know whether this would suit your purpose, but definitely, imho, improves or at least maintains, coverage. Have seen a Yagi 3G phone antenna advertised......would be interesting to see how they performed?


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Reply By: Member - John T (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Jan 19, 2015 at 10:15

Monday, Jan 19, 2015 at 10:15
Hi Sam

I have a hard wired antenna from the bullbar of my Nissan to an old ZTE 165 mobile phone in a cradle in the vehicle.

It never ceases to amaze me where we can get service with that setup - a call came in last time we were in Corner Country - between Tibooburra and Camerons Corner - about 1/2 way out and the phone rang - a mate wishing us a great trip. Ran very low on fuel on the Birdsville Track some years ago - rang the Autoport in town and Peter brought fuel out. We were about 40 - 50 k's out of Birdsville and had full service. All with Telstra of course - no other provider has the coverage.

I've just purchased a new phone as the battery in the old ZTE has some serious failings these day (10+ years old) but will keep the old one and just put the SIM into it and into the cradle when we travel.

I reckon the external antenna is worth every bit of whatever I paid for it and the car kit years ago.

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AnswerID: 544533

Reply By: Sam39 - Friday, Jan 30, 2015 at 16:43

Friday, Jan 30, 2015 at 16:43
After doing a bit more research, it would seem like there might be another option.

Is anyone doing something like this with a directional antenna like a Yagi?
(We ONLY plan to use the antenna when camping and stationary for internet use). We would have to mount this system when we need it to the roof rack via a mount and mast and point it a Telstra tower.
• How tricky would it be to setup, point at tower etc? (it’s a short distance from roof rack into our camper on the back of the ute via a 3 metre patch lead should be enough)
• Telstra 4G wi-fi modem for hotspot (not mobile phone), something like:
• Directional antenna like or something that is reasonably portable.

We no longer want to use our mobile phones as a hotspot or patch them into the antenna or vehicle, it seems to make more sense for us to look at a separate setup to get the best internet we can when camped.
AnswerID: 545077

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