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Cell Phone Signal Booster


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We got stuck at home this winter instead of making the trek south to Arizona, so I've been looking at ways to boost the cell signal at our home.  We do have 5G here, but only one bar, and not all the time.  Even the 4G/LTE signal usually only has 2 bars, 3 if we're lucky.  I just received the Amazon Fire Stick, got it set up and tried it out (I'm using a Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G phone through Visible as a hotspot).  The Fire Stick works great, but I get some buffering when watching something.  I'm assuming that it's because of the low signal here at the house and if I could boost the signal, I wouldn't get buffering.  Am I on the right track?

I've been looking at three different boosters:

WeBoost Home Single Room Booster

WeBoost Home MultiRoom Booster

WeBoost Home Complete Booster

The Single Room Booster covers "up to" 1500 sq. ft. (our home is ~1300 sq. ft.).  However, if the outside cell signal is 1-2 bars (it is), the coverage is only 200 sq. ft.  We plan on installing whatever booster we get in the office, but the TV is in the living room.  I'm pretty sure that's more than 200 sq. ft. although I haven't measured it.

The MultiRoom Booster covers "up to" 5000 sq. ft., but only 1000 sq. ft. with an outside signal of 1-2 bars.

The Complete Booster covers "up to" 7500 sq. ft., but only 1500 sq.ft. with an outside signal of 1-2 bars.

I think I can rule out the Single Room Booster, so that leaves the other two.  The Complete Booster has the strongest booster according to this site, but I wonder if the extra $430 is really worth it for my situation?

Where would you purchase the WeBoost...weboost.com, wilsonamplifiers.com, Amazon, or ?  Buying from Amazon has some perks for me, but I like the idea of having support if something goes haywire.

Final question:  Are there boosters that perform better than the WeBoost at the same price points (the $999.99 for the Complete Booster is a stretch for me, so I dont' want to pay more)?

Thanks!

 

Edited by LindaH
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With today's modern digital cellular technology, the speed you obtain from your cell phone is only somewhat related to the signal strength.  Digital cellular telephony can work quite well over >50 dBm of difference in signal strength.  That's a factor of 100,000.

With all due respect you can't make any quantitative assumptions about signal strength by using the "bar" indicator on your phone.  At best, that indicator is a qualitative assessment and a not very reliable one.  

If you want to tell what your signal strength really is, then, if you have an Android phone, run the Network Cell Signal Lite app.  It's free and it will provide you the signal strength in dBm as well as providing the signal quality measurement which is just as important.

At my home location my Verizon signal strength is absolutely horrible, measuring -105 to -110 dBm yet my measured speed is quite good because the signal quality is good.  Signal strength alone is not a determinative measure.

Furthermore, signal amplifiers such as the ones you are discussing actually can reduce your measured speed because they negate important technology features such as carrier aggregation and MIMO.  I always tell people to test their speeds with and without such amplifiers because you may find that the amplifier actually reduces your speed!

Edited by docj
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As Chris and Cherie of the Mobile Internet Resource Center have said, "bars mean nothing."

Here in Yuma my signal strength is -109 dbm but I am getting 24.1 MB download speed and 9.83 upload speed.

This morning in Quartzsite my signal strength was -79 dbm but my download speed was less than 2MB, and upload speed was just a little over 1MB.(That is why we are in Yuma and not Quartzsite)

Also, it looks to me like the primary difference between the three boosters you posted is how far the indoor antenna broadcasts, and not the power of the booster.

Edited by pjstough
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14 hours ago, docj said:

If you want to tell what your signal strength really is, then, if you have an Android phone, run the Network Cell Signal Lite app.  It's free and it will provide you the signal strength in dBm as well as providing the signal quality measurement which is just as important.

