3G/4G antennas – Types, directional, MIMO, cables & connectors

MIMO SMA connectionsChoosing the right antenna is not as simple as picking a random high gain 4G antenna and expecting it to work!  There are several types of antennas and connectors.  Even the cable type and length can make a difference.

Before considering an antenna, check out the article on choosing the right 3G/4G router.  A proper mains-operated 4G router can do away with most indoor antennas. 

Like TV antennas, there are a wide range of 3G and 4G antennas.  These range from small portable antennas to large outdoor antennas.  Portable antennas generally provide a significant signal boost for small data modems and portable hotspots.  However, they may not provide any benefit over the internal higher gain antennas in larger mains-operated desktop routers.

Larger outdoor antennas can provide a vast signal improvement, particularly if mounted high up.  They are available in a choice of single and MIMO, omni-directional and directional, wideband and band specific.  Antenna suppliers may also offer a choice of cable connectors.

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Update 16th April 2018: I added the Antenna gain and radiation pattern section.  If a directional antenna does not have a radiation pattern graph, consider avoiding it!

Cell towers enforce a maximum range!

Before purchasing any antenna, first check that 3G/4G reception is possible with a router.  For example, try operating the router outdoors or outside an upstairs window facing the cell tower.  If a router fails to connect in 3G or 4G mode, an antenna will very unlikely help.

Cell towers determine the distance based on the signal round trip time between it and the user’s equipment.  Devices with round trip times over the configured threshold will be considered out of range, preventing a connection.  This cannot be overcome even with clear line of sight and a powerful antenna.  See this troubleshooting article for further information.

To make matters worse, there may be different range limits for phones and data devices.  This is the case with the Three network in Ireland.  A phone that picks up 4G does not necessarily mean that a router will also be able to operate on 4G.  In 4G+ areas where cell towers operate simultaneously on bands 3 and 20, the cell tower may enforce different range limits for each band.  See the band coverage section below.

Active signal boosters / mobile repeaters

Do not confuse antennas with signal boosters or repeaters!  A signal booster, also known as a mobile repeater, amplifies the signal in each direction.  These are typically placed inline in-between an indoor and outdoor antenna.

Most low cost non EU mobile boosters blindly amplify everything, including background noise and other sources of interference.  Improper isolation of the indoor and outdoor antennas can result in signal oscillations, like a PA speaker whistling near its microphone.  These unwanted transmissions can severely affect the mobile networks in the area, not just one network.

According to ComReg, mobile repeaters are the main source of interference in Ireland.  Mobile repeaters and boosters that don’t meet ComReg’s strict criteria are prohibited for consumer use.  It is also illegal to posses non-compliant signal boosters and they can be seized by customs.

Antennas, cables and connectors on the other hand are purely passive components.  These carry the signal received over the airwaves or transmitted by the data device’s radio hardware.   A purely passive antenna setup connects directly to the antenna ports of the data device.

ComReg has recently permitted the use of mobile repeaters that meet their strict technical conditions.  However, even with a high quality mobile repeater, it will only improve the reception on one polarity.  While this is great for calls, texts and data on mobile phones that lack antenna ports, 4G MIMO reception requires two repeaters running in opposite antenna polarities.

4G will work with a single repeater for the correct 4G band, but with its bandwidth cut in half.  One workaround for 4G MIMO would be to use an indoor rabbit ear antenna on the router’s port #1.  Then install an outdoor antenna with the opposite polarity and connect it to port #2.

Warning: Do not connect a repeater or signal booster directly to the antenna port of a modem or router!  This will potentially damage the repeater or the modem/router, like connecting an speaker amplifier to a microphone input.

Portable antennas

Portable 4G antennaA quick search of “4G antenna” on eBay or Amazon will return countless sellers offering antennas like the image on the right.  This type of antenna can be useful when travelling with a data dongle or hotspot.  For example, the antenna can attach to a campervan window with its suction cup.  Check that the antenna has the correct connector to fit the data dongle or hotspot.  TS9 and CRC9 require different connectors despite looking similar.

This type of antenna will unlikely offer any improvement for desktop routers.  These routers have much more sensitive antennas than the tiny antennas in dongles and hotspots.  The exception would be to locate antenna in an area that the router cannot easily go.

The “rabbit ear” antennas that attach directly to the ports can also be hit & miss.  With routers that have internal antennas, external antennas can avoid interference from circuitry within the router.  The benefit is usually minimal, sometimes no better than repositioning the router, turning it or raising its height.

Single vs MIMO antennas

4G MIMO antenna (Xpol)All antennas with two cable connections are MIMO antennas.  With 4G MIMO, one antenna is polarised at a 90-degree angle to the other.  This effectively doubles the bandwidth by transmitting on opposite polarities simultaneously within the same band.  With 3G, the second antenna handles receive diversity.  The second antenna picks up signals that bounce from directions the main antenna misses and vice versa.

While 3G can operate with a single antenna, a second antenna can provide up to double the performance.  If the data device lacks a second antenna connection, consider replacing it.  Most 4G devices support diversity on 3G, with advantage of 4G support when it becomes available.  See my router advice article for further information.

MIMO Log pairWideband LOG antennas are typically available in a pair (right image), one coaxial cable per antenna.  As the Irish networks operate on vertical and horizontal polarity, mount one antenna vertically and the second horizontally.  The antennas can be up to several metres apart, however, both antennas must face the same cell tower.

Dual polarity LOG antennaFrom my own rural area testing, I find LOG antennas perform at their best a few metres apart.  LOG antennas are also available that handle both polarities in one unit, as shown on the right.  I suggest going for two separate LOG antennas over this type of antenna for fringe reception areas.  Based on my testing, a dual polarity LOG antenna tends to perform no better than using just one LOG antenna.

Omni-Directional vs Directional

Portable antennas and larger indoor antennas are generally omni-directional.  When the cellular signal penetrates the building, it will often bounce off various surfaces before reaching the antenna.  While directional antennas have higher gain, it may not be possible to achieve a stronger signal than omni-directional antennas.  An omni-directional antenna picks up the main signal as well as signals that bounce off objects from other directions.

Directional antennas generally perform better with clear line of sight of the cell tower.  Unlike indoor reception, the signals coming from other directions are likely unwanted signals from other cell towers.  A directional antenna will attenuate these unwanted signals that otherwise introduce interference.   The higher gain facing the cell tower will also provide a stronger uplink signal at the cell tower receiving end.

The best place to install an omni-directional antenna outdoors is against a wall or gable.  This will help attenuate unwanted signals coming from behind the antenna.  See the ComReg SiteViewer to see the locations of the mobile operator masts, which will give an idea which side to install the antenna and the direction to aim it.

Antenna gain and radiation pattern

With antenna manufacturers trying to outdo each other on marketing, a lot of antennas have false gain ratings.  If a wideband antenna gain rating is over 15dB, it very likely is a false rating.   For example, the Wittenberg LAT-56 is one of the most sensitive wideband LTE antennas I’m aware of.  Despite its 98cm length, its maximum gain rating is just 11.5dBi.

All omni-directional MIMO antennas have a maximum gain of 2.4dBi.  These antennas basically contain a pair of dipoles, cross polarised.  Even the popular “35dBi” portable antennas are typically 2dBi max.

When comparing directional antennas, look for the radiation pattern graph.  If the antenna does not have a radiation pattern graph, I recommend avoiding that antenna for trying to isolate a mast.  The exception would be for very long antennas (80cm+), which have a narrow acceptance angle.  Note that omni-directional antennas generally do not provide a radiation pattern graph.  The horizontal plane would be a circle and the vertical plane would be a figure 8 shape.

The following is an example from the Wittenberg LAT-56:

Wittenberg Lat-56 Gain Graph

This graph shows the radiation patterns for three LTE bands – 2.6GHz (band 7), 1800MHz (band 3) and 800MHz (band 20).  The ‘E’ plane (from the German data sheet) is for the vertical plane.

The top section of the graph shows the acceptance angle.  Going by these graphs, the aim can be 30 degrees off to the left/right or up/down before losing about 3dB of signal.

The pattern around the rest of the graph shows the signal rejection.  For example, if there is another mast anywhere between 60 degrees and 300 degrees to where the antenna points, this antenna will weaken the unwanted signal by over 18dB.

Panel and smaller LOG antennas typically have a larger acceptance angle and less rejection.  Their smaller size make them easier to install, particularly in areas where the user has clear line of sight of the mast.

Band-specific antennas are much more sensitive for the equivalent wideband antenna size.  For example, the Wittenberg LAT 22 offers 3dB higher gain than the above antenna for the 800MHz (band 20), has a narrower acceptance angle (more directional) and is 20cm shorter.

3G and 4G band coverage

Portable and omni-directional 4G antennas are generally wideband and cover the main 3G and 4G bands in Ireland.  Directional antennas like group band TV antennas are available in both wideband and band specific.  Band specific antennas provide higher gain and directivity than wideband for the same antenna size.

Single band coverage

All mobile operators in Ireland currently operate on 900MHz and 2100MHz for 3G and 800MHz and 1800MHz for 4G.   The 800MHz 4G and 900MHz 3G bands have extensive coverage in rural areas due to the long signal propagation. The 2100MHz 3G and 1800MHz 4G bands mainly serve urban areas and larger towns due to the higher bandwidth.

LTE panel antennaFor users over a kilometre from the nearest town, an 800-900MHz antenna will generally be adequate.  An 800MHz panel antenna (right image) provides high gain, good directivity and is no larger than a typical grid TV antenna.  It can easily mount on a typical TV antenna wall bracket.

Within the town limits and urban areas, I strongly recommend checking what bands are available.  Many Samsung, iPhone, Android 7+ phones and rooted Android phones can display the bands in use.   On Samsung phones, dial *#0011#.  For iPhone, dial *3001#12345#*.  With other phones, install the CellMapper app.  It can read frequency information on many Android 7+ and rooted phones and look up the LTE band on others.  For phones that cannot read band information, go into the CellMapper’s Settings menu and turn on “Estimate Frequency Bands”.  It will look-up the LTE band # from its server, which requires an Internet/data connection.  If the phone shows ‘4G+’ on the network, then both 4G bands are in use.

LTE Advanced / 4G+ carrier aggregation

4G+ cell towers in Ireland operate on 800MHz and 1800MHz simultaneously to provide higher bandwidth.  LTE cat 6 and higher devices connect to two bands simultaneously in 4G+ mode, also known as carrier aggregation.

For regular 4G devices (LTE cat 4 and lower), the cell tower may determine the band the device can use depending on the physical distance from the router.  Some cell towers restrict devices within a certain range to the higher band only, while devices far away can operate on 800MHz only.  As a result, I recommend choosing a wideband antenna if 4G+ is available in the area.

Antenna types

The most common band specific patch, panel and Yagi antennas are as follows:

  • 800MHz – 4G bands 8 & 20 and 3G band 900MHz.
  • 1800MHz – 4G band 3, some also extend to cover 3G band 2100MHz
  • 2600MHz – 4G bands 7 & 38, not yet in use in Ireland
  • 1710-2700MHz – Upper 4G bands, including 4G band 3, 7 & 38.  These may cover 3G band 2100MHz.

LOG antennas are wideband only and generally cover all the 3G and 4G bands between 700MHz and 2700MHz.

