Improving 4G Data Reception Method
1. Evaluate your current signal strength via your cell phone stats
Don’t rely on the bars. There’s no industry standard to represent dB gain, so one carrier’s one bar could be another company’s three bars. The most reliable way is to read dB gain. Here are options to display the dB gain reading on your smartphone:
- Android: go to Phone settings, About Phone, +Status, Signal Strength.
- Blackberry: select Tools, Settings, Status or Option, Status.
- iPhone: choose phone mode, dial *3001#12345#* then press Call.
- -50 or better is considered full strength. (-57 or better on our Pep wave 4G routers is a must)
- -115 and below means it’s a dead zone.
2. Find the tower’s direction via a cell phone app
Two signal finder apps exist for both iPhone and Android phones. Search for “Open Signal” or “Akvelon” and “signal Finder” These apps use three data sources to find cell phone towers.
- FCC “Antenna Structure Registration Search” database lookups
- Your cell phones built in magnetometer chip (electronic compass)
- Your phones 4G status info (antenna ID and signal strength)
3. As a cross check, create and parse a spreadsheet of antennas owned by Verizon.
antennasearch.com and cellreception.com show tower and antenna locations. Use these site to produce an XLS of all antennas in your area. Then parse the data of antennas that are obviously not cellular.
- Remove all columns such as contact info, site type, site number, license info other that name and email address.
- Keep any antenna with the word cell in it or certainly Verizon or AT&T.
- Remove all rows who’s tower is under 50 feet, who’s tower is on a building, or the owner is a private business.
4. Go to close tower sites in direction indicated from step 2 and repeat step 1.
- If it’s a Verizon cell tower, the signal will be excellent. The signal should have dropped, by at least 10 db. That means it got closer to 0db.
- If you are too close to the tower, the signal may be beaming over your head. Step back 1000-1500 feet.
5. Find a clear path to the cell tower noting the nearest landmark
Google Earth Pro is a must. The details of it’s use are beyond this article but the basics are
- Create pins of your (roof?) 4G router install location and the 4G tower. Set pin properties elevation to about 35 meters.
- Create a path between the pins. Set path properties elevation to the elevation of the top of your nearest path landmark.
- Note where the nearest landmark path crosses to help in physically placing the 4G router.
6. Orient your device to optimize signal
- If using a 4G router with antennas sticking up from one side of the router, the router antennas should be FARTHEST from the tower. In the CB radio days, antenna placed toward the back of your car roof would have a better signal forwards so you could talk far up the road and find where the cops where hiding!
- Make sure the antennas point straight up and have nothing around them.
- Turn off WI-FI on the router and use a hard Ethernet connection to get Internet to your users.
- Place router near non tinted windows and on the highest floor. Or mount on the roof in an inverted 5 gallon plastic bucket.
Known Verizon Towers in Richmond
- 1831 Westwood Ave Richmond, VA 23227 (64 and exit 78, Boulevard)
- 5909 West Broad Street (behind the Verizon Wireless Store)
- 3300 Coastal Blvd Richmond, VA 23224 (Bellt Blvd and Hopkins)