I actually have this app on my Verizon phone, but none of what it shows means anything to me.  I assume by dBm you're talking about the two "gauges" shown when the app is first opened up.  If so, then as I'm sitting here the top one has ranged from -108 to -112 and the bottom one has ranged from -113 to -116.  The speed test has ranged from 11.6 Mb/s to 18.0 Mb/s down and 2.5 Mb/s to 3.4 Mb/s up.  However, the other day after I first downloaded the app, my speed was 1.9 Mb/s down, 35.0 Kb/s up.  As you can see everything ranges up and down, sometimes by quite a bit.  This is the reason I thought an amplifier would help -- to get a more consistent  signal so it's not hopping all over the place.  I'll have to run all these tests again once the phone switches over to 5G -- I can't get a consistent 5G signal where I live.  Mostly it's 4G with an occasional 5G.  

Note that these tests were done on my Verizon phone NOT the Visible phone which is the one I'm using as a hotspot to stream.  I'm having an issue with downloading apps which I'm working on with Visible, so -- hopefully -- the issue will be resolved soon and I can download this app and get some numbers on the phone I'm actually using.

Where do I find the "signal quality measurement" on this app?  And what numbers should I be looking for?

14 hours ago, docj said:

I always tell people to test their speeds with and without such amplifiers because you may find that the amplifier actually reduces your speed!

Well, that's nice, but I'm not about to spend $600 - $1000 just to test it out.

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11 hours ago, pjstough said:

This morning in Quartzsite my signal strength was -79 dbm but my download speed was less than 2MB, and upload speed was just a little over 1MB. (That is why we are in Yuma and not Quartzsite)

I hear you!  The times we've visited Quartzsite, especially during January, the signal is so bad, it's sometimes useless for even the most basic uses -- and I wasn't even trying to stream then!  Besides other reasons, that's one of the main reasons we rarely visit Quartzsite anymore.  We're usually at the Pilot Knob LTVA west of Yuma and our signal there has always been better than we can get at home!  

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56 minutes ago, LindaH said:

I hear you!  The times we've visited Quartzsite, especially during January, the signal is so bad, it's sometimes useless for even the most basic uses -- and I wasn't even trying to stream then!  Besides other reasons, that's one of the main reasons we rarely visit Quartzsite anymore.  We're usually at the Pilot Knob LTVA west of Yuma and our signal there has always been better than we can get at home!  

We never expect to get much internet speed while in Quartzsite, but this is the first year we have had to leave because Ann count not get enough internet speed to work.

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1 hour ago, LindaH said:

I actually have this app on my Verizon phone, but none of what it shows means anything to me.  I assume by dBm you're talking about the two "gauges" shown when the app is first opened up.  If so, then as I'm sitting here the top one has ranged from -108 to -112 and the bottom one has ranged from -113 to -116.  The speed test has ranged from 11.6 Mb/s to 18.0 Mb/s down and 2.5 Mb/s to 3.4 Mb/s up.  However, the other day after I first downloaded the app, my speed was 1.9 Mb/s down, 35.0 Kb/s up.  As you can see everything ranges up and down, sometimes by quite a bit.  This is the reason I thought an amplifier would help -- to get a more consistent  signal so it's not hopping all over the place.  I'll have to run all these tests again once the phone switches over to 5G -- I can't get a consistent 5G signal where I live.  Mostly it's 4G with an occasional 5G.  

Note that these tests were done on my Verizon phone NOT the Visible phone which is the one I'm using as a hotspot to stream.  I'm having an issue with downloading apps which I'm working on with Visible, so -- hopefully -- the issue will be resolved soon and I can download this app and get some numbers on the phone I'm actually using.

Where do I find the "signal quality measurement" on this app?  And what numbers should I be looking for?

Well, that's nice, but I'm not about to spend $600 - $1000 just to test it out.

The signal you are seeing is similar to what I get at home and your speeds are typical.    I seriously doubt that amplifying it will change things appreciably (or at all).  Since I don't know what model of phone you have I can't comment on it, but many times I tell people that their money is better invested in a newer (and more advanced) phone.  Some phones cost more than others and the cost covers some real technical advances not just "fluff."  Some of the phones that were either free or close to it on Visible, for example, had category 4 modems which is the most basic 4G modem.  

