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.

NOTE: Make sure you are using the 800MHz (band 20) band before considering the Wittenberg LAT 22 or any other 800MHz antenna.  This antenna does not work on 1800MHz (band 3), which some masts operate on.  800MHz antennas may also not work with 4G+ masts, which may try handing the router over to the higher band, in turn dropping the connection.  See the Single band coverage section below for further details.

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.

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

  1. Thanks for your nice article to share your experience in antenna. I am having difficulty to select antennas. I have living in urban area, 1.2 kms away from the nearest mast and not far away from another two masts at the other directions. The signal is a little bit bad because trees and buildings between my home and mast. I found lots of antennas with same type, same gain but different beam width. How should I choose the right type and right beam width antennas? Thanks very much

    1. Generally, the narrower the beam width, the better the antenna is at isolating a particular mast. As you have masts in different directions, this may let you try each mast to see which performs the best. The narrower beam width, the larger the antenna is for the same bands, so check the dimensions of each antenna. For LOG antennas, narrow beam models can go over 1m in length. They also require a more sturdy mount to withstand stormy weather.

      1. Hello Sean, thanks for your reply.
        I would like to share a handy tool for you and your readers. There is a software for Huawei routers to lock customized bands, LTEInspector: Huawei 4G Router Überwachungssoftware.
        Download link:
        Der Download-Link für die installierbare Version

        Der Download-Link für die portable Version

        1. Thanks for the utility, which works as a brilliant signal meter showing live RSRP, RSRQ and SINR figures. I have been been looking for something that could give me a live signal read out that works with the Huawei B525 as the router’s web interface does not automatically refresh the readings, unlike the older Huawei B593s-22.

          With this LTEInspecteur utility, it can show a full screen signal meter. This is very useful while up the ladder adjusting the antenna – One can place the laptop somewhere nearby within view and monitor the figures in realtime while carefully adjusting the antenna.

  2. Hi sean. I got the two wittenberg antenna and I have been using them with a B525s router with ISP THREE. I recently relocated the antenna to the chimney as there is direct line of sight to the mast. In doing so I had to remove the connectors to slip them under slates. When I re fitted new connectors in the attic I am getting better consistency with the internal router antenna than the external.. is there an individual that I can contact who i can pay to optimise what I have. Antenna and bracket on roof and router in attic… trial and error is getting me nowhere as at times I have 50 mgs and other times i get connection error. Mytest.net shows huge fluctuation when I do speedtest. Do you do this work or can you recommend??? I’m living outside athlone.

    1. Have a check in the router’s web interface that the antenna is set to External – Go into the top Settings menu, then System -> Antenna settings on the left menu. If it is Auto, it can intermittently switch to its internal antennas, causing drop-outs. Connect the lead from the vertically aimed antenna to port #1 and the horizontal aimed antenna to port #2 on the router.

      When adjusting the antenna, look at the router’s signal read-outs, which can be viewed by going into the top Settings menu, then System -> Device Information on the left. Try to get the RSRP the lest negative as possible, e.g. -90dB RSRP is better than -100dB RSRP and the SINR as positive as possible, e.g. over 10dB. Reload the page to refresh the readings. If the connection is still randomly dropping out, it may be an issue with the connectors.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone who does antenna installation work, although someone who specialises in satellite dish and TV antenna installations may be able to help aim the antennas and check that the SMA connectors are crimped properly.

  3. Thanks sean. Following your last post I have set up the duo antenna accordingly. Unfortunately there is no marked improvement in reception based on the routers interface readings or mytest.net. so I’m guessing that I have done some damage when re applying the connectors. I checked my Amazon account and it was the lat 22 duos that were recommended… not the lat 56 duos right?

    1. I would have suggested the 56 unless you are sure the mast is operating on 800MHz (band 20) only. Generally I recommend going for a pair of LOG antennas (such as these) and the Lat 56 for an extremely weak 4G signal (e.g. router only picks up 1 to 2 bars of 4G outside.)

      The Lat 22 is an 800MHz (band 20) specific band antenna, so that would be an issue if the mast you are pointing at operates on 1800MHz (band 3). This is the set I currently use as the Three mast in our area operates on 800MHz only and I needed as narrow beamwidth antenna as I could get as I was trying to pick up one mast over another that was about 30 degrees apart.