4G Ready TV antennaBeware – So called “4G Ready” and “LTE Ready” antennas do not work with 4G!  These are UHF TV antennas with circuitry added to filter out the 800MHz 4G band, formerly used by UHF channels 61-69.

Cable connectors

MIMO SMA connectionsMost desktop routers include either SMA or FME connectors.  Huawei routers generally have two SMA connectors behind a removable panel on the back of the router.  Portable 4G hotspots and data dongles typically have two small CRC9 or TS9 antenna connectors.  The cable connectors must match to connect.

Adapters are available to connect from SMA to CRC9 or TS9 or from FME to CRC9 or TS9.  Most of these adapters typically include two screw-on ends to fit either CRC9 or TS9.

Cable and connector impedance matching

People often ask me if they can reuse their satellite coaxial leads, such as from an old Sky dish.  Unfortunately, satellite and TV cables are unsuitable for cellular antennas due to an impedance mismatch.  TV antennas and satellite dishes use 75 Ohm cable.  3G and 4G antennas and data devices require 50 Ohm cable.

The two types of cable and connectors may look very similar.  However, both have different characteristics such as inner/outer radii and the dielectric insulation in-between.  While 75 Ohm cable can carry the signals, a small portion of the signal reflects when it meets the 50 Ohm impedance mismatch at each end of the cable.

Besides signal loss, the reflected signals are particularly troublesome with 2-way transmissions such as a video call.  Each time the radio hardware transmits a signal, the reflections may obliterate the incoming transmissions.  This can severely affect the performance or cause frequent drop-outs.

See this article for in-depth detail covering the differences between 50 Ohm and 75 Ohm cable and connectors.

Coaxial cables

Coaxial cablesMost antennas are typically available as complete kits, which include one or two antennas, 5 to 10 metres of RG-58 coaxial cable and the connectors.  Some kits also include a wall mount bracket.

Try to keep the cable run as short as possible, preferably within 10 metres.  With short cable runs, the signal to noise ratio remains mostly consistent all the way to the radio hardware.  With long cable runs, some otherwise discernible signals will fall below the noise floor of the radio hardware.  Similarly, unwanted signals that penetrate the cable shielding will interfere with the weakened signal towards the device end.

50 Ohm cable also requires a suitable 50 Ohm SMA, FME or ‘N’ connector at each end.  Complete antenna kits typically include the proper matching connectors prefitted.  While twist-on ‘F’ connectors and adapters may be tempting for a DIY cable build, they are 75 Ohm rated.  As with using unsuitable cable, 75 Ohm connectors will introduce signal loss and reflections.

DIY with UHF TV antennas and satellite dishes

Older UHF antennas that handle UHF channels 61-69 can be modified to pick up LTE band 20 (800MHz).  This typically involves replacing the 75 Ohm balun/cable connector and dipole assembly with a small cellular dipole antenna.

See the following video on YouTube where someone modified a TV antenna to function as a high gain LTE antenna.

4G dish antennaSatellite dishes are a popular way of receiving the higher LTE bands 7, 38 (both 2600MHz) and 3 (1800MHz).  This typically involves replacing the LNB with a small LTE antenna or a USB data dongle with water proofing.

The image on the right shows a purpose built MIMO antenna installed in the “LNB” holder.  This type of setup generally does not work with the lower 800/900MHz bands.  Unfortunately, with Irish operators enforcing strict distance limits from newer and upgraded cell towers, the satellite dish method will unlikely work more than a few kilometres of the cell tower either.

107 thoughts on “3G/4G antennas – Types, directional, MIMO, cables & connectors”

  1. Hi,
    if you buy a mimo antenna (I’m looking at one with TS9 connectors) could you extend the wires to increase the distance between the antenna and the device (modem) or would that affect the signal?
    The cable is currently only 1m long

    1. It depends on the antenna. If it’s a portable antenna and the TS9 connectors are crimped directly to the cables, then these cannot be easily extended and I don’t recommend extending these either. The thin cables these typically come with have a high signal loss and probably would not provide much useful signal beyond a metre.

      If it’s a larger antenna intended for permanent mounting, these MIMO antennas generally come with two leads with a similar thickness to satellite coaxial cable. If the cables detach from the antenna with a large N connector, you can replace the two cables with two longer cables with an N connection on one end, an SMA connection on the other and use two SMA to TS9 connectors to attach to your modem.

      If the cables do not detach from the antenna, check if the TS9 connectors unscrew from the cables. If they do, try unscrewing one to see what connectors these TS9 adapters attach to. If the connectors look like the cables at the top of this article, they are SMA connectors, otherwise they are likely FME connectors (with the thread on the outside). In this case, you can purchase two SMA or FME extension cables to extend the two cables, then reattach the TS9 connectors to the end. For SMA extension cables, just make sure they have SMA connectors and not RP-SMA connectors.

    2. Hi Sean,

      Your advice would be greatly appreciated..

      I’m living in the West of Ireland very rural location and I’m currently with Westnet for my broadband which is 4 mbps..

      So I looked up and the is a three cell tower 4km away from me which has 4g on band 8.

      Today I got a 3 test sim card and outside facing the direction of the tower I got 10mbps plus..with 2 bars sometimes 3 bars of 4g reception showing in my phone

      So on the three network I can get the Huawei 525 4g router for €30 per month..

      My question is what would be the best outside antenna to get..

      Thank you..
      Great information on this site..

      1. With that reception strength on your phone, you will probably get away without any outdoor antenna as the Huawei router is much more sensitive than most phones. Three provides two rabbit ear antennas with their Huawei B525, so it’s worth giving this a try first – Aim one vertically and the second one horizontally, then try the router in various spots/angles for the best signal reading. In the router’s web interface (192.168.8.1), go into Settings -> System -> Device Information to view the dB readings. If the RSRP value is -95dBm or less negative and the RSRQ is -8dB or less negative, you’ll probably not get much benefit with an outdoor antenna.

        Before signing up to that plan, make sure you run some speed tests during peak time with your test SIM, particularly between 8pm and 10pm. In some areas, the peak time speed can dip below 1Mbps, in which case you would probably be better off staying with Westnet.

        I’m not sure if Three is using LTE band 8, which is the 900MHz band. The Irish mobile providers mainly use the 900MHz band for 2G and 3G and the 800MHz band for 4G in rural areas. For the 800MHz band (LTE band 20), I would suggest this band-specific antenna on Amazon Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B004SLS2QG/ If you are sure Three is using LTE band 8 in your area (which I’m not aware of them using) or would like the antenna to cover both 800MHz and 900MHz, I would suggest going for this one on eBay, which is what I currently use. However, as your 4G signal is much stronger than what I pick up (1 bar at best on a phone outside), I strongly recommend checking how well the router performs first.

  2. Hi
    I’m looking for your expert opinion on the best 4g antenna to purchase for my current setup.I live on the outskirts of Dundalk, Co Louth. I’m currently using a TP-link Archer MR200 4g Router. I have a sim inserted from the Three network. The router is connected to a 4g antenna, the same as you show under the heading of “portable antennas” on your website. The antenna is on the outside of my house. This setup is operating for the last 2 years. The router is quite stable on the 4g network.
    I believe I am between 2k & 3k from the mast I’m connecting to. My current latency and speeds are not too bad for my current household requirement. However, I would like to upgrade my antenna to a yagi type, I’m hoping I would increase my speed. I currently get from 10mb to 20mb.

    I would be very grateful for your feedback

    Thanks
    Aidan

    1. Based on your distance, I suggest going for a pair of LOG antennas, like the second image under the above section “Single vs MIMO antennas”. These cover both LTE bands in use in Ireland, i.e. 3 (1800MHz) and 20 (800MHz). This is an example on eBay. These provide a substantial improvement over the smaller portable type.

      Unfortunately with the high contention the Three network faces in some areas, it may not improve your peak time speeds much. However, it should improve what you get early in the day up until around 5pm, particularly if let’s say you use the connection for teleworking.

      While there are higher gain Yagi antennas available, I generally only recommend them for very fringe reception. High gain Yagi antennas can reach over a metre long, which can be problematic during stormy conditions or where seagulls or other larger birds may use it as a perch. Most of the shorter Yagis are band specific, in which case you would need to know whether you’re using an 800MHz or 1800MHz Three mast.

  3. Hi
    I appreciate your valuable feedback. I looked at the antenna on eBay, I’ll purchase it. One question, I noticed this antenna can be setup in 3 different ways. (judging by the pictures)

    Which way do I setup this antenna, pic 1, pic 2 or pic 3 for the three network? I’ll let you know how the antenna works out for me? I need a bit more bandwidth for IPTV!!

    Thanks
    Aidan

    1. These need to be set up with one vertical and one horizontal for 4G (LTE), i.e. image #1 on that eBay listing. You can also mount the pole vertically like image #2, but with one antenna in the vertical position. The distance between the antennas does not matter much, i.e. you can purchase two separate LTE LOG antennas and mount one on one pole and the other on another pole, as long as both aim the same direction. For 3G (HSPA+), they can aim with the same polarity, e.g. both in a vertical position as 3G uses the second antenna for receive diversity instead of MIMO.

      For IPTV, check what speed you get on TestMy.net, i.e. Go to http://uk.testmy.net/ and try a download test with a large block size such as 25MB or 50MB. This measures the sustained speed over a single TCP connection as how IPTV streams. 2-3Mbps is generally sufficient for standard definition. 5-6Mbps may be sufficient for HD depending on the compression. On the Three network, it is generally lower than what Speedtest.net reports, but gives an idea of what speed your connection can sustain with UK peering taken into account.

      1. Hi Sean
        I eventually got around to ordering the antenna you suggested (eBay item: 272861855866)

        Only to receive an email from the company to say they are out of stock. Could you recommend a similar antenna? Amazon or eBay.

        Thanks for your time
        Aidan

        1. I suggest asking the Polish seller when they’ll get it back as it’s the lowest price kit I’m aware of for the complete kit, i.e. two LTE log antennas with the cabling and wall mounting.

          The following is an Irish website with two LOG antennas and 10 metres cable with SMA connectors. The antenna size (and in turn the gain) is a little lower than the Polish antennas. You will need a wall bracket, such as a TV antenna bracket to mount the antennas on to.
          http://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/gsm-3g-lte-antennas/lte/atk-log-alp-lte-mimo-2×2-antenna-800-3000mhz-10m-cables-sma-plug.html

          The following on Amazon Germany is a complete 2xLOG antenna kit with 10 metres of cable and wall bracket. These antennas appear to be higher gain based on their longer shape. The shipping price is €9 to Ireland. You can checkout with your usual Amazon UK login.
          https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00EE8RRFK/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_sfr3zb7GCD1KH?language=en_GB

          1. Hi
            Quick update.
            Fantastic result. I installed the antenna yesterday, and my broadband speed has doubled. Early morning time I use to get 20mb now I get 45mb. In the evening I use to get ten now, I get 20mb. That will do me, for now! All for 20 euro per month on the three network.
            Thanks for your help and assistance.

            Thanks
            Aidan

          2. The one on Amazon Germany look to be double the length, so likely provide around 3dB extra strength. The 20dBi figure is not true as a Yagi antenna would need to be 8 metres in length and LOG antennas generally have lower gain for the same antenna length.