As for 5G, don't expect it will produce any miracles, in most places.  Ultra-fast millimeter wave 5G is limited to a select set of major cities and only a small number of phones (or hotspots) can actually receive it.  Most of the 5G we've all been seeing around the US is 5G that shares the 4G frequency spectrum and it is only modestly faster, in most cases, than 4G.  The new 5G being talked about on the news for the past couple of days is brand new and only a small group of phones will be able to receive it, at first.  It will be significantly faster than 4G but for a while it will be very limited in availability.  

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18 minutes ago, docj said:

Since I don't know what model of phone you have I can't comment on it, but many times I tell people that their money is better invested in a newer (and more advanced) phone. 

I mentioned the phone I have in my first post -- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G.  That's a pretty new, advanced phone.  There might be newer, more advanced phones out there, but they are also way more expensive. 

However, I must reiterate that the S20+ phone, mentioned above, is my Visible phone which I'm using as a hotspot to *try* to stream.  It is NOT the phone that I used for the test numbers, above.  *That* phone is a Verizon TCL 10 5G.  I cannot run the tests on the S20+ yet because of the problem I mentioned about not being able to download apps.  Visible is working on it and, hopefully, there will be a resolution soon.

Assuming that when I get the app download problem solved on the S20+ and the speeds are about the same as the TCL, what's causing the buffering -- and how do I get rid of it?

Edited by LindaH
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40 minutes ago, LindaH said:

Assuming that when I get the app download problem solved on the S20+ and the speeds are about the same as the TCL, what's causing the buffering -- and how do I get rid of it?

I hate to sound catty, but what you're seeing is pretty typical for Visible.  I spend lots of time on RV forums and Visible is a mixed bag for many people.  At some locations and some days it can be super and at others it is atrocious.  I had it for a couple of months using a relatively new iPhone and the results were not satisfactory.   

At home I now have Starlink, so my streaming problems are no more.  If and when we hit the road again I'll use my grandfathered unlimited Verizon prepaid hotspot as my primary internet connection.

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9 minutes ago, docj said:

I hate to sound catty, but what you're seeing is pretty typical for Visible. 

Well, at this point, I'm not seeing ANYTHING from Visible because I cannot download apps at this time, so have not been able to run any speed tests.  As of right now, I have no idea whether the results will be the same as my Verizon phone, worse, or better.  It's an unknown.

I *could* use my Verizon phone, but I only have 50GB/mo, which isn't going to go very far streaming much of anything.  What I'm *trying* to do is get rid of Dish and watch everything I watch on satellite.  But I can't do that unless I have unlimited data.

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10 minutes ago, LindaH said:

Well, at this point, I'm not seeing ANYTHING from Visible because I cannot download apps at this time, so have not been able to run any speed tests.  As of right now, I have no idea whether the results will be the same as my Verizon phone, worse, or better.  It's an unknown.

I know you haven't been able to run speed tests using Visible but you did mention that you were getting rebuffering delays.  That implies that the speeds aren't consistently high enough.  Measuring the speed isn't going to tell you anything you can't determine by watching the video stream. 

IMO adding an amplifier isn't going to do anything for that problem.  Streaming video is analogous to a "bucket filling" problem.  Water pours into a bucket from one or more sources and flows out through a hole in the bottom.  If the water level in the bucket stays above the bottom you have a stable video stream.  Otherwise there will be rebuffering pauses.  From my experience with Visible it wasn't overall speed that was the issue, but, rather, the erratic nature of the speed.

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15 minutes ago, docj said:

From my experience with Visible it wasn't overall speed that was the issue, but, rather, the erratic nature of the speed.

I'm getting that with my Verizon phone, too.  It's gone from a low of 1.9 Mb/s down, 428.6 Kb/s up to a high of 15.9 Mb/s down, 3.4 Mb/s up.  

