What is it?
When a company called Bolton Technical first introduced the WilsonPro A500 signal booster to South Africa in 2021, it came at a time when working from home had become a new reality and mobile data signaled a new priority.
For those who lived in areas with spotty cell coverage, it was a lifesaver for both work and home use, giving voice and data signals a dramatic boost. Until then, consumers had to make do with the slight amplification provided by portable amplifiers from mobile operators.
At the time, with mobile data becoming an essential element of the connectivity mix, whether as a primary or backup connection, a good signal and a decent laptop battery were enough to prevent loss of charge. At that time, however, the country was not subject to continuous daily interruptions.
Since then, the load-shedding dragon has become very important for business continuity, both for remote and in-office workers.
Ideal for the home office, the A500 only meets part of the challenge of a larger work environment. However, in response to the latest abnormal development, Bolton Technical has introduced the next model, the WilsonPro A1000 Signal Booster.
It is around 50% more expensive, but twice as powerful. An external antenna is installed on the roof of a business and aligned with distant cell towers. This is linked to a wall mounted panel containing an internal antenna, which is linked to the booster unit.
Our tests were impressive under regular conditions, with a normal power supply. Doubled a normal download speed of 28 Mbps, providing fiber-like connectivity. While the A500 increased a peak download speed of 4 Mbps and upload speeds of 2 Mbps to 38 Mbps download and 57 Mbps upload, the A1000 pushed our download speeds to over 55 Mbps, with a similar upload.
However, it was during load shedding that the solution really came to fruition.
Thanks to solar power, which is now accessible to small businesses due to rental options that balance monthly cost with electricity savings, the booster was still running regularly.
Without a signal booster, during load shedding, we had no mobile data connectivity via MTN. With the WilsonPro A1000 activated, the MTN signal jumped to 13 Mbps down and 28 Mbps up. It may not be like a fiber, but it means that the dragon called shedding suddenly had its teeth pulled out.
Just as significant, where previously we could barely hear a mobile call during load shedding, we now had clear voice communications. The dragon flames died down.
How much does it cost?
R13,950 VAT included, at https://www.boltontechnical.co.za/products/wilsonpro-a1000
Why should you care?
Load shedding will be with us for years to come, and even if we install solar, cell towers no longer have the battery or generator capacity to allow them to withstand multiple outages in one day. That results in data signals being close to zero and voice calls often impossible to make. A powerful signal booster can get data and voice signals from distant towers outside of a drop area and keep work and communications going.
What are the biggest negatives?
• Like the previous model, it is still only compatible with 3G and 4G signals, although 5G compatibility is on the way.
• Need specialized installation to ensure antennas take advantage of distant towers that may not be affected by load shedding.
What are the biggest positives?
• Works on MTN, Cell C, Vodacom and select Telkom bands,
• No monthly fees or data costs.
• Restores voice and mobile data usage.
• Bolton’s technical support team assists with installation.
* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter at @art2gee