            The higher the gain, the more directional the antenna. This means that wherever you plan mounting the antenna, make sure you can get to it easily as it will require more careful fine-tuning to get the most out of its gain. It will also require sturdy mounting such as a wall mount bracket capable of holding an 80cm satellite dish, as the larger size will catch more wind.

        2. Hi guys, in reading all this I found I ordered this same item from ebay to get an email to say they’ve sold out. They’re due back in stock 27/10 & they will ship then.

          I’ve since found out that the pole/bracket shown in their pic isn’t included but they’re going to include it as compensation for the delay (so they say).

          I’ve also ordered a used B593s-22 & hoping I’ll be set to go after that. My current speed is 3.5mbps dsl so I’ll be happy with any improvement.

          Thanks for all the useful advice.

  4. Hi,
    I live in a hilly rural area in Co Mayo.At the moment I get my internet through an expensive satellite system. I can’t get 4G in my house but my neighbours, who have a clearer line of sight and who live 400 meters away can. It’s also available on a hillside 150 meters from my house.
    Can you advise, please.
    Patrick

    1. If you are into DIY or know someone who can help, one option would be to build a small solar-powered mast for the hillside. This would basically consist of a desktop 4G router (e.g. Huawei B395s-22), a 12v battery (e.g. 12V 17Ah SLA), solar panel (30W watt panel should be sufficient) and a 12V solar charging controller. The Huawei B395s-22 uses around 250mA, however, for other routers, it may require a larger solar panel. Most desktop routers have a 12V input with a 5.5mm (2.1mm inner) DC jack. The router will need to be in a weather-proof enclosure. At your house, you would need a Wi-Fi access point capable of running in client mode and an outdoor wireless antenna to aim at the hillside mast. I don’t recommend trying to run Ethernet cable outdoors beyond the house, even if you get 4G within the 100 metre limit, there is a high risk of power surges from nearby lightning strikes.

      If your neighbour is happy enough to install antennas on their house, for this method I would suggest getting a pair of Ubiquiti LiteBeam’s and set them up aimed at each other between your house and the neighbour’s. When these are configured, they will effectively act like a long Ethernet cable between the buildings. I have not done this before, but there are various guides online showing the setting up. For the 4G, I would suggest getting a desktop 4G router (e.g. a used Huawei B593s-22) and a MIMO outdoor antenna (if the signal is weak) for the neighbour’s house end. The Uibiquiti LiteBeams can operate up to 30km apart with clear line of sight, so 400m should provide whatever bandwidth the router picks up.

      1. Sean that sounds like a great idea making a mast on the hilltop. I am on the wrong side of a big hill. Top of the hill is about 200 metres from my house. At the top of the hill I can see the masts in the distance and can pick up 4g on my phone, but down at the house I can’t get a stitch of 4g on my phone.
        At the house I have a b593 and I have tried a Poynting A0001 omni antenna, but found that it doesn’t give any improvement over the rabbit ears. It picks up 2 bars of 4g but I only get 1.5Mbps download speed which is pretty useless. So my options seem to be maybe try a directional antenna like that German Amazon one. Or put the router on the hilltop with a car battery and a solar panel. Can you give any more advice about the equipment you’d need to get the data flowing from the hilltop down to the house?

  5. Hi , I am located 5miles from Summer Hill in Meath. In town centre my metro/eir mobile sim receives about 40mb download midday, at home , 5miles out my eir huawei b315 revives 15-10mb midday and 10-5mb peak times in the evening. I would like to use an aerial to increase the signal strength witch drops in the evening. Witch of the two options below would you recommend?

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01N11WV54/ref=ox_sc_saved_image_1?smid=A1S33RZDR2D7GN&psc=1

    Or

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00EE8RRFK/ref=ox_sc_act_image_1?smid=A1HUZ3KZRITS49&psc=1

    I would greatly appreciate your opinion

    1. I suggest going for the second option. The antennas are enclosed and it appears to include the ‘U’ mounting bracket for both antennas. The seller ships from Germany. This is their product page on Amazon Germany, which also ships to Ireland.

      The first link has two long 107cm LOG antennas, which are similar in length to a typical fringe TV Yagi. These are best suited for areas with barely usable 4G signal outdoors. The mount is sold separately going by the description. As the antenna elements are exposed, there is a risk of bird damage such as if seagulls perch on the elements.

  6. Hi, very useful info here. Thanks for sharing. Just wondering what type of antenna you would reccomend for rural area in the midlands. 2-3 kms from nearest mast with no line of site due to trees. 3G is just possible but not 4G however would like to have a capability of 4G. Im looking at an omnidirectional antenna from poynting like below:
    https://www.irishwireless.net/xpol-a0001
    This is the same as your image 1 under the heading Single vs MIMO antennas above. Or would a wideband log antenna like in image 2 be more suitable?
    Just wondering what are your thoughts or reccomendations for a rural area with somewhat difficult reception. Thanks.
    Niall.

    1. The omni-direction antenna is unlikely to offer much improvement compared to holding the router outside a skylight, which is something you can try if you have an upstairs/skylight window and an extension lead handy. Basically this antenna is intended for urban or built-up areas where the signal is sufficiently strong outside, but being blocked indoors by foil-backed insulation, Low-E coated windows, interference, etc.

      I suggest going for a pair of wideband LOG antennas. This should make a significant improvement on your 3G reception. I recommend mounting the antenna as high up as you can, preferably towards the top of the gable and aim the general direction of the mast. If the 3G cell is lightly loaded, you can potentially get 10Mbps. As an example in my location, I do not get an Eir (Meteor) 3G signal indoors at all with my mobile. In the loft, I get a 1-2 bar 3G signal with the Huawei B593s router. With the outdoor antenna (either panel or LOG), I get a full 5 bar 3G signal (-94dBm RSCP, -4dB ECIO at time of checking).

      From my experience with 4G, an outdoor LOG antenna typically improves the signal by around 10dB over what the router picks up in the loft (assuming no foil insulation). If you currently don’t pick up 4G at all in the loft with the router forced in 4G mode, it’s unlikely you will get usable 4G with the outdoor antenna, unless you have foil-backed insulation in the walls/loft that’s blocking most of the signal.

        1. Either of those pairs should improve your 3G signal and possibly bring in 4G (if on the edge of reception). There is a Polish seller (proscan-antenna) on eBay that often sells 12dBi LOG antenna pairs. They don’t have any listed at present, but may be worth checking in a week or two. From what I recall, they charged around €80 also for the pair including delivery. Just make sure the connectors match the router, e.g. SMA for most Huawei mains-operated routers.

  7. I’m using a certified 3g repeater, can I use any antenna type for the ‘indoor’ transmitter? i.e. could I use a yagi to transmit to another building, or could I use a omni directional outdoor type antenna to get a broader coverage?

    1. It’s hard to tell for certain whether a higher gain antenna will improve indoor coverage. Certified repeaters are designed to limit the transmission power to prevent interference or oscillations. If you install a higher gain indoor antenna, the repeater may detect additional unwanted interference being picked up by the more sensitive antenna (signals bouncing off walls, etc.) and reduce its transmission power accordingly.

      If the indoor transmission side is connected to another outdoor antenna, this will most likely cause oscillations and in turn cause the repeater to shutdown. Even with a directional antenna aimed another direction to the source antenna, a significant portion of the amplified signal will radiate from one antenna to the other, signals that would otherwise be attenuated with the indoor antenna placed indoors.

      If the repeater is just for Internet access (e.g. broadband/data only SIM), I suggest installing the 3G router in the main building that picks up the cellular signal, such as with an outdoor antenna aimed at the mast. Then set up a point-to-point Wi-Fi link to the second building to bring the Internet across.

  8. Thanks for so much info. As far as I can see the info is also the same in the UK where I live. can you confirm?
    eg Three use 800 and 1800 MHz for 4G.

    Have you any data on the range above which 4G is no use for Three – where do the usually cap the range?

    1. Three UK currently uses the same LTE bands 3 (1800MHz) and 20 (800MHz). As far as I’m aware of, all the above info should be the same for most of Europe including the UK. I think Australia is the only place that uses different LTE polarisation, i.e. 45 degrees to the left and right for the antennas.

      As for the range limit, so far the only areas I’ve come across where router lists networks that it cannot connect to are near a bay. With one case I’ve seen where a Three phone could connect to the 4G mast but not any Three data-only device, the Three mast was approximately 30km (18 miles) away.

  9. Many Thanks.
    OK, I should call it LTE not 4G.
    I note your report that video streaming can use up all of my monthly 40GBytes on Three with LTE in a matter of a few hours.
    I thought 40GBytes was plenty till I read your comment!
    I am still trying to get LTS running for downloads and fast browsing but wonder if there is a way to throttle the speed at my end when on video.
    I use a Huawei B310 on Three but see no option to cut the speed.
    Still hoping for unlimited fibre but BT ignore small villages on long lines.
    I guess there will never be unlimited plans on LTE for a fair price.

    1. No worries, we use 4G and LTE interchangeably. The difference only really matters in the US where 4G refers to what we call HSPA+. Unfortunately, 40GB is quite small for home broadband. If you can afford it, I would suggest using it in combination with DSL, i.e. use the DSL for all your streaming and the 4G for browsing, social media and downloads where you need the speed.

      For video bandwidth, some services can set the playback resolution limit. I don’t think YouTube can set a limit (other than manually for each playback) as it no longer offers a video resolution limit in its playback settings. For Netflix, this article mentions how to limit the resolution.

      Unfortunately the Huawei routers don’t have the ability to throttle speed or data usage. If you are trying to limit the bandwidth on a specific device (e.g. child’s tablet), one option would be to get a wireless router that supports OpenWRT firmware, which you can connect to the Huawei router. GargoyleOS which is based on OpenWRT can set both download and bandwidth limits on individual devices. In this case you could set a limit of let’s say 1Mbps for tablets, which is sufficient for standard definition video (480p).

      From checking across the major UK mobile operator websites, the largest data packages I came across is on EE, but are very expensive, i.e. £75/month for 100GB and £100/month for 200GB, both with an 18 month contract. I’m not sure why UK mobile data packages are so small/expensive compared to Ireland, unless it’s down to infrastructure cost/congestion. For example, the Three network here in Ireland offers up to 250GB, whereas 40GB is the largest package I could find on the UK Three website.

  10. Hello, thank you for this good review, i am italian guy (sorry for my bad english), i live in rural area near Rome city, my position is much higher instead Rome, about 800 meters, i live in the wood in one floor house, the forest gain a good percentage of view.
    I now use sattellite adsl, with a good bandwith but higher ping thank normal adsl or 3g 4g connection, at much more higher cost.
    I want to switch into 3g 4g network, i tried days ago a simple urant mimo antenna on 3 meters pole in my garden with a huawei e3372 connected to a mini router and ethernet cable to my house. I get about 2 connection point on 5 in 4g and 5 on 5 in 3g with two different carrier (4G TIM, 3G TRE H3G).
    The maximum bandwith measured is 4.5 mbps download and 5.5 mbps upload in 4G and 3.5 mbps in downoad and 1,5 mbps. That result for mw looking good, but I tried only with good weather condition, and the connection was VERY instable, some time i get under 1 mbps download and 0,55 mbps download.
    after reading the article, I decided to buy two antennas on aliexpress of this type:

    https://it.aliexpress.com/item/Universal-Outdoor-Indoor-Yagi-Antenna-11dBi-800-2500Mhz-GSM-CDMA-DCS-3G/1878084736.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.uBVIna

    i also buy 2 x 8 meters rg58 cable with good connector and an huawei e8372 that have dbi monitor instead of point of signal.