      To check what band your router currently connects to, disconnect the antennas, set it to its internal antennas and check that it’s connected in 4G mode. Go into the router’s web interface (, click Settings and log in. Then enter the URL Then right-click the page and click ‘view source’ (or ‘view page source’). Look for the ‘band’ tag. If this is 20, the mast is 800MHz. If it is 3, the mast is 1800MHz, in which case you will need wideband antennas.

      If it is on band 20, then the crimping could be the issue. So far I have not tried crimping any coaxial cable for a cellular antenna as these connections are a lot more sensitive than for TV/satellite. While a loose fitting generally does not affect incoming signals (e.g. satellite/TV receive only), it can seriously affect transmissions as a portion will reflect back if not crimped properly. This could also explain why it’s dropping out.

  4. Thanks sean. I followed your direction and Im on band 3. So my lat 22 antenna need to go. Before I ask which antenna to go with, can you tell me how I can confirm which mast I am connecting to. There is no point in getting directional antenna at all if I cannot be sure as to which mast I am connecting to. The cell id reads 1:0 on the router interface. I am presuming that I am connecting to the mast that I have direct line of sight to but perhaps I am mistaken (like with the choice of antenna previously).

    1. Unfortunately Three don’t provide a way of viewing their cell IDs and they do not correspond with Comreg’s site viewer. If you have a phone with Android 7 or later and on the Three network, you may be able to find the direction with the help of the app Network Cell Info Lite. With the Cell Info Lite app and the phone in 4G mode, see if that cell ID appears for the UCID or CID fields. Walk around the outside of your house to see which side gives the strongest signal and hopefully you’ll see a corresponding Three cell on Comreg’s site viewer.

      You don’t need direct line of sight to pick up Three, particularly for band 20 which can penetrate buildings, forestry, etc. As you are connecting on band 3 which does not penetrate objects as easily, there is a good chance that you have clear line of sight with the mast.

      If you decide on the smaller LOG antennas, they are a lot easier to aim than the Wittenbergs as they have a 60 degree viewing angle with a gradual fall off beyond that, whereas the Wittenbergs had a 30 degree viewing angle with a sharp cut-off. For example, you could roughly find the mast in 4 attempts, i.e. aim forward, then left, then back and right and one or two of those directions will pick up that cell. Then it’s just a matter of turning it 30 degrees left/right a few attempts to find the sweet spot.

      For your current antenna, you can try listing it on the classifieds, e.g. high gain MIMO band 20 antenna for Three and Vodafone, like new condition. Include a picture next to a familiar object such as the Huawei router to give an idea of the antenna size in the ad. Just a pity you about cutting the cable ends as otherwise you would have been able to return it back to the online shop under it’s cooling off period.

  5. Hi Sean

    Is there any difference between the antenna you recommend above


    Or this one David recommended?


    The one you linked too was cheaper 🙂 still haven’t decided what to do. I tested my signal with three uk and found at one corner of my house in mid afternoon I can get 30mb download. I can’t see the mast from there but it is in the general direction. I should say I got that using my phone. If that is the case do I need a directional antenna or would an omni one do? As David mentioned above if I can get 4g I might not need an antenna. How the signal is patchy.

    Just reluctant to spend this money on an antenna from Germany and for it not to work. Plus he hassle of putting it up.

    1. The Amazon one appears to be slightly higher gain with a narrower beam-width going by the picture. Unfortunately they don’t mention any useful spec, let alone a beam diagram (which the eBay listing does). It’s certainly not 20dBi gain! Otherwise the antenna would probably be over 3 metres long. For example, I have a 900MHz GSM 16.5dBi gain antenna that is 1.8m long for my mobile repeater.

      Considering the high price of omni-directional antennas, I suggest going for the eBay one. I know it will mean going up/down the ladder a few times to aim it. As you already know which side of the house you get the best 4G signal, indeed that would be the direction I suggest facing it to start off with.

      If you would like to see how an omni-directional antenna would perform, try temporarily holding the router outside where you plan installing the omni-directional antenna, e.g. have someone up the ladder hold the router and the extension lead, then run a speed test from a laptop connected to it.

      An omni-directional antenna will not perform any better than the router on its own in the same location, so if the speed is poor with this test, it will unlikely be any better an omni-directional antenna installed in that spot, possibly worse with the weak signal having to travel the length of the leads. Most directional antennas on the other hand will have at least 8dBi of gain, which will overcome the cable losses as well as provide a better signal to noise ratio to the router.