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Lynda, for $100 more than the amps you can get the Starlink hardware and your high speed for $100 bucks a month last I checked.

We don't do phones we do one of our three Surface Go2 and Pro 7+ with LTE through US Mobile and since we are no longer full time RVrs we would just hook up a tablet to the TV with the USB C to HUb with HDMI and then just use the Apps for Hulu, Prime Video etc all are on the Microsoft app store. I get that third like for $11, unlimited which has changed - now they throttle at 70GB.Fine for us because we ave High speed Centurylink here.

But since it is for your home I'd go with Starlink.

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2 minutes ago, RV_ said:

Lynda, for $100 more than the amps you can get the Starlink hardware and your high speed for $100 bucks a month last I checked.

If we stayed here 12 months of the year, I might think about it.  But it can't currently be used in a mobile situation, and I hate paying for a service we wouldn't use 5 months out of the year.  This year is an anomaly for us as we're usually in Arizona at this time.

I know Starlink says they're going to go mobile at some point, but what kind of equipment would you have to carry and how difficult would it be to set up?  We had HughesNet many years ago and it was a pain in the ___ to set up.  What's the monthly GB limit, and how fast is it?

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9 minutes ago, LindaH said:

If we stayed here 12 months of the year, I might think about it.  But it can't currently be used in a mobile situation, and I hate paying for a service we wouldn't use 5 months out of the year.  This year is an anomaly for us as we're usually in Arizona at this time.

I know Starlink says they're going to go mobile at some point, but what kind of equipment would you have to carry and how difficult would it be to set up?  We had HughesNet many years ago and it was a pain in the ___ to set up.  What's the monthly GB limit, and how fast is it?

Play video just under your post. Answers all your questions

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29 minutes ago, GlennWest said:

Play video just under your post. Answers all your questions

Thanks, I hadn't read that.

It doesn't answer all the questions , though.  Like how much does it cost for the mobile equipment?  What if you don't have a ladder on your RV...can it be mounted on a tripod?  He said it has to be *plugged in" but he also said they do a lot of boondocking, so I assume it runs from an inverter.  Wonder how much power it consumes?

My biggest concern at this time, aside from the initial equipment cost, would be finding an open cell.  Other than the travel time it takes to get down and back each fall and spring, we camp in one place during the winter.  What if we arrive and there's no open cell?  Or what if we get home in the spring, and the space we had is now filled?  Just seems a little "iffy" to me at the present time.

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48 minutes ago, LindaH said:

I know Starlink says they're going to go mobile at some point, but what kind of equipment would you have to carry and how difficult would it be to set up?  We had HughesNet many years ago and it was a pain in the ___ to set up.  What's the monthly GB limit, and how fast is it?

Starlink is nothing like Hughesnet to set up.   You aren't pointing a dish at a point in the sky.  You put the dish on the ground or on a pole and it points itself.  Our speeds are typically 200-400 Mbps download and 30-50 Mbps upload.  

It does consume ~100 watts pretty continuously, so if you boondock this could be a concern.

The service costs $100/mo and I paid $500 for the hardware.

At present you can request an address change on your account.  From what I read if you are the kind of person who is willing let their destination be determined by whether or not you can get a Starlink "cell" then this might work for you.  It wouldn't work well for us.  Furthermore, you do need a ~60 degree clear sky aperture for it to work, so don't stay on heavily treed sites.

One other issue that isn't talked about as much is that if you take your Starlink away from your homebase there may or may not be a "slot" available for you when you want to return.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Starlink but if we go on travel later this year I'll leave it in place.  It's worth it to me to pay the $100/mo for a couple of months just to make sure I have it again when we return.

Edited by docj
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31 minutes ago, docj said:

Starlink is nothing like Hughesnet to set up.   

Yep, I got that from watching the video.  