    I hope to have made the best purchase, for my area, as I could not understand in the article if they were better WIDEBAND LOG or LOG antenna for the rural area.
    image 2 or 3 of the antenna section.

    unfortunately, I have to say, for days I’m trying to figure out where I can point the antennas, this to build the pole that supports the antennas.
    You have tips for pointing, or to find the cells, I only found unreliable information.

    thanks for the answers

    1. That AliExpress antenna covers all the 3G and 4G bands, except for 4G Band 7 (2600MHz). As 2600MHz has a short range and mainly serves urban areas, it should not be an issue in in your rural location.

      For pointing the antennas, try aiming for the least negative RSRP and RSRQ values on 4G, e.g. -100dB RSRP is better than -110dB. If your modem only shows bar readings, then run speed tests with http://fast.com/ with each antenna adjustment, e.g. run three speed tests (to get an average), rotate the antenna by 30 degrees and run three more speed tests. If the speed tests are better, rotate the antenna another 30 degrees and try again. If the speed is worse, rotate the antenna the opposite direction by 10 degrees and repeat to fine-tune. Finally tilt the antenna up and down by 10 degrees and run speed tests.

      If you are still not getting good 4G speed, try running speed tests early in the morning such as before 8am. If the speed is much better early in the morning, then the network has high contention, i.e. too many customers on the mast.

  11. Hello, can u help me please to choose a 4G mimo directional antenna for one Huawei B525 router. I live in Romania on a rural zone and the cell tower is at 3,5 km distance and i see it from my house. The band of 4G operator is 20 (800mhz).
    Inside i have 3, sometimes 4 bars of signal but speed is not great. Outside i have 5 bars when i put the router to see the tower and speed is very good, i download with 2,6MB/s. Which of these antennas to buy:

    http://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/gsm-3g-lte-antennas/lte/atk-log-alp-lte-mimo-2×2-antenna-800-3000mhz-10m-cables-sma-plug.html

    http://www.elpismedia.ro/antene-amplificare-semnal/antene-externe/antena-panou-a3019-gsm-3g-4g-lte-wimax-wi-fi-castig-19db.html

    http://www.elpismedia.ro/antene-amplificare-semnal/antene-externe/antena-mimo-a4012-2xyagi-2x12dbi.html

    Thanks.

    1. I suggest going for two of the antennas in your second link, i.e. the Antena A3019 and the SMA for the connection (Huawei B525 has SMA connectors). Check the distance between where you intend mounting it outside and your router location as you will probably need the 5m or 10m cable option for each antenna.

      The antenna pair in the third link is polarised at 45 degree angles. From what I recall, Australia and New Zealand are the only two regions that use 45 / 135 degree polarisation. With the above A3019, you can mount one antenna vertically and the second one horizontally.

  12. Hi Sean,

    I’ve just completed my own install.

    * TPLINK Archer MR200
    * MIMO Antennae as recommended above (bought on amazon.de)
    * TPLINK RE200 WiFi Extender

    I did the site survey as you outlined, inside the attic with a handheld HTC device locked on 4G, a Samsung S7 EDGE 2/3/4G Auto select. I was barley getting 1 bar of 4G and fliiping between sites. Lots of “network communication errors”.

    I walked the boundaries of our rural property using the “cell mapper” android app and could see all the various towers within X KM’s. I used the comreg siteviewer URL and checked the sectors with the operator radio planners for Eir/Meteor. I have contacts in there. They plotted my home on their ATOLL tool and advised to point to mast id 4679 in Moyvalley @60 degrees.

    I mounted the antennae yesterday at the rear of my property and inserted the 2 x 10m co-ax antennae cables through the attic vent.
    I pulled these all the way to the attic hatch. I then drilled two holes in the attic door and pulled the co-ax cables through. I screwed the router to the underside of the attic door allowing me a visual at anytime of signal strength.

    This also allows me to have a 5GHZ WiFi network upstairs. I used the TPLINK extender in the hall downstairs with line of sight to the router at the attic door. This gives me a 5GHZ Wifi extended network downstairs. Speeds…. well I had 1.6mb fixed line with Eir. We are in the amber area of the maps for rural broadband government scheme. Earliest I can see this happening is 2021 or later even. I am getting anything up to 17mbs DL and up to 20mbs UL. Superb. I checked the MME and I can see my IMSI attached to that EnodeB and it hasnt flipped as yet. 24 hours operational now.

    I want to thank you for your advice Sean, there are loads of like minded people around Ireland who just need simple advice to allow them to make this happen for themselves. Well done you.

    Question: I have both antennaes mounted vertically. Do you think there will be any gain by going horizontal/vertical. Bear in mind I suffered normal contention yesterday eve from that tower. It didnt drop below 4mb at busy hour,
    Thanks

    1. That’s great to hear – At least you are within the range limit of the cell. If the antennas are not awkward to get at or reposition, I strongly recommend turning one horizontally. The signal strength will still show the same, however, you can potentially double the downlink speed as it can receive data on horizontal and vertical polarity simultaneously. Even during peak time contention, you may get additional bandwidth on the horizontal polarity that it’s missing out on at the moment.

      The upload speed will remain the same as the router only transmits on on its antenna #1 socket. If your upload speed drops, swap the two cables behind the router and it should return back to about 20Mbps.

  13. Sean, wish I had stopped by here first before spending a week researching my options. You have analysed everything I have been considering and saved me a lot of wasted effort!

    I was about to start building a Yagi (x2 for MIMO on Huawei B593) tuned to 1800MHz, but seems like I’d be better with a wideband or 800MHz as my local Three mast (7km) may only let me use the lower freq?

    Also I was aware of the problem with mismatch (I have oodles of RG6 75Ohm cable and F-type), and would have settled for a few dB loss due to reflection, however didn’t appreciate the impact on video calls.

    So, I’ll probably get one of the Wideband Yagis with correct cable and pre terminated SMAs (I’m used to N-type and BNC, these little things look too fiddly for my old eyes).

    Have you any idea how much signal I would lose by mounting the Yagi in my loft (modern artificial slate roof), versus outside? My TV antenna works fine this way.

    Regards
    Neil

    1. I’m not sure what Three typically uses for its range limit, but I suspect 7km is too far for 1800MHz. They used to allow a much longer range in the past, but when they carried out upgrades over the past two years, they reduced the range limit of the upgraded masts. This meant that some people over a certain distance from the mast ended up losing 4G altogether as the mast deemed the user as out of range.

      In your situation, I would be tempted to go for a wideband LOG or Yagi. If you are are within the maximum distance limit for the 1800MHz band, the mast will give preference to this band or provide 4G+ access (both bands) if your router is Category 6 capable.

      Based on my own testing with the 800MHz band in my area, I lose roughly 4dB to 6dB through the tiles, assuming the gable wall is not in the signal path. The attenuation is also proportional to the frequency, so the 1800MHz band will likely be about double loss.

      If your router is a recent Huawei model (e.g. B315, E5186 or B525), you can check what LTE band it is currently connected to as follows: First log into its web interface as admin. Then enter the URL: http://192.168.8.1/api/device/signal View the page source (or press F12) and look for the HTML tag ‘band’, which will be 20 (for 800MHz) or 3 (for 1800MHz).

  14. Hi Sean.

    Flipped one ant* to horizontal and monitored. To be fair i did not notice the speeds increase up or down. The only noticeable diff was the DL was more steady (as in the dl arrow on speedtest app). Less movement at a specific dl speed if that makes sense.

    The LTE router Archer mr200 gives me between 1 & 2 bars. Occasional 3.

    I might try tilting it up and see if i can get anything extra from it. Im happy enough gor the moment and thanks for all the advice.

  15. Thanks for the detailed posts these are very helpful keep it up.
    I have my modem in the attic off peak I am getting about 50/20 I have a line of sight about 1.5KM away.
    Using my mobile outside on the roof I get about 100/35, with that in mind what antenna would be best?

    1. To start with, I suggest trying the router in a few different spots re-running the speed test to achieve the highest reading. For the angle, the back or front of the router should roughly face the mast. If it has rabbit ear antennas, aim one up and the other sideways. Even a small repositioning can make quite a difference, particularly if there happens to be something like a metal bracket, water pipe, chimney, etc. in its line of sight.

      If you still need an antenna, an omni-directional MIMO antenna will be sufficient such as the popular one on the following page. You can install this in the loft, although you’ll likely need to install it outdoors to achieve what you got on the phone.
      https://www.irishwireless.net/xpol-a0001

      Although the antenna is omni-directional, its horizontal element needs to be rotated to achieve the full signal on both polarities, i.e. the front or back flat side should face the mast.

      If you need a longer cable run than 5 metres, I recommend going for a pair of LOG antennas. Their extra gain will help carry the signal over the longer cable run.
      http://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/gsm-3g-lte-antennas/lte/atk-log-alp-lte-mimo-2×2-antenna-800-3000mhz-10m-cables-sma-plug.html

  16. Hi Sean. I’ve been reading your info here and on boards etc but I think I missed what actual external antenna you use yourself. I crawled into my attic space and managed to pick up 2 bars of 4g on meteor/eir which is amazing considering I live in a rural valley and my house is surrounded by trees. I have the b593 also so want to make sure I get a suitable antenna. My rssi is -84, rsrp -110, rsrq -9 to -11. The cell tower isn’t on siteviewer but open signal app picks it up which really helped. It might be a relay tower as defo no mast there. Do you think an external antenna will help?

    Also to throw an extra spanner in the works my wife can now get 2 bars of 4 g from 3 in the garden so I’m considering trying 3 for their new 750gb package as 50gb on eir is limiting. Thinking of getting that and the eir 50gb 180 day pass as a back up if 3 contention issues arise. Would that be ott?

    Thanks in advance

    1. It’s quite possible the Three signal will be a fair bit stronger even in the loft with the B593 as its internal antennas are much more sensitive than what’s in most phones. If she uses a prepay 3 SIM, you can try that SIM in your B593 router (do not try this with a bill pay SIM). Just pop out the nano SIM segment from your Meteor/Eir SIM and snap the 3 SIM in its place, which will then fit in the router. Another option would be to pick up a Three prepay phone SIM with €20 credit and that will give you 28 days to give it a test run.

      My own antenna is a band 20 panel antenna, the one shown in the section “Single band coverage” above. As Three is in the process of upgrading many of its masts to 4G+, which work on a combination of band 3 + 20, I would suggest going for a pair of LOG antennas. However, my first recommendation would be to see what the 3 signal is like first. If the RSRP value is within -100dB, you will probably not gain much speed with external antennas compared to carefully positioning the router. On the other hand, an outdoor antenna will let you position the router in a more suitable area such as on the ground floor instead of the loft.

      Three’s 750GB plan comes with a Huawei B525 router. As it’s network locked, I recommend holding on to your B593 to use the Eir prepay SIM in. Eir’s SIM is free to order, so I suggest waiting until congestion becomes an issue before buying another pass. Otherwise you would need to keep topping it up every 6 months to keep the SIM alive (not just the pass).

      1. Thanks Sean. Might try the 3 prepay SIM but since moving the router to the attic we have consistent dl speeds averaging 15mbps even at peak times. I know to many that isn’t amazing but to us it is!