  6. So I will check with android 7 as to the likely mast. The one that is plain line of sight is the closest Three mast at just under 5k away, in rural settings. Ulband 20MHZ, Dlband 20MHz, erfcn DL 1700 UL 19700, tac3003 . It’s on band 3 and like you the is a guy with Vodafone operating antenna about 30 degrees off my line of sight that has people locally connecting to him. He is only 500 metres from my house but too expensive. My 4g gives me good internet on bars but it drops regularly in the evenings, when on 3g I have full bars but slow in the evenings also with a tendency to drop. I see the other comments include some other antenna suggestions. In light of these circumstances what antenna should I consider?

    1. My two suggestions would be to go either that pair of LOG antennas or the following pair of Yagi antennas that target band 3.

      If you really want to get the maximum signal knowing that you are picking up band 3, the following is LTE MIMO antenna set that covers 1710-2700MHz. The catch is that if the 4G mast goes down, your router will only be able to drop to 3G if the mast is using the 2100MHz 3G band. Three operates 3G on 900MHz in a lot of areas. Similarly if you later switch to Vodafone, their 4G mast could be operating on band 20. As 1800MHz is a much shorter wavelength, the antenna size is much smaller than a wideband antenna for the equivalent gain. On the other hand, the narrow 32 degree viewing angle means I strongly recommend doing a temporary setup within easy reach such as with a camera/speaker tripod, so you know which way to aim it on your gable or chimney.


      My first antenna purchase was indeed this antenna from the same Polish seller as at the time Three only had 1800MHz spectrum for 4G. However, by the time 4G came to my area, Three bought out O2 Ireland which owned 800MHz spectrum and suddenly Three started putting up 800MHz (band 20) masts. Indeed the one they installed by us operates on band 20 only.

  7. Slower speed in the evenings is probably the operator throttling the speeds due to the mast not being able to cope with the number of people using it. Do a speed test at 4am to see the difference. I can get 18mb at 4am but it goes down to 1.6 in the evenings. 3 network. ..

  8. Hi Sean,

    Just wanted a bit further advice. Got my directional antenna that you suggested from eBay in Germany. Finally tried it today but no luck. I mounted it on a pole temporarily at different spots around the house. Tried pointing it in the direction that an app said the mast was. But the antenna made no difference. Not sure if it is my setup or if the antenna is so sensitive that I haven’t directed it properly. I had to use a sma to CRC9 adapter to connect to my usb 4g modem.

    Any suggestions

    1. I wonder if the cables are making proper contact with both CRC connectors. If the signal strength varies when you move the antennas about, but the speed does not improve, then the issue is down to network load on the mast.

      If the antennas were not making any noticeable effect on the signal strength, try pointing them directly down at the ground inside to see whether the signal strength drops. If the router still shows the same signal strength or there’s no noticeable change in its connection speed, then the modem is still using its internal antenna.

      I’m not sure if there is any setting in its web interface to specify an external antenna for the E3372. I had the slightly later E3372h which automatically switched to external antennas when attached.

      1. Hi Sean,

        Yes it is the e3372h as well. I wondered if it needed switched.

        Will maybe plug it into the laptop and read what the USB modem says. I was using the router read out of signal strength.

        It is strange as I can get about 20mbps with the router with no antenna at the opposite end of the house to the direction of the mast.

        Will the external antenna work in the loft?

        1. The external antenna will work in the loft as long as the roof does not have foil-backed insulation. However, if the mast is directly behind a block wall such as the gable, it may need to be installed outside. If you see the signal readout in RSRP dB or as a percentage, you should see that fluctuate up or down as you turn the antenna. Ideally, you should aim for the best RSRQ (least negative) and SINR (higher is better) readings, however, I don’t recall whether the e3372h can report these readings like the Huawei desktop 4G routers do.

          1. Thanks Sean,

            Will give it a go. Think there is maybe some software I can run on the pc to get some stats.

            Also to start with should I have the antenna both horizontal or one vertical and horizontal. Will this make a difference in aiming?


          2. For aiming, I suggest setting them up one horizontally and the other vertically if you can. If it’s too awkward to set up both antennas temporarily, set up one antenna vertical on the pole and connect it to antenna port #1 on the modem. Connect the second antenna to port #2 and point it directly down at the ground to prevent it picking up a signal. Once you find the direction that gives the best signal strength reading (i.e. least negative RSRP and RSRQ figures), you can try setting up the second antenna horizontal aimed the same direction to run a speed test. If the modem reports an SINR figure, both antennas need to be attached to get this reading, such as when fine tuning each antenna position.