We don't camp where their are trees.  We need a clear sky for our solar panel and Trav'ler.  During the winter, we stay at Pilot Knob LTVA.  Not a tree in sight!

100 watts over what period of time?  It's not something we would leave on when we're not actively using it.

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I just installed the Wilson WeBoost Complete Home System you linked above at my home in Northern California.  Here is a long explanation of the reasoning behind the purchase and our results.

We always had good AT&T service at our home and when the AT&T Mobley came out, I purchased a couple of them to take advantage of that service.  I use one in the RV and run my house on the other one.  All of our data is cellular based and has been since I made the switch to the Mobley when they first became available years ago.  We stream a lot at home and have good success with it with the Mobley.  Some services are much better than others.  We get no buffering with Netflix, but do get buffering with other apps like HBO Max.  I believe it has more to do with how the apps handle the data than our service capabilities for streaming data.  I had no complaints with our service at all until a few months ago.

My wife has been working from home since COVID started and the last several months she noticed a serious decline in our AT&T service.  I also retired and started spending more time at home around the same time and I too noticed a significant drop in our service.  The degradation wasn't just in data.  We started experiencing dropped calls and the inability to even make a call at times.  I started calling AT&T about the issues and after a month or so of going back and forth with them, they basically told me I should change providers because they couldn't solve my problem and couldn't find any issues with their service in our area.  I have no intention of leaving AT&T because I do not want to give up the Mobley's and their inexpensive unlimited plans.

I did some investigating and learned AT&T added a brand new cell tower on the hill above our house.  It is approximately 1000 yards from our back door, but it is also approximately 1000 feet above our back door.  We used to be serviced by an AT&T tower across the valley from our front door.  AT&T wouldn't admit this to me, but I believe when they built the new tower above us, they either turned down the old tower across the valley or aimed it differently.  Our signal issues basically started when the new tower went on line.  Because of the positioning of the new tower on a hill directly above us, the signal from that tower broadcasts over our property and never gets down to us.  If I clime to the top of the hill and look at the tower with my phone, I have 5 bars of excellent service from that tower.  If I go back down to the house, I have 1 to 2 bars of marginal service from the old tower across the valley.  My phone can't even see a signal from the new tower at the house.

As a last resort and after a lot of research, I bought the Weboost.  I set it up at the house and pointed the directional antenna at the old tower across the valley.  Visually/anecdotally, my phone bars instantly went from 1 or 2 to consistently 5 in the house with the booster on.  We have iPhones so there is no way to get the actual dbm signal strength readings from them (that I am aware of).  Qualitatively, the dbm level on my Mobley went from -120 to -91.  That was a significant gain in signal quality/strength.  My download and upload speeds on the Mobley also better than doubled.  Neither my wife nor I have dropped a call or been unable to place a call since I installed the booster.  Our internet usage has been improved and my wife's zoom calls and meetings work flawlessly again.  We are extremely happy with the Weboost signal booster for our situation.

I bought the booster direct from WilsonAmplifiers.com.  I purchased the renewed kit, which was $200 cheaper than the standard kit.  The only significant difference was the renewed kit came with a one year warranty instead of a two year warranty.  In our circumstance, it has been everything I hoped it would be and I am very happy with it.

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7 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

We get no buffering with Netflix, but do get buffering with other apps like HBO Max.  I believe it has more to do with how the apps handle the data than our service capabilities for streaming data. 

That's interesting!  A few days ago we watched an episode of "Welcome to Earth" on the Disney+ National Geographic channel and got buffering.  It wasn't terrible, but it happened throughout the episode.  However, yesterday we watched a movie on Netflix and didn't once get an instance of buffering!  Are you still getting buffering on some streaming channels after the addition of the WeBoost?

7 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

I did some investigating and learned AT&T added a brand new cell tower on the hill above our house. 

How do you find out where the towers are?  I've been on several websites that purport to show the location of the towers based on the service you use (in our case, Verizon) and they all show different locations, so I don't know *where* the Verizon tower nearest our house is!  