        Considering the negative reviews of Three’s peak dl speeds we might just bite the bullet and pay the 60e for Eir’s 250gb package.

        Without reading all your advice we wouldn’t be in the nice situation we are in now so many thanks. Dwane

  17. Current Settings :
    Modem D-Link DWR-921/B DW 4G/3G
    Antenna: Poynting XPOL-A002 – network antennas (40 – 70 °C, SMA, Dual Linear
    Carrier: Three ie

    Hi, I’m about to by a new modem in a few day, I was looking for an LTE A device but there is not available in my area anyway.

    Currently, my antenna is inside the house, in the spare room and I still get around 15Mb (sometimes 30mb but not always)

    I want to power my new modem in the attic using PoE, and have the antenna near the modem.

    Modem-wise I think I’m gonna go for something simple like ”
    NETGEAR LB1111″ but I’m still envisaging something more advanced and “all in one” :
    Zyxel LTE7460-M608-EU01V1F (but Zyxel had massive security issues with some modem in the past so I’m not too sure…)
    Also, I’m considering the Huawei B618 Unlocked 4G/LTE 600 Mbps but obviously I will never reach a such speed

    I checked I have one cell tower (Site 2765) 1.6Km away (but there is a huge hill in between) and (Site CK0385) 1.99Km ago (still not direct I believe. (FIY my ground floor altitude is 52meter)

    I very like to have some advises (and thank you for the post BTW)

    – Would a directional antenna work ok inside the attic? even though I’m 1.6 / 2km away? and will I get a much better result than my current setting ? or should I perhaps go for an Omnidirectional?

    Also did anybody already tried to dual balance two modems to have a better speed (I know dual balance is not the same thing but I can’t think of the correct term)

    1. From my own experience, a directional antenna does not seem to offer any benefit in the attic. I would suggest moving your existing Poynting antenna into the attic along with the router. One test you can try to start with would be temporarily set up the Poynting antenna outside, such as on a camera tripod. If the speed is not much better, it will probably not improve much up in the loft.

      I’ve heard mixed reports about the performance of the D-Link routers, so you may get an improvement with another router even in the same spot. If you go with the Huawei B618 or the Netgear LB11111, you will need two SMA to TS9 adapters to attach the antenna cables to the router.

      If you decide to go with an outdoor antenna, you can try mounting the Poynting antenna high up outside to start with. As an upgrade path, I would suggest going for a pair of LOG antennas, which are directional. The Zyxel outdoor router is quite expensive and something I would suggest as a last resort, such as with a very weak signal or to avoid placing anything in the attic.

  18. Thank you for your advice.
    I used to have the Dlink in a shed, with much better speed and link to the home network using Power-line but I had some boot issue in very low temperatures.

    I will check the signal outside with a tripod that’s a good idea.

  19. Hi sean thank you for this article

    I’m trying to get better download/uploads speeds and I currently own service with sprint/att/tmobile/verizon(usa) and your double antenna for mimo has me intrigued. Planning to use a wilson pro 70 signal booster but they offer the device with one antenna so how can i connect two yagi to get mimo speeds? TIA

    1. You would need two boosters, one connected to the outdoor vertical antenna and the second booster to the horizontal antenna. The indoor antennas will need to be aimed with the corresponding polarity to the outdoor antenna. There is a video on YouTube showing an example of this type of set up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcffejQkY34

      If you are doing this for an LTE modem/router, I recommend getting a suitable MIMO antenna (or pair of individual LTE antennas) that attach directly to the router. This will cheaper than buying a separate booster, plus eliminates the additional interference or signal loss between the booster and the modem/router, as the outdoor antenna would attach directly to it.

  20. Hi,

    Thanks, excellent article with much of it applicable for world wide use…Especially your Iphone checking what bands are available input.. Exactly what I have been looking for as I move between countries..

  21. Excellent article. Very informative. My situation is as a follow. I’m in a rural area 7 miles east of athlone. No fixed line broadband available at present. I’ve been using a Huawei B593u-12 router with ISP 3Ireland. I also have a B525s-23a that has different antenna ports also (this router came with the ISP broadband 18 month contract that I signed up to recently). The ISP package is for 750gbt per month. The 4g coverage runs at 25-35 mbps speed with relative stability even et peak times (once I’m not streaming). I presume the ISP is trottling at to a degree at times also. My VPN is via liberty shield router and it cuts speed to 5-15 mbps, this impacts on streaming when at the lowered end. I have the router in the attic. I am hoping that an antenna/ arial will help as even a marginal gain might assist greatly with streaming. When speedtesting at 6 am the bandwidth: 20,000, cell id: 362, signal strength: 3, RSRP (dBm): -98, RSRQ (dB): -6 ROAM: No. When speedtesting at 8pm bandwidth: 20,000, cell id: 362, signal strength: 2, RSRP (dBm): -108, RSRQ (dB): -12 ROAM: No… have you any thoughts re maximising this set up, is an antenna is of possible benefit, what antenna would you recommend… I am presuming that cell ID 362 is the mast I am connecting to, is that the case? I’m equidistant to 3 separate 3ireland masts that are about 10 miles away. I can’t find this cell id on the net, perhaps it’s an internal I’d number with 3ireland

    1. Unfortunately the cell IDs the router reports do not correspond with those on ComReg’s site viewer map.

      Going by your bandwidth, you appear to be on band 3, which is very likely a 4G+ enabled cell. In this case I would recommend going for a pair of LTE LOG antennas, which should improve your evening time readings. Band 3 is more sensitive to attenuation from building materials and moisture than band 20, so I recommend installing these outdoors or as high as you can in the attic (if the roof insulation is not foil backed). The wide fluctuation in your RSRP readings could from dew on the roof attenuating the signal.

  22. Truly outstanding set of resources!

    I have a HUAWEI B525 + the three.ie unlimited plan. Located about 7k line of sight from mast. Modem is in the loft, with the rabbit ears. 3G signal has 5 bars fairly reliably – with good overall performance. If 4g switched on in modem the number of bars can be lower, but speed higher usually. However, if weather closes in 4g declines to 1 bar, and speed can collapse to 1mb. So I have been setting modem to 3G (instead of auto). This keeps lowest speed above 4 or 5 mb – which is fine.

    Would an external antenna address this issue – facilitating 4G left permanently on?

    Thanks in advance
    Eamonn

    1. The weather could cause a few issues – If the roof material retains enough water when it rains, this will attenuate the signal. If the signal drops before it rains, it’s possible the clouds are reflecting signals from an unwanted mast in the distance, causing interference.

      An outdoor directional antenna such as a wideband panel antenna or a pair of LTE LOGs should give you both a stronger and more stable 4G signal. Water droplets on these antennas barely affect the signal and the directivity will reduce interference from signals arriving from other directions. You may even get away with using these antennas in the loft.

      Before getting an antenna, try placing your router has high as you can in the loft, ideally near the tip. Even with testing a LOG antenna on a tripod, this gave the strongest signal when I had it near the tip of our loft. The signal strength is still several dB lower than with the LOG antenna outside, but it still gives an improvement over the router on its own. If your roof has foil-backed insulation, this will not work as the foil blocks the signal, in which case an outdoor antenna may be your only option to improve the 4G signal.

  23. Thanks for the advice. Will give putting the router higher a go – and will also investigate the antennae. Don’t have foil – but things get very wet around here! Clouds do get very low occasionally (coastal area).
    Currently these are the readings I am getting:
    RSSI: -82dBm
    RSCP: -88dBm
    ECIO: -6dB
    Do these values look reasonable? This is with 3G forced.

    Regards & thanks again.

    1. The RSCP figure (signal strength) is pretty good. The ECIO figure (signal quality) is quite negative, which I would prefer seeing closer to zero, e.g. -4dB. I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to improve 3G unless you have no luck improving the 4G signal. For 3G, both antennas should use the same polarity, e.g. two vertical or two horizontal. 4G requires them in opposite polarities, e.g. one horizontal and one vertical or in a V shape, i.e. both offset by 90 degrees.

      In 4G mode, you will see a RSRP, RSRQ and SINR values. In this mode, try to get the RSRQ value as close to zero as possible (preferably below -8dB) and the SINR as positive as possible. The RSRP figure is not as important, especially once it gets less negative than around -100dB.

  24. Hi sean. Only after I saw Eamonn’s post above did I attempt te 3g mode on the huawei router. Whist the readings on ookla are less than that of the 4g tests, the iptv works way better on 3g. Particularly the videoclub/library which runs perfectly on 3g. So now I now I have a decision to make I reckon…. whether to follow tour advise the the LOG antenna for 4g as per your advise relative to the 4g router readings I posted on the last occasion. Alternatively ( based on my mag box working better when on 3g only) should I consider a 3g antenna based on the following readings: RSSI: -88 RSCP- 92 ECIO: -4. is there a recommended antenna that would assist with 3 and 4g? The bloody mag box still glitches at peak times on 3g (though less frequently than on the 4g).

    1. You will probably not get much additional speed on 3G with an antenna based on those figures. Your ECIO (signal quality) is excellent. An antenna pair would still help with stability, particularly during poor weather. LOG antennas cover both the 3G and 4G bands. In 3G mode, be sure to face them both both vertical or both horizontal. In 4G mode, they need to face in opposite polarities, i.e. one vertical and one horizontal. This means if Three upgrade the 4G mast (they upgraded ours last year), you could get a significant speed improvement on 4G.

      Your experience with Ookla is the main reason I don’t particularly like its test methodology. The 4G cell you’re picking up likely has much higher congestion. However, due to the way Ookla works by making up to 8 simultaneous connections to its test server and filtering out dips during the test, it can deliver much higher test results than what’s possible in real life. For comparison, IPTV and file downloads (in a web browser) make a single connection to the server. It would be great if Ookla also reported single thread speed tests.

      Have a check at the speed you get with TestMy using its UK server (http://uk.testmy.net/) on both 3G and 4G. You’ll probably find it gives a higher test result on 3G than 4G and that the 4G test speed is much lower than what Ookla reports. Its test is linear (unless run in multithread mode to mimic Ookla), which gives a realworld speed of what you get such as what your IPTV can achieve with a fast server. Ookla on the other hand is great for fine-tuning the antenna to achieve the peak speed reading, although this is still best carried out off-peak to minimise fluctuating test results from congestion.

  25. Sean, I’m living in south Leitrim on side of valley, near the top with direct line of sight (8 Km) to a 3 mast on the other side. I get 1 to 2 bars of 4G on my phone. There are other masts in the area but I can’t see them. Do you recommend a directional or omni antennae, or am I wasting my time with that distance?

    1. At that distance, I suggest checking if you can get 4G on your router. Three has a shorter maximum distance limit for modems than for phones, although I think 8km is within the range limit for modems. If your router operates fine in 4G mode (even with a 1 bar signal), then it’s worth going for a directional antenna, such as a pair of LOG antennas. The directional antenna will reduce interference from the other masts and in turn give better throughput.

  26. Hi sean. There are a few different directional log antenna out there. I have been looking for a while. What do you recommend…

    1. If you on a budget, I would suggest this pair of LOG antennas. These are relatively straight forward to set up – Once mounted on a pole, just aim them at the cell tower and tighten the bolts.