  9. Hi Sean,

    Just wondering if it is possible to have too much gain.
    I am torn between the 11db lat 56 and the 9db “Duo antenna set LTE directional radio LOG” linked on ebay.

    Will be using a b525 in an ares which was getting 1-2 bars indoors and I think 1-2 (maybe three) outdoors.
    As the lat 56’s seem to be twice the price I am just making sure its not something that could actually make the signal worse etc.

    Thanks for creating such an awesome resource too by the way. Has really helped answer loads of questions I had (and a even more I had not even thought of).

    Thanks again

    1. The Lat56’s have a much narrower acceptance angle than the more common white LOG antennas. Unless you are having issues with interference or have a very weak signal, I suggest going for the LOG set on eBay. Run the router outside temporarily and see what the SINR value is (Settings menu -> System -> Device Information). If it’s below 0 or the RSRQ value is -13 or more negative, this indicates a lot of interference, in which the case the Lat56 may perform better.

      While the Lat56 can still give a better signal, there is a lot more work involved with aiming them, including the elevation angle, especially if you don’t know which direction the mast is. With the smaller LOG antennas, you can aim them the general direction of the mast and it doesn’t matter if they are a few degrees out. As they are plastic covered (usually white), rain does not affect them as much as the Lat56’s either.

  10. Hi Sean,

    Great article with useful information.
    I was wondering if you might have heard about this brand/antenna:


    Any thoughts on it?

    We are trying to get a decent rural connection across the water from Shannon airport in Clare. It’s no more than 15km, practically line of sight (there may be another antenna we can try too). Will this distance be a problem with Three?
    We can normally pick up 4G on one side of the house by a window looking out at the airport (the masts are behind the airport according to comreg). With an LG V30 we can pick up to nearly 30mb/s but it is normally around 15mb/s. Our Three router is arriving tomorrow so it will be interesting to see if it can match it.

    There is also a large body of tidal water between. Is this a problem for the signal? Imagine refused to give us a connection because of it…

    1. Personally I wouldn’t try that antenna as the dBi figures are made up, which make me wonder about its other specifications. A 9dBi wideband panel antenna is around the size of a shoebox lid and the antenna size doubles for every 3dBi of additional gain as dB is a logarithmic scale.

      Before ordering any antenna, check how well the Three router performs and make sure it connects in 4G mode. While the water itself should not be an issue, the distance could well be as I’ve seen before as Three has a shorter maximum 4G range for routers than for mobiles.

      1. Interestingly I just threw it down in front of the window and now I have a steady 20-25mb/s in the evening, night and morning 🙂 I’ll play around with the positioning to try and see what I can get but since the speed is stable it probably means we aren’t experiencing much contention.

        Given the distance, what type of antenna would you recommend to try and maximise the speed? Any idea what the realistic maximum speed I should expect to achieve and therefore how big an antenna is worth buying? Is there any brand or site that actually shows the real antenna gain?

        1. Go into the router’s web interface: Then go into the Settings menu, login, then on the left menu go into System, then Device Information. Check the RSRP and SINR values. Refresh the page to update the readings, such as if you are trying the router in different spots.

          The RSRP value is the signal strength and the SINR value is the signal quality. If the SINR is over 10dB, you have a good signal quality, in which case an external antenna may not offer much improvement. If the SINR is between 0dB and 10dB, I suggest going for a pair of 4G LOG antennas (appear like white triangles), which are around 8dBi to 10dBi. If the SINR is negative and the RSRP value is more negative than -105dB, you’ll need a more specialised antenna, in which case I suggest replying with your readings.

          It’s difficult to say what the maximum speed will be as a lot of Three’s masts are microwave-fed with congested or limited bandwidth. For example, Three’s mast in Killybegs maxes out about 25Mbps even with a very good signal (30dB SINR), likely due to its uplink being the bottleneck. If you don’t notice much difference in speed trying your router in different spots or setting it up temporarily outside, then an external antenna may not improve the speed any further.

          1. RSRQ: -9dB
            RSRP: -98dBm
            SINR: 1db

            That doesn’t seem super great from what you’ve said but the router shows 4/5 signal bars…

          2. The signal bars are just a rough guide and even vary depending on the firmware revision. For example, you could have a full 5 bar signal reading, but barely any throughput due to interference or heavy contention.

            Based on your readings, it looks like the router has reasonably good signal quality from the mast (RSRQ < -10dB), but with poor MIMO separation as the SINR takes into account the antenna separation. In this case, I suggest going for a pair of LOG antennas, such as these or these if you don’t mind spending more for the additional gain.