The Network Cell Info Lite app has a map that's supposed to show the location of the Verizon towers around me, but the lines that point from my house to a tower keep changing direction.  I'm guessing that means there's more than one Verizon tower around here, but how would I determine which one to point the directional antenna to?

7 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

 

7 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

Qualitatively, the dbm level on my Mobley went from -120 to -91.  That was a significant gain in signal quality/strength. 

First, I must admit that I know nothing about dbm levels or any of the other technical aspects about cellular workings.  But based on the above conversations, I got the impression that a higher dbm level was better.  No?  According to the Network Cell Info Lite app, the dbm at my house ranges all over the place, but it's normally around the -115 level -- a bit less, a bit more.

7 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

 I bought the booster direct from WilsonAmplifiers.com.  I purchased the renewed kit, which was $200 cheaper than the standard kit.  The only significant difference was the renewed kit came with a one year warranty instead of a two year warranty.  In our circumstance, it has been everything I hoped it would be and I am very happy with it.

Thanks for that information!  I've always been a bit leery of buying refurbished items, but it sounds like you haven't had a problem with doing so.

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Using Netflix in comparison to most other streamers regarding buffering is a bit of an apples and oranges situation. Netflix uses a "Content Distribution Network" (CDN) that significantly minimizes the distance and number of routers, etc, the data has to pass through before it reaches your screen. CDNs are computers with the full catalog of titles stored on large hard drives that are co-located at various places close to the end users. A lot of these are at data centers for major internet service providers. These servers are located where there is access to fast fiber based internet backbones and at major internet peering centers including major ISP's. The servers have hundreds of TBs of storage. Each server can stream a certain number of programs at the same time. Akamai and Cloudflare are major CDN providers. Most other streamers do not use a similar setup or anything close to it. But then no other streamer has 180 million subscribers either...

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17 minutes ago, Dutch_12078 said:

Using Netflix in comparison to most other streamers regarding buffering is a bit of an apples and oranges situation. 

So what do you have to do to stop the buffering?  What is it a function of...signal strength, speed (Visible's hotspot is limited to 5Mbps), or something else?  What do I need to do to make streaming a viable solution for me over Dish?  I could, of course, go with a regular ISP such as xFinity (or, perhaps even Starlink), but I hate paying for something that we wouldn't use 5 months out of the year -- and would that even solve the problem?

What I really need, because of my lack of knowledge on this whole matter of streaming and the technical aspects involved, is having someone come hold my hand and guide me through the entire process! 😂

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1 hour ago, LindaH said:

So what do you have to do to stop the buffering?  What is it a function of...signal strength, speed (Visible's hotspot is limited to 5Mbps), or something else?  What do I need to do to make streaming a viable solution for me over Dish?  I could, of course, go with a regular ISP such as xFinity (or, perhaps even Starlink), but I hate paying for something that we wouldn't use 5 months out of the year -- and would that even solve the problem?

What I really need, because of my lack of knowledge on this whole matter of streaming and the technical aspects involved, is having someone come hold my hand and guide me through the entire process! 😂

Signal strength, speed, etc, are all part of the equation, but I have successfully streamed with Visible's 5 Mbps many times with services other than Netflix. One thing I did do that's had some benefit. I upgraded to 4K Firesticks and added external memory to increase the Firestick's capacity for pre-loading data. I won't go into the details here, but a YouTube search on stopping buffering on a Firestick will turn up a variety of videos on doing it.

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12 minutes ago, Dutch_12078 said:

Signal strength, speed, etc, are all part of the equation, but I have successfully streamed with Visible's 5 Mbps many times with services other than Netflix. One thing I did do that's had some benefit. I upgraded to 4K Firesticks and added external memory to increase the Firestick's capacity for pre-loading data. I won't go into the details here, but a YouTube search on stopping buffering on a Firestick will turn up a variety of videos on doing it.

Thanks Dutch!  I'll look up those videos.

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