      If you have willing to spend more and take time to carefully aim the antennas, I would suggest getting this pair and this mount to mount them side-by-side. These have a much tighter tolerance, so need to be carefully aimed. However, as they have a much greater signal rejection from other angles, they will potentially give better throughput, particularly in the evening when the other masts are transmitting more.

      Both sets of antennas will require a wall mount, such as for a satellite dish. You can mount separate poles also, e.g. one on an existing TV/satellite pole if the antenna can face the mast and the other on a separate pole.

  27. Hi! Great article.

    I currently live in Portugal, my nearest cell tower is 60km from my location. 5 months ago I bought a 4G package and a cheap antenna, the one you referred to as the “Portable antenna”.

    During the mornings/afternoons I can get anywhere between 25-30 Mbps download and 4-6 Mbps upload, which is great considering how far out I am and the price of the antenna. However, during weekends and evenings this drops significantly to 1-3 Mbps down and 2-3 Mbps up. Sometimes even lower, 0-1Mbps down and 0-1 Mbps up!

    What is the reason for the sudden drop? The amount of traffic on the 4G? How cheap my antenna is? What would you suggest for me to buy to help keep a stable connection above 30 down and above 5 up. I have looked at the “Poynting 4G-XPOL-A0001” as a possible solution but I’d rather check in with an expert!

    Thanks.

    1. I’m quite surprised how far you can pick up the cell tower. For example, here in Ireland, most 4G cell towers will not let devices connect beyond around 30km.

      Unfortunately with just one cell tower serving that wide area, there are likely many others trying to use that cell tower also over that 60km range. For example, if there are 100 people over that range trying to stream Netflix, there’s not enough bandwidth on one cell sector to serve that lot.

      For the antenna, I suggest getting an outdoor directional antenna, such as a pair of 700-2700MHz LOG antennas. The improved coding efficiency may give you better speed in the evening time. While this will not solve the sharp speed drop, it may give you a more usable connection. For example, if your router is operating at around 35% coding efficiency with your small antenna and you can achieve 70% with a better antenna, that would potentially double your current speeds, e.g. 50-60Mbps down during the day and 2-6Mbps down in the evening.

  28. Huawei B593s-22
    Terrific Site
    Reading with great interest but little or no knowledge!
    I have 80mg broadband from EIR.
    I live in rural Wexford and the mobile signal has between 3 + 5 bars outside of my house. Inside the house I have no signal.
    I have a Vodafone PAYG SIM + my phone is unlocked.
    I receive signal from is Vodafone Cell Tower (Cell ID 711169) (LAC 3030) and in truth I don’t if it’s 3G or 4G.
    Making a call requires that I leave the house in wind / rain or shine.
    If I’m reading the section correctly and I may not be: The Huawei B593s-22 router will allow me to make a mobile call using 3G on my mobile phone?
    My hope it’s as simple as plugging it in at the upstairs window and it receives the 3G or 4G signal and transmits it around the house and the phone receives the signal like it does outdoors and I can make a 3G call?
    Am I over simplifying?
    Hoping you can help with my question.
    Thank you in advance.

    1. Unfortunately, these routers don’t retransmit the 3G/4G signals. They operate as broadband routers using the 3G/4G service. Technically, you could place your phone SIM in the router and plug a corded phone into the router to make/receive calls, however, it would be a pain transferring the SIM between your phone and router every time you leave or arrive home.

      The only way of boosting indoor 3G/4G coverage is with a mobile repeater. Unfortunately, these are currently not legal to purchase or operate in Ireland unless provided by the mobile operator. This may change soon as ComReg is currently in the process of legalising repeaters that meet strict requirements. StellaDoradus manufacturer’s such repeaters, but they are quite expensive at €427 and they currently do not ship within Ireland. For making calls, you would need the 900MHz 2G/3G repeater. Irish mobile operators currently do not support VoLTE, which basically means that mobile phones must drop to 2G or 3G mode temporarily to make or receive a call.

      If you can find a spot in your house where your mobile phone gets a 2 bar or stronger signal, another option would be to get a Panasonic Link2Mobile DECT set. This links to your mobile over bluetooth (like an in-car hands-free system), so you can use the DECT phone around the house for calls while keeping your mobile in the one spot it picks up a mobile signal. This is the kit on Amazon.

  29. Hi Sean, just wanted to say thanks for the article and all the help through the comments to everybody. I’m not very technically gifted, just desperate living in the middle of nowhere and i feel i’ve learned quite a bit from this page! I get terrible mobile signal and was looking for an external antenna to improve my very poor mobile broadband but with a mind to the hopefully imminent legalisation of mobile repeaters. Was looking for an antenna which i can plug out of my router and into a repeater without changing the antenna when they become available.

    The antenna below claims good gain and a big frequency range and seems to be suitable for both applications but i don’t know if its any good vs some of your recommendations from above
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00D1VXZ3E/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A1EIVPXU6PXTXR&psc=1

    This one offers similar wide range of frequencys but needs a double antenna. Is the only difference that it has higher gain otherwise?
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/LTE-High-Performance-Including-Directional/dp/B00EE8RRFK/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&ref_=ox_sc_act_image_1&smid=A1HUZ3KZRITS49

    Obviously i don’t know what i’m talking about! Do you have any advice between the two, i’d like a smaller antenna footprint if possible so a single vs dual would be preferable, have about 2-3 bars mobile signal, 2 bars 3g, 1 bar 4g (sometimes!) at best place outside , but i assume better at chimney although i can’t test without hiring a cherrypicker. Stable connection not speed is probably my number one priority and i’m looking for a very flexible antenna to serve both applications.

    Also do you have any idea when this long rumoured legalisation is likely to take place, i keep hearing that it would be 2017 then 2018 but can’t find anything more concrete than maybe june 2018?

    Thanks again for all the help for everybody, including us technical cretins!

    1. The two antenna kit is actually two of the LOG antennas in the first link. With just £5 difference between the two, I suggest going for the second link as you can use just one of the two antennas if you find the kit too clumsy. The gain is more likely 10dBi per antenna. Some sellers assume two antennas mean double the gain and thus incorrectly double the figure in their description. As the antenna size roughly doubles for every 3dBi, a true 20dBi wideband antenna would be several metres long. 4G will operate on a single antenna, but with the bandwidth cut in half. The stability is about the same whether it works on a single or double antenna.

      So far I haven’t heard any further progress about the mobile repeater legalisation. There’s a thread on Boards, but was last updated in 2017. Mobile repeaters will work with the same antenna and just need an adapter to attach the antenna lead. As they only operate on single polarity, the second antenna lead would attach to the second antenna socket on the router. In this case, the router would use its internal antenna to pick up the vertical signal from the repeater and the attached external antenna on port #2 for the horizontal signal. At this stage, I’m wondering what will come first – All operators support Wi-Fi calling (currently Eir only) or mobile repeaters get legalised. Wi-Fi calling basically means the mobile operator uses a broadband connection to make/receive calls, like VoIP. This would be my preference as ComReg compliant repeaters are likely to be expensive based on StellaDoradus’s repeater pricing that it sells throughout the rest of Europe.

      One thing to note is that the repeater would need to be a combined 3G/4G repeater. No operators in Ireland currently support VoLTE, which basically means that the phone needs to drop to 3G or 2G to make/receive a call. With a 4G-only repeater, the phone would drop calls unless it picks up a strong enough 2G/3G signal for the call. Another option would be to get a 3G-only repeater and operate the antennas independently, i.e. attach one to the router (for 4G on a single polalrity) and the other to the repeater to boost the indoor 3G coverage for mobile data and calls.

      1. Thanks so much for the reply.
        Think I’ll go for the double antenna then as you say the price difference is small. One cable would go unused in this case i assume (plugged into B593-22 router)? Would I need two lightning protector then, one for each cable? Also I have identified the cell tower I’m receiving from with a phone app, I just need the antenna pointed within 45 degrees alignment of that direction for connection? Finally I have difficulty running cables in my house due to underfloor heating upstairs so no drilling! If i ever get that repeater I’ve been trying to figure how i would run coaxial cables for indoor antennas for good signal all over the house. I happen to have some unused 75ohm coaxial originally run for TV’s unused in some rooms. I know your supposed to use 50ohm coaxial but could i use the 75ohm for short runs of cable to the indoor aerial maybe 10meters or so. Would the signal loss to too high?

        Sorry for the barrage of questions, i’m doing all this with very little technical know how. I didn’t even know what an ohm was a week ago! So thanks again for all your help.

        1. If you plan mounting the antennas high up such as above the chimney, I suggest getting a lightning protector for each cable. You will need an earth wire running to each protector as basically the lightning protector transfer any spike to the earth wire. If have a TV antenna mounted outside nearby that is earthed, you can link the earth wire to its earth connection.

          The main issue with 75Ohm cable is that it does not handle transmission power that well, regardless of its length. When the signal meets 50Ohm connections at each end, a portion of the signal will reflect. With a router, this will degrade the uplink transmission signal. This could cause problems with 2-way transmissions such as with a Skype video call as the reflected transmitted signals will be interfering with the incoming signals. As compliant repeaters will be required to shutdown if oscillations are detected (e.g. indoor antenna picking up feedback from the outdoor antenna), they will probably not even work at all with 75Ohm cable as the reflected signals will likely be detected as an oscillating signal.

          One thing you can try is attach one end of the existing coaxial cable to the proper 50Ohm cable (in the loft), remove the TV wall plug at the other end and pull the cable through. We did something similar when we replaced old TV coaxial cable in our house with satellite cable. The SMA or TS9 connection at the end of the antenna cable is just slightly wider than the coaxial cable itself and should freely pull through the duct.

          1. Thanks again for all the help, i don’t want to bother you too much, I’ll have to start paying you consulting fees!

            The cable thing is a pain but i’d have a go, i assume ordinary 50ohm rg58 is what i should get? Then my last question, i think when the time comes i’ll buy a panel antenna for indoors downstairs floor, it would be in a corner downstairs so i could put it facing across the floor. Do you think that plan would work for using the antenna below. The concrete floors in our house block signals to downstairs so i’m hoping something like this would work with a repeater.
            https://www.amazon.co.uk/TP-Link-TL-ANT2409A-9dBi-Directional-Antenna/dp/B000N9B66U/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1525724428&sr=8-2&keywords=3g+4g+indoor+antenna+panel

            Or should i buy a dome antenna like:
            https://www.ebay.ie/itm/Indoor-800-2500Mhz-Ceiling-Antenna-5m-Cable-for-3G-Signal-Booster-GSM-Repeater/161521794227
            I have no access from above to install it in the middle of the floor though.

            Aslo was looking for a smaller footprint for the antenna say this one:
            https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mobile-Broadband-Antenna-Huawei-meters/dp/B00R1WDQMY/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&qid=1525724895&sr=8-28&keywords=3g+4g+indoor+antenna
            Could i get away with using just one so its less of an eyesore on the house. What does the second one do for you extra?

            Thanks again for all your help and sorry if i’m testing your patience. Its really hard too find anyone to give advice about this, so i greatly appreciate all the effort you’ve put in to help me. You sir are a great person!

          2. The repeater will have its own small omni-directional indoor antenna that it is designed to operate with. This basically means the indoor antenna should be roughly central in the house. If you install this near the downstairs ceiling, a good portion of the signal should make it upstairs, in much the same way it penetrates concrete walls. As repeaters will have strict transmission/gain limits to avoid causing interference, a high gain or directional indoor antenna could lead to the repeater reducing its sensitivity/gain, effectively defeating any benefit the replacement antenna would offer. I would suggest speaking with a repeater manufacturer before swapping its indoor antenna with anything else in case it could cause any issue as I’m unable to offer any recommendation.