            As you are quite far from the mast, I suggest spacing them 1m or more apart if possible, such as on two different wall brackets. For example, you could mount one below a TV antenna (if there’s space) on one bracket and the other on a separate bracket. As your signal strength is good, the loft may be another option for one or both antennas, assuming the roof does not have foil-backed insulation. For example, with my set up, I have the horizontally polarised LOG antenna outside and the vertically polarised LOG antenna mounted in our loft.

  11. Hi Sean,

    I have been using Three’s mobile broadband for the last few years, progressing from the old white dongle up to my present B525 which now resides in the attic of our dormer bungalow.
    It’s just using the supplied bunny ears antenna and though I get 3 bars of a 4G signal (some times 4G+), speed varies greatly (0.79Mbps – 22.76Mbps ) . I had considered getting an external antenna last year but never followed up on it until in the lull between Christmas and the New Year when I ordered a Wittenberg LTE Duo carry 2x LTE-LAT 22 and mounts from Amazon.de, they should be here by the weekend.

    However I may have jumped the gun a little….. reading through the replies you have sent to others I have discovered from my router that the signal I am getting is on Band 3 , my antennas are for Band 20 🙁

    My numbers at present

    I have also found out that the tower I am getting my signal from is 3.1Km away and is 23deg NE of the house.

    I am presuming now that the Whittenbergs will be of no use to me , hopefully I will be able to return them to Amazon, would I be better off going with the TRANS-DATA LTE KYZ 10/10 MIMO you suggested to Oliver above ?

    1. Unfortunately, they might not work unless you can pick up a mast operating on band 20 in another direction. I’ve now added a note to the article to mention that they do not work on band 3. Most band 3 masts are 4G+ capable, which means they operate on both 800MHz and 1800MHz. However, the problem is that these masts may try handing your router to band 3 for load balancing, which would cause the connection to drop if this happens.

      Based on those weak signal readings, I would have suggested going for the LAT56 instead. These work on both band 3 and 20 (4G+ capable) and are the most sensitive wideband LOG antennas that I’m aware of. Check what the router picks up outside, such as if you are able to hold it up outside a skylight or up a ladder temporarily. If the RSRQ improves to -103dB or better, the TRANS-DATA LTE KYZ 10/10 should be adequate.

      1. I tried the router on the window sill of an upstairs window of the house, window open. After a bit of manipulation and tweaking of the bunny ears we got results of
        RSRQ -9dB
        RSRP -102dBm
        RSSI -71dBm
        SINR 8dB
        Band 3

        (I did try the LTEInspector program mentioned above but could not get it to work, kept getting error messages )

        I replaced the router back in the attic, to its original position but orientated as it was on the window sill and the bunny ears at the new angles. It now shows 5 bars (was only getting 3). I ran the and view the page source and now find that I’m receiving on Band 20 with
        RSRQ -14dB
        RSRP -97dBm
        RSSI -65dBm
        SINR -8dB

        The antennae arrived from Germany today and now I don’t know what to do !!!

        1. As the signal quality is much better in band 3, I suggest returning the antennas and getting the wideband TRANS-DATA LTE KYZ 10/10 pair. As the router is switching between bands 3 and 20, it’s likely the mast is 4G+ enabled, which means the wideband antenna will potentially give better speed assuming the mast’s uplink is not congested. Amazon has a very good return policy especially within the 14 day cooling off period and I think even Amazon Germany provides a free An Post returns label.

  12. Hi Seán.
    Thanks for all the excellent info.
    In the spirit of extending common knowlage and to air a few questions…

    I fit mobile internet for farm cameras and some domestic users. I have been using a Three phone sim at home for over 18 months now with excellent results and economy.

    The Huawei B525 routers that I have recently been supplied, in addition to selecting 4G only etc., also allow you to specify a fixed frequency band.
    This is very useful for working out which frequency yeilds the best speeds and allows the selection of narrow band (or tunned) external antennas. Such antennas are usually more directional and have higher gain.
    A pair of 1800MHz yagi aerials have just arrived, I will test them when I get a chance…

    As I understand it, Mimo technology overcomes the bandwith limitation of mobile phone data streams by running two or more streams in paralel. These work without interfering with eachother by being on different frequency bands and by being on physically seperated antennas polarised 90 degrees apart.

    Question 1:
    In ireland are cross polarised pairs of antennas always horizontal and verical? Or do some towers employ 45deg X-pol alligent?

