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Why Commercial EV Charging Stations Need Reliable Cellular Signal – and How to Get It

Why Commercial EV Charging Stations Need Reliable Cellular Signal – and How to Get It

Written By Alex Baker
17th Jul 2023

With the rapid rise of electric vehicles, commercial electric vehicle (EV) charging stations have cropped up all over America. They serve the dual function of allowing people to charge their electric vehicles while at work, a meal, or at an appointment, and provide a potential new revenue stream for businesses.

But there is a catch, one you don’t hear talked about much: reliable cellular signal is needed to make the most of these devices, from both a business and consumer perspective. Why? Read on.

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Why EV Charging Stations Need Reliable Cellular Service

With cellular, businesses can set schedules, track data and power consumption, and charge consumers remotely for using their EV chargers. Without it, profits and customer convenience lower. To extract revenue from EV chargers, you would need to install additional infrastructure, whether that be an old-fashioned coin-operated model or a parking payment style machine.

Not only that, but many people these days pay using their phone. So not only can the chargers potentially drop a transaction, but a customer can struggle to pay – possibly voiding you a sale on its own.

But surely, reliable cellular signal isn’t a big issue these days. I mean, everyone has phones and they use them all the time!

Unfortunately, it’s bigger than you’d think. According to Pew Research, 72% of cell phone users experience dropped calls occasionally, and 32% experience them regularly. Think about your own life – you've no doubt experienced a dropped call, unsent text, or agonizingly slow data rate at some point. EV chargers are no different and are quite prone to suffering from cellular problems.

Since many EV chargers take payment over an EV charging app, the customer's phone must also have reliable service. Even one dropped transaction can kill any profit you hope to get from a commercial EV charger, and can cause customer headaches to boot.

How to Accurately Measure the Cellular Signal Strength Reaching Your EV Charging Station

When money is on the line, be as thorough as possible. Most people measure their cell reception in terms of bars. While this is fine for the average joe, it’s hardly the most scientific method.

Cellular signals are professionally measured using decibels (dB). This can be achieved in several ways – we have a full guide on how to measure your signal strength, if you want a step-by-step guide – but for now, just understand that cell signal is measured in dB, and that certain building materials (particularly concrete, in parking garages) dramatically weaken the signal strength reaching your EV chargers.

Why EV Charging Stations Struggle to Get Reliable Cellular Reception

There are two main causes for weak cell service: distance from your nearest cell tower and building materials.

Some other causes include poor weather, tower congestion, terrain, and natural features such as trees.

If you build an EV charging station in a busy rural area nestled in the mountains surrounded by pine trees, you’ll probably drop transactions often. But even if you put EV chargers in a concrete parking garage in a city, you may still struggle with poor service. Underground parking facilities especially.

So, what can you do? Fortunately, there are several solutions.

How to Improve Cellular Reception for EV Chargers

There is a reliable way to get better cell service. Cell phone signal boosters are electronic devices designed to improve existing 5G, 4G, and LTE networks. They enhance call quality, signal strength, and data speeds. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and IC (Industry Canada) certified units are 100% legal in their respective nations.

Cell boosters come in all shapes and sizes, with the most powerful being able to cover around 200,000 square feet. They are also the cheapest option, as they only require some existing cell signal in the vicinity of your premises to work. Once installed and plugged in, they just work – they require no monthly fees, nor WiFi to function.

With a cell signal booster, your EV Chargers will be able to utilize all their features, boosting your profits and customer satisfaction at once.

For Outdoor or One or Two EV Chargers

One of the few weaknesses of most cell phone signal boosters is that they cannot work outdoors. Thus, if you have a large number of outdoor EV chargers, such as on the roof of a parking garage or a surface parking lot, you have one option that doesn’t break the bank.

Wilson IoT 5-Band

The Wilson IoT 5-Band is a direct connect signal booster that will provide a cell signal boost to an individual EV charging station, whether indoor or outdoor. They are also great if you only have a small number of EV chargers, or only a few EV chargers in an area with poor cell signal. It works across all major North American cell carriers, including Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, US Cellular, and more.

You will need to buy one Wilson IoT 5-Band signal booster per EV charger or charger base station you’re looking to boost. Each booster can be self-installed. Just be sure to install them in some sort of weatherproof container – a cell signal booster does not do well in inclement weather.

You’ll also need a cellular modem. For that, we recommend the Bolton Blazer. It’s small, lightweight, rugged, and fast. Don’t forget to put it in that same weatherproof container with your booster.

For Parking Garages

Most parking garages are multi-level and have cellular signal problems, due to the prevalence of concrete in their construction. Concrete is one of the biggest culprits in creating weak cell signal. It’s thick, and cellular signals are weakened by –10 to –20 dB trying to get through it – more, if you’re talking 5G.

This obviously affects EV chargers, but having cellular problems in a parking garage causes even more issues. Installing a cell booster system will do more than just enabling more features on your EV charging stations.

An estimated 80% of emergency calls are made from cell phones, so having a parking garage with no service is dangerous as well as inconvenient. Parking garages made for shopping or busy urban areas are in a state of competition, and not having cell service can provide other garages with an edge for people’s business. Other features common to parking garages like lockers, lighting, fire control, and more can all be upgraded or improved with a reliable cellular network.

If you’ve got a parking garage in need of signal improvement, a booster is a no brainer.

WilsonPro Enterprise 4300

The WilsonPro Enterprise 4300 is our most powerful “passive” cell phone signal booster system, which can provide up to 100,000 square feet of coverage spread across multiple levels. We’ve installed dozens of these systems in parking garages across the country, and people have been pleased with the results. Dead zones will be eliminated, and inconsistent cell areas become reliable. The WilsonPro Enterprise 4300 works with all cell carriers.

We recommend professional installation of the WilsonPro Enterprise 4300. At SignalBoosters, we provide complete design and installation services for cell phone signal boosters like the WilsonPro 4300. Give us a call at 1-888-427-1136 or fill out this form to get started with a free, 30-minute consultation.

For smaller garages (up to 40,000 sq ft), see the WilsonPro Enterprise 1300, and for smaller, one-to-two story garages (up to 30,000 sq ft), see the weBoost for Business Office 200.

For Large Parking Facilities

For very large parking facilities, you’ll need to graduate from the “passive” cell phone signal booster and go for a more hybrid system, which can increase coverage all the way to 200,000 square feet under best conditions.

Cel-Fi QUATRA 4000c

The QUATRA 4000c is our top performing enterprise signal booster, utilizing Power-over-Ethernet for extremely long cable runs. They work particularly well in parking garages because they provide the maximum amplification possible at +100 dB gain (as opposed to the +72 dB of gain by other signal booster options). With up to six coverage units, a total of 24 antennas can be deployed from a single QUATRA 4000c, blanketing your parking garage with usable cell signal.

We recommend professional design and installation for the QUATRA 4000c. At SignalBoosters, we provide complete design and installation services for cell phone signal boosters like the QUATRA 4000c. Give us a call at 1-888-427-1136 or fill out this form to get started with a free, 30-minute consultation.

For Large Surface Parking Lots

If you’re running a gigantic outdoor parking lot without workable cell service, you might consider an Outdoor DAS (oDAS). This is an expensive solution, but one which may be worthwhile depending on the scale of your parking lot.

SignalBoosters Ensures Your EV Charging Stations Receive the Cell Signal They Need

Interested in getting started? We at SignalBoosters are the leading provider of cellular and network improvement solutions in North America, with nationwide installation available.

Our signal experts will analyze your signal situation, design a custom solution for your needs, and provide estimated cost. Call us at 1-800-420-3211 for a free consultation.

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