            If you would rather not have two outdoor antennas, that single antenna would be fine. As I mentioned in the above article, 4G uses two antennas to receive signals transmitting on both vertical and horizontal polarity. Normally when setting up the antennas, you would face one vertically and the second one horizontally. 4G will operate on a single antenna, but loses roughly half the bandwidth as the single antenna will only pick up one polarity. For example, if it’s facing vertically, it will not pick up transmissions on horizontal polarity and vice versa. When it comes to setting up a single antenna, I recommend trying it both vertically and horizontally to see which gives the fastest speed during peak time.

            If possible, try keeping the cable no more than 10 metres in length. Those antennas you linked to each come with 10 metres of cable, which means you shouldn’t need to buy any additional cable. That last antenna above includes 15 metres of cable (going by the title), which would be the absolute maximum I would suggest using.

  30. Ok, not sure how successful i’ll be but i’m going to try go for it! One more small question if you don’t mind. To install the antenna i’m going to have to cut the n connector off the cable to thread it through a hole in the wall. I’ve watched some youtube videos on how to reconnect it to the cable and a lot of them suggest buying a crimping tool. Is this absolutely necessary or can i get away with just using a pliers and a little care, i’ve joined f connectors before with no crimp tool with no issue?
    Much appreciation for all the help.

    1. I recommend checking with the antenna seller that the router end of the cable has an SMA connector, assuming a Huawei router. When you drill the hole, you can insert this SMA end of the cable through the hole from the outside inwards. The SMA connector will fit through a 10mm hole. Once the cable is fully fed through, you will be left with the N connector end sticking out, which attaches to the antenna.

  31. Yeah it would work there, but i meant on the indoor antenna pulling it the 50ohm cable up through the wall. Will need to cut n connectors for that. I’m sure i’ll prob be ok with pliers and no crimp tool!
    Optimism!
    Have you attached n connector before?

    1. So far I haven’t crimped an N connector. If you know anyone into ham radio, they may be able to lend an N-type crimp tool as their antenna cabling and amateur radio equipment use N-type connectors. A basic N-type crimp tool is around €20-€25 on eBay. A pliers will probably work fine for the indoor connection, although there’s a risk of the cable splitting out if tugged. I don’t recommend doing this with the outdoor end as the connection will not be watertight. The N connectors need to be the 50 Ohm crimp type.

  32. Hi, thanks for writting this extremly informative article .. So I have got myself a huawei B618S 4gLTE Router and I play alot of games.. I was wondering if the latency can be improved with an external antenna.. I get about 65ms in league of legends and although this is perfectly playable I would love to get this as low as possible.. So im looking at some external antenna on ebay from china.. There is one that says it has 88dbi.. I live pretty close to a cell tower.. Any advice or recomendations?

    1. Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to improve the latency on 4G. A good directional antenna may help reduce interference from neighbouring masts in other directions and in turn reduce ping spikes. However, it will do little to reduce the average latency, which the upcoming 5G aims to improve upon.

      The most directional wideband antenna I’m aware of is the Wittenberg Lat 22 on Amazon Germany (ships to Ireland):
      https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00CS2D7ZI

      The main drawback with these bare antennas is that they are susceptible to rain fade, where rain droplets sitting on the bars attenuates the signal. However, they are very good at rejecting signals from other directions, reducing the likelihood of latency spikes. If your signal strength is already good indoors, then rain fade is unlikely going to be an issue.

      As with TV antennas, size matters – Generally the larger the antenna, the more directive it is. Most reputable antennas have a gain rating of around 10dBi and a radiation pattern. The narrower the lobe, better it is at isolating the signal from interference. An antenna needs to double in size to increase its gain by 3dB for the same band coverage. This basically means that most antennas with gain ratings over around 15dBi have a fictitious gain rating.

  33. Hi Sean, hoping you can give me some advice on positioning of Yagi Mimo LTE aerials like in the link below http://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/gsm-3g-lte-antennas/lte/atk-log-alp-lte-mimo-2×2-antenna-800-3000mhz-10m-cables-sma-plug.html. I bought a pair of these from the Polish seller Proscan after reading some previous posts and was wondering if I should keep them positioned as per the above link or I saw in another picture to position them vertically at angles that form an X. I am trying to improve a 2 – 3 bar 3G signal in a rural area in Mayo, currently signal drops mostly at night and am using a Huawei B315 router. Should I set the antenna settings in the router to ‘Auto’ or External aerial 1 & 2 and maybe a silly question but would like to keep them in the loft if possible, router is also there.Also is the best test a speed test to see improvement or is there somewhere in the router I can check. Appreciate any help you could give me, many thanks Dave

    1. For 3G, the two antennas need to be the same polarity. I suggest trying both vertical as this will make it easier to set up in the loft. Position the two antennas a reasonable distance apart, such as greater than 50cm and as high as you can in the loft, i.e. both near the eave. Keep them away from windows as most modern glass has a low ‘E’ coating that also blocks radio signals. Set the router to external 1 & 2 to force it to use both antennas. If the roof has foil-backed insulation, you will need to install the antennas outdoors.

      When adjusting the antennas, face both the same direction and check the RSSI and ECIO readings on your router. Rotate both antennas left/right to try to get the least negative RSSI and ECIO figures. The ECIO figure is the most important as this is the signal quality. Get this as close to zero as possible. If you cannot get better than -8dbm, try the antennas in another spot or turn both horizontally to see if that improves the ECIO.

      1. Hi Sean, thank you so much for you advice, but I need a little more help please. I have checked my Huawei B3500 router and I am unable to find the RSSI and ECIO readings on my router, I have tried every sub menu and nothing e.g. System – Diagnosis etc. Can you recommend where I can find these readings or is there any other way I can get them. Also while I’m on a role I changed the settings on the router to 4G only and had the antennas one pointed at 10.20 am and the other pointed at 2.40 pm and would you believe I got 2 bars of a 4G signal however the speed test was only 5 Mbps download but 10 upload, any idea why so good upload ? However when I restarted the router, it didn’t pick up any signal again, presume the 4G signal is weak and I had the router set to 4G thus the reason. If I could get the RSSI readings maybe I could weak the position of the antennas or can you suggest a better way to set up. Sorry for all the questions but appreciate your help, thanks David

        1. The Huawei B3500 is a Vodafone customised model of the B315. On the B315, normally you would go into the Settings menu at the top and then System menu -> Device Information on the left menu. The signal readings should appear on the right. When connected in 4G mode, the signal quality is the RSRQ reading, whereas in 3G mode it’s the ECIO reading.

          Another way you can try accessing the readings is through a hidden API readout. First go into the web interface, click the Settings menu and log in. Then go to the URL http://192.168.8.1/api/device/signal Right-click the page and select ‘View source’ or ‘View page source’. If all goes well, you should see a list of readings such as ‘ecio’ and ‘rssi’ in 3G mode or ‘rsrq’ and ‘rsrp’ in 4G mode. Press F5 to refresh the readings. If it shows a “code 10003” line, you need to log into the web interface again to access the API readings again.

          If you manage to connect in 4G mode again, try a speed test with a laptop or desktop. Ookla’s Speedtest app tends to overshoot on the upload test and I’ve seen unusually high upload results, such as 12Mbps on my workplace’s VDSL connection that is physically synced at 8Mbps up. A faster upload than download usually indicates high contention also, such as if only one 4G mast covers a massive area.

  34. Hi Sean, excellent, thank you, just checked my own reading going through the URL method above and it works perfectly, thank you so much for your help …. will set up the aerials as you suggested at my father in laws house and see how good we can get the signal with and without the aerials connected and post the results just to hopefully prove they work !! Thanks again David

    226

    69137409
    -12dB
    -101dBm
    -81dBm
    6dB

    7

  35. Hi Sean,

    Hope you can help me out, you seem to be the only person I’ve come across with reliable knowledge in this area.
    I have recently moved to the rural west and have been trying all kinds to find the best way to get high speed internet as I work from home. I am with Vodafone on mobile and eir for broadband but I recently bought a three sim and can get 4G at one/two bars in one area of the house. It varies widely in the evening though and often cannot pick up 4G at peak times. I have been hotspotting from my mobile to laptop through usb cable and often get 20-25mb at earlier parts of the day. I am about 2kms from mast tower.
    Do you think changing to three broadband would stabilise the signal but maintain speed? Or am I just as well to keep hotspotting from mobile?
    I need aprox 20mb consistently for work.

    Tell me what you think.
    Thanks.

    1. If you are using that Three SIM for hotspot only, I suggest getting a dedicated router to place the SIM into. The Huawei B315 is around £100 on Amazon, which you can insert the SIM into. It requires the full size SIM card, i.e. snap the SIM card back into the cut-outs where the SIM originally came in. You can connect devices either with a network cable or over Wi-Fi just like with a DSL router.

      These dedicated routers tend to be more sensitive than using a mobile phone. If you still have signal issues, you can get an outdoor antenna that attaches to the back of the router. It installs outside much like a TV antenna and has two leads that run back to the router, the above article goes into more details about the various antennas. For example, I don’t get any usable 4G signal on my Three mobile here even standing outside, yet have a stable 3-bar signal with a dedicated router and outdoor antenna. As you intermittently get a 4G signal on your phone, there’s a very good chance you will get away with just using the router without an antenna.

      From my own testing, Three’s dedicated broadband plan does not seem to perform any different to their mobile phone SIMs. However, if you are willing to commit 18 months to a contract, they provide a Huawei B525 router (which normally costs £150) with their €30/month contract. On the other hand, as the mobile network is a shared medium, there is a risk of facing heavy network contention such as if many others in range of that mast sign up over the next 18 months.

  36. Thanks for the awesome blog, article, and responding to people! Very cool.

    I’ve been doing a lot of searching and can’t find what I want and some advice would be much appreciated. I currently have exactly that cheap/portable antenna you mention above connected to an AT&T Unite (Netgear) hotspot with SMA connectors on it. My use case is I’d like better coverage than I get with that in fringe mountain areas (usually the California Mountains – Sierras, San Gabes, etc.) while car camping with my family.

    What I was trying to find was a small portable tri-pod I could mount a more substantial directional antenna too. Any advice? I’m guessing I’ll need an antenna, tripod, some sort of connection from the antenna to the tripod, and possibly some cable adapters.

    I’m tech savvy and understand wireless pretty well (I do medium sized wifi install of 100+ AP’s) from my IT experience and background.

    I really appreciate you insight and expertise!