    Question 2: If more than one frequency band is to be used, are wide band (multiband) antennas required?

    Question 3.
    Could we start an online data base of towers and the frequencies, polarisation that they use?
    The Comreg Siteviewer site has none of this info unfortunatly.

    1. 1: In Ireland, they are polarised horizontal and vertical. I’m not aware of any masts using 45 degree x-polarisation, which I think is mainly utilised in Australia.

      2: Only for 4G+ reception, where the router connects two both bands simultaneously for carrier aggregation. Another thing to watch out for is the physical distance from the 4G+ tower. When connecting in regular 4G mode, the cell will only allow connection on band 3 (1800MHz) within a certain distance, regardless of the signal strength and this distance can vary from tower to tower. Such a cell will also only allow connection on band 20 (800MHz) beyond a certain distance. For example, if you are very close to the tower and try using a single band 20 (800MHz) antenna, the tower’s radio will try handing the router over to band 3, causing the connection to drop. The router will try connecting on band 20 again and the loop repeats.

      3: The CellMapper website has a pretty good map showing the cell tower frequencies and roughly their locations. As far as I’m aware of, Comreg’s Siteview is the only map with the exact locations, so worth checking with it to pinpoint a tower after you come across one of interest on CellMapper. In the provider drop-down, type in Ireland and choose 3-2725. The CellMapper App is worth getting, which can look up the current band you’re connected to with most Android phones.

      If you have a Huawei B525 on site and plan getting an antenna for it, you can also view the current band it is connected to. Open the router’s web interface and go into the Settings menu and login. After you login, go to the URL Right-click the page and view the page source. Look for the ‘band’ tag, 20 = 800MHz and 3 = 1800MHz.

  13. Dear Sean
    This is such a great site… I am desperately trying to get my broadband speed back up again otherwise I’m about to lose my job which involves broadband at home. Sadly I think the problem is saturated microwave link to the local Three mast but I just want to check if there is any point in your view in trying another antenna.

    We have a German MIMO antenna for 800 MHz like this one: https://www.ebay.ie/itm/LTE-Panel-Antenne-5m-Kabel-800-MHz-Telekom-Speedport-LTE-SpeedBox-II-III-2-3/281767016043?hash=item419a9f766b:g:we0AAOSwT6pVw0qS:rk:17:pf:0

    The stats from the router are:
    RSRQ -6dB
    RSRP -87dBm
    SINR 9dB
    Our three mast is a rural one and we are on band 20. Unfortunately we are in a valley and can only “see” one mast.

    Do you think there is any point in trying another antenna, or two separated antennas, or will we chalk it up to mast over capacity? It’s worse in the evenings and it’s actually got worse over the past couple of years as more people have taken to using 4G.

    Is there any other information that would help? If I could get 6Mb reliably then I could keep the job. It will often show high speeds on tests like speedof.me but in reality it’s not a fast connection.

    Thank you!

    1. Those signal readings from your router are pretty good, especially the RSRQ. A fully loaded cell will have an RSRQ of -12dB at best, which indeed points the issue at the mast’s microwave/backhaul. A separate second antenna will likely improve the SINR value. Unforetunately, I really doubt it will improve the speed as I would expect a speed of around 40-50Mbps with those figures from a band 20 cell.

      For comparison, my current RSRQ is -13dB, RSRP is -102dBm and SINR is -2dB (all a lot worse readings than yours) and speedof.me currently gives my current speed is 8.2Mbps down / 15.01Mbps up and testmy.net (UK server) gives 13.6Mbps down and 14.6Mbps up.

      If your work-related traffic is under 50GB/month (or can afford €30 per 50GB block if over), try an Eir prepay mobile broadband SIM to see if you get any better on their network, even on 3G mode. You can order the SIM free on their website, send €30 to its 085 # (e.g. via online banking) and purchase the 50GB pass. For example, the last time I tried Eir (Meteor) here, I got 8-12Mbps pretty much any time of day/night despite only having a 3G connection. If it performs well, you can get a separate router and antenna to use that for work and use your current Three connection for home usage.

  14. Great information and good suggestion! You have a fine lateral-thinking mind – many thanks. I wish they could keep the Comreg mast map up to date, because until recently, our mast CK0199 only had Eir GSM – no 3G or 4G. But I will nab an Eir SIM, and test what’s there in reality again…!

    1. When the Eir SIM arrives, pop it in the router before adding credit. This way you’ll be able to check whether it shows a 3G or 4G signal and its strength before deciding whether to add credit for a test-run.

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