  37. Hi Sean,
    Great write up and info you’ve posted here. Thank you. I’m currently testing controlling drones over 4glte signal on Tmobile USA here in Hawaii and am trying to nail down the best light and portable set of antennas to place on the craft while plugging into the Huawei E3372h-510 modem on the craft. Interestingly I get better signal and bandwidth *without* the 2 short dipole antennas you see them frequently with. Pulling them off I get another bar of signal and double the speeds at times. I ran the CellMapper app you suggested and I’m seeing TX 1747.5mhz & RX 2147.5mhz frequencies from my phone. Wondering if you may have any advice on what you think would be the best set of antennas for this type of application. Here’s the Maiden flight using the the mod to fly a Parrot Disco Drone Plane over 4G if your interested to see the flight performance thus far with the short antennas on https://youtu.be/KuYeJ5dss60

    Aloha,
    Dustin Dunnill

  38. Sean, I hope it’s okay to pick your brain. So we are moving to rural Meath in a couple of weeks. The mainstream broadband providers aren’t available in the area. We also tried Imagine LTE and despite their engineer going 20m up on the roof he couldn’t get a signal. I suspect that’s because they work off the Three network.
    Vodafone is our best option. We get 3G coverage in various spots indoors and outdoors, while I’ve often seen 4G pop up on my phone I may have been dreaming though! However a step sideways or backwards and suddenly we have no service.
    I have been in touch with an Irish company and they are recommending these two products for boosting data (the plan is to go with Vodafone mobile broadband). https://trade.novatel.ie/lte-gsm/9dbi-cross-polarised-high-gain-outdoor-lte-panel-antenna-xpol-2
    https://trade.novatel.ie/mobile-broadband-router/tp-link-tl-mr6400-4g-lte-router

    For a voice booster they are recommending –
    https://retail.novatel.ie/consumer-signal-boosters/3g-900mhz-gsm-repeater

    Any thoughts on the above?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Imagine LTE operates its own masts independent of Three, Eir and Vodafone. For example, my broadband is with Three 4G and the nearest Imagine mast is about 100km away, way behind the range limit even if I had line of sight.

      My first suggestion would be to order that 900MHz StellaDoradus repeater. That will give you both voice and 3G data inside. All three networks use 900MHz extensively to service 3G outside the town limits, so the repeater should give you a full 3G signal on Vodafone inside. This will also give you the opportunity to check Three and Eir. Mount the repeater’s outdoor antenna as high up as possible.

      Before you order any mobile broadband, get the lend of a Three phone or buy a prepay Three SIM if you have an unlocked 4G phone handy. If it works indoors with the repeater and get a reasonably good speed on 3G (e.g. 6 Mbps or higher in the evening), I suggest ordering the Three unlimited (750GB) broadband plan, which is €30/month (18 month contract) and comes with a Huawei B525 router.

      If you don’t get a Three signal with the repeater, then you can order the Vodafone Mobile Broadband. Their package is €45/month for 150GB or €55/month for 250GB and is 24 month contract. They also supply a free router, in this case a Vodafone-branded Huawei B528. It will operate off 3G provided by the mobile repeater.

      Once you get the mobile broadband service, you can try connecting the lead from the StellaDoradus outdoor antenna directly to your router to see whether it picks up 4G. Although the repeater only amplifies 900MHz, the antenna that comes with the repeater has similar specifications to the XPOL antenna and even covers the 4G bands. For the Vodafone router, you would need a TS9 to SMA adapter. If you get 4G with the antenna, you can then order that XPOL outdoor antenna to connect directly to the router.

  39. Hi Sean. I live in a rural part of east Galway and I’m right in the edge of the three network 4G coverage. Anyhow I have signed up with three with a Huawei B525 router. I’ve installed a Poynting X-XPOL-0002-V2 outdoor directional antenna.

    With cell tower site ID GA0085 approx 4 km, I get 3-4 bars reception in the router with offpeak times 0000-1500 download speeds of 30-43 MPS, Upload 20 MPS. Peak Times slow with 3-6 MPS download and Upload of 12 MPS. This is the tower I have the antenna point to at the moment.

    With cell tower site ID 6330 approx 6 KM away. I only get 1-2 bars reception on the router. But the speed is better at peak times (1800-2000) and 4G+ at times. Speed at peak times 17-24 MPS download and 3-5 MPS download. The reason I didn’t leave the antenna pointed at this tower I was afraid in bad weather that the signal might drop to 3G.

    My question is can a second antenna be installed to capture both towers and a SMA splitter installed. If so does there have to be a minimum distance between antennas (if both antennas were istalled they would be 150 degrees from each other). What hardware would I need or do I need an amplifier?

    Thanks,
    Regards,
    Shane

    1. As you occasionally get 4G+ with the further away mast, this indicates that mast is operating at both 800MHz and 1800MHz. In this case, I would suggest going for a higher gain antenna for the 1800MHz band such as this antenna. This is its data sheet.

      While that Proscan antenna lacks the 800MHz band, the improved signal strength may give you a lot more bandwidth on the 1800MHz band, possibly near 100Mbps early in the day. The maximum speed I got on 4G was 118Mbps on a regular 4G phone (OnePlus One), so I wouldn’t be concerned trying to get both bands for 4G+ as higher gain wideband antennas (that cover down to 800MHz) are massive. For example, the 17-24Mbps peak speed you are currently get with that mast could be more down to a poor coding rate rather than contention due to the weak signal. As the antenna is very directional, it can take a while to accurately aim it, similar to a satellite dish.

      Generally if the antennas are facing the same direction (e.g. two LOG antennas for MIMO), there should be at least 40cm clearance between the two. However, as yours are 150 degrees apart, separation distance is unlikely to be an issue. If you are mounting them on separate poles, the two antennas should face away from each other, otherwise there’s a risk of side lobes from one antenna causing interference with the other.

      Don’t try connecting both antennas to the router with a splitter as the two antenna signals will interfere with each other. I would suggest getting the stronger antenna to start with. If you still find you need to periodically switch between the two antennas, I would suggest getting two short extensions for the router, which will make it easier to unscrew and swap the cables than trying to unscrew them directly behind the router.

  40. Hi Sean.

    Excellent articles, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    I moved from fixed line Eir to 3 mobile €30/mth Broadband. The numbers with the B525 standalone were pretty impressive (14-20 Mbps download and expectedly drops at peak) but decided to get a high gain aerial to see if the numbers improved.

    I got these: https://www.wimo.com/lte-4g-antennas_e.html#60072 which arrived the other day. I am 1.6km from the three LTE mast which is in line of site. I mounted the aerials outside in full view of the three mast and had them seperated using the recommended stacking distances but while I am getting 5 bars of signal coverage I am still only seeing roughly the same numbers.

    There is a high gain Saorview aerial on the same mast (facing opposite direction), would this interfere with the LTE ones? Or is it a case of fine tuning the stacking distances? Or just move them to another location?

    Thanks
    Ray

    1. Just in case it’s an interference issue, check what the SINR and RSRQ figures on your router – Go into the router’s web interface, then into Settings on the top menu, then System -> Device information on the left menu. Refresh the page a few times (press the F5 key every few seconds) to see if the RSRQ spikes worse than -12dB (e.g. to -15dB, etc) This would indicate interference such as from another mast, in which case I suggest try aiming the antenna 10 degrees to the left or right of the mast to avoid the interference.

      If the RSRQ figure is fine (e.g. -10dB or less negative), check the SINR figure. If this is below 10dB, you may need to separate the two antennas further apart. If you have them at 45 degree angles as the product photo shows, I suggest trying them in vertical and horizontal polarity, which the masts here operate on.

      If the RSRQ and SINR figures are fine, then the issue is likely with the mast itself. For example, if the mast is microwave fed (which most are), there could be a weak signal with that feed or the microwave antenna has gone off alignment such as from a previous storm. A good example is the Three mast nearby us in Killybegs. Despite being 4G+ enabled, it seldom delivers above 25Mbps even during the early hours of the morning.

      Finally, check with a network cable connected directly to the router such as with a laptop (without Homeplug adapters) just to rule out Wi-Fi interference or an issue with Homeplug adapters (that use the electrical mains to carry network data). I don’t think the Saorview antenna would cause any issue, as long as it’s not in the path, such as a separate pole in front of either LTE antenna.

      1. Thanks Sean.

        Checked this evening over the period of an hour when I got home and the numbers are as follows:
        RSRQ ~ -11dB
        RSRP ~ -83dB
        SINR ~ -4dB

        So looks like the SINR reading is off and the RSRQ could be a small bit better but at least I know what to look for now.

        I will get the correct brackets and mount the aerials vertically and horizontally as you suggested at the weekend and see how it goes.

        Thanks a million.

        1. Hi Sean,

          Here’s the update.
          I tried mounting vertical and horizontal at the mast but nothing really improved.
          Weather wasn’t the best so I took the antennas down, got a spare shovel handle from the shed and mounted the two antennas on that and stood indoors at an upstairs window slowly moving them around whilst monitoring the RSRQ/RSRP/SINR values on laptop. Bizarrely enough they locked to another mast that’s not in clear view with very satisfactory numbers.
          I checked the ComReg site and the mast is 3.6km away but in a less populated area. So I reckon I was battling congestion with the one that was 1.6km and in line of sight. Mounted antennas back up outside last night and getting an average of RSRQ -5 :: RSRP -86 :: SINR +7. Seems to reflect with the download numbers now but will keep an eye over the weekend.

          Thanks for the suggestions & info.

          All the best
          Ray

          1. Those readings are indeed a lot better and impressive that you’re getting them indoors. Unfortunately this is no longer possible with most modern glass windows that have a ‘low E’ coating as they effectively block radio signals.

            Hopefully you’ll get at least those readings once the antennas are mounted back outside again in that direction. The positive SINR means you’re getting reasonably good MIMO separation. With your previous post, the negative SINR meant the setup was effectively running in single polarity.

          1. The only App I’m aware of that reads the signals directly from Huawei routers is this one, but unfortunately it does not support the Huawei B525 or other recent models.

            You can view them with a web browser on the phone:

            1. Go to http://192.168.8.1 and touch the blue “web page” link at the bottom-right.
            2. Touch Settings in the top menu and log in.
            3. In the left menu, go into system -> Device information.
            4. The CELL_ID, RSRQ, RSRP and SINR readings should appear.

            Unfortunately the B525 does not automatically update the readings, so you need to refresh the page to see the current readings.

            To see more technical info such as the LTE band #, bandwidth and carrier mcs modes, first log into the router web interface and in a new tab, enter http://192.168.8.1/api/device/signal Then view the page source. To do this on Firefox mobile, go into the three dots menu, then go into Page and View Source. If it shows 100003, then the log-in session has expired, i.e. log back in on the other tab.

  41. Hi Sean
    I am looking for some help on choosing an 4G ext antenna. I am using a Huawei b593s-22 which is on 3 network. 3 have recently put up a new tower somewhere near me i think its approx 2-3 miles as crow flies I am getting 4g on the router with 2/3 bars signal sometimes 4 and getting speeds from 30-50mb but it keeps dropping down as signal dips. I have taken a screenshot on pone of the 4g info as you described above but i cannot make head nor tail out of it. Any help/advice would be much appreciated
    Many thanks
    Regards
    Sean Byrne

    1. The first thing I suggest is trying the router in a few different areas, such as against an outside wall that faces the mast. Avoid placing it in or near a window as most glass windows manufactured in the past 15 years have a low emission coating that blocks most signals. To rule out contention, I suggest testing the router outside (when it’s dry) when the speed dips to see whether the speed improves with the router outside. If speed does not improve, an antenna will unlikely help.

      Based on your speed and getting 2+ bars and your short distance from the mast, a basic LTE MIMO antenna such as this ATK-LOG LTE should be sufficient. Aim this in the general direction of the mast. As your signal is reasonably good, you will probably get away with installing the antenna in the loft if the roof does not have foil insulation.

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