Troubleshooting 3G/4G mobile broadband and antennas

LTE panel antennaLike mobile phones, most mobile broadband routers are considered plug and play where you just insert your SIM card and it’s ready to use.  However, in some instances routers and modems will need some further tweaking to improve the connection stability or to even get online.

This guide is broken down into several parts, starting with troubleshooting steps that apply to all providers.  Outdoor antenna troubleshooting can be found further down the page.

Poor indoor reception, even near a window

Window SheepMost modern glass including replacement glass has a ‘Low-E’ coating to minimise the amount of infrared heat escaping outside through the glass, in improving energy efficiency.  A side-effect is that this coating is also very effective at blocking radio signals covering all the cellular bands.  As a result, the glass effectively acts like a sheet of metal to any wireless device placed next to it.

Some modern homes also have foil-backed insulation in the walls, which also blocks the cellular signals penetrating the walls.  Similarly, this also applies when foil insulation is used in the loft, resulting in poor reception in the loft.

Try placing the device between two panes of glass, particularly in a bay window (if any) where the glass panes meet at various angles.  There is good chance the frame of the window is not foil insulated, allowing the signal to pass through.

Unfortunately, if every part of the house is well insulated with foil-backed or low emissivity coatings, the only option would be to get an outdoor antenna.

Poor indoor reception with external antenna

Portable 4G antennaAs with using the router’s own antennas, the signal may be blocked or greatly reduced by the window’s ‘Low-E’ coating.  In this case, placing the antenna in the window or even on the glass (with suction cups), may not provide any improvement to the signal.

Directional antennas set up indoors may provide even worse performance than the router’s own antennas.  When the signal passes through the building, it bounces off various items, particularly metal objects and ‘Low-E’ coated glass.  Thus, the router’s internal antenna may be picking up some of the reflected signals that the directional antenna would not pick up.

If an antenna needs to be used indoors, such as due to building restrictions or renting, choose an omni-directional antenna.  Mount it as high up as possible, preferably in the loft.

Network search shows 4G network, but will not register

Network Register FailWith most desktop routers and especially outdoor antennas, the device will likely pick up 4G cell towers that are outside the range limit of the device.  While GSM (2G) signals have a 35km hard limit, the range limit of 4G can set by the mobile operator.  Once outside of the range limit, the device will not be able register with the mast regardless of the signal strength as the range is determined based on the round-trip delay, i.e. how long it takes for the signal to travel to the cell tower and back.

No signal iconThree & iD Mobile: The Three network goes a step further by limiting the range based on the type of device, which can be particularly problematic across bays, lakes or flatland.  If a phone gets a 4G signal on Three, but not the modem or router, then there is a very good chance the device is outside of Three’s range limit for data devices.  In this case, try testing the device in another area with strong 4G coverage to rule out a fault with the device.  If using an outdoor directional antenna, try aiming various directions as it may be aimed at a distance 4G cell tower or even picking up a reflection of the near-by cell-tower.

Vodafone will not go into 4G mode

With a new prepay SIM, it can take 24 hours before the SIM can use the 4G network after its first use.  The SIM may also need to be registered with My Vodafone.  If the SIM will still only go into 3G/HSPA mode, try contacting Vodafone as they may need to re-activate the account for 4G.  I had to get 4G reactivated with my prepay phone a few times already.  I have also heard of other people that had to contact Vodafone to reactivate 4G access again even with their prepay Vodafone broadband.

iD Mobile will not go into 4G mode

Unlike Three SIMs, an iD Mobile SIM needs to connect to the network in 3G mode first before it can hand over to 4G mode.  This can take up to 10 minutes after connecting in 3G mode.  If the device remains in 3G mode after 10 minutes, restart the device or temporarily set the network mode to 4G-only (if available).  Do not leave the device in forced 4G mode as it will not be able to reconnect if the connection drops or if the device is restarted.

iD Mobile cannot be used with 4G only devices such as outdoor LTE routers that do not support 3G mode.

Meteor will not go into 4G mode

While Meteor prepay phone SIMs will work in modems and routers, the SIM must be set up on a €20 or €30 Simplicity plan to connect in 4G mode.  The €20 simplicity plan gobbles up €20 of credit each month and provides 15GB of data.  All the other prepay phone plans including the €10 simplicity plan cannot access the 4G network.

Meteor’s prepay mobile broadband SIM provides 4G access, whether a bundle is purchased.  For example, it can connect in 4G mode even to bring up the “out of data” landing page.

Meteor gets no signal anywhere (prepay)

The SIM may have been deactivated, particularly with light usage.  If the SIM has not been topped up in 6 months, the SIM is deactivated.  This 6 month period coincides with the length of the 180 day pass.  To reactivate, a €10+ top-up is necessary (voucher or online banking) and then contact Meteor’s support to reactivate the SIM.  If a 180 day pass is approaching its expiry date, top it up by €30 before it expires and then purchase a new pass once the existing one runs out.

3G connection Intermittently drops

Mobile broadband disconnectionsIf the device is 4G capable, there is a good chance the device is picking up a 4G cell tower that is outside of the range limit as explained above.  If the device tries connecting to such a 4G mast, it will lose the connection as it unsuccessfully attempts to hand over to the 4G mast.  To prevent this happening, set the device’s network mode to ‘3G only’ or turn off ‘Enable LTE support’, depending on the device/model.

If near a bay, lake or even high up a hill, another possibility is that the device is picking up a stronger signal from a further away cell tower that is out of range, particularly if the nearby one is obstructed in some way such as behind a hill, trees or is also across the water.  In this case, try repositioning the device in different areas, even of the same room as this may help attenuate the unwanted signal.  It may be necessary to get an outdoor directional antenna, which would also attenuate the unwanted signal.

Check the APN setting is correct.  For example, if a broadband APN is used with a Meteor phone SIM, it will result in an intermittent connection.  Similarly, if there is a typo in the APN name.

SIM works in phone, but not in the modem/router

Huawei B593s-22 disconnectedFirst, double-check the APN is connect or retype it in.  Most routers automatically configure the APN based on the inserted SIM, so if the APN was configured before the SIM was inserted, it may have picked up an incorrect APN, especially if a phone SIM is placed in the router.

Try setting the device to 3G-only mode or turn off the ‘Enable LTE’ setting temporarily, especially with the Three network.  The device may be trying to register with a 4G network that is outside its range limit as explained above.  With the Three network, the 4G range limit can be shorter for modems and routers than it is for phones and Three is known to reduce the range limit of masts it upgrades.

Note that Lyca mobile actively blocks tethering on its network, so its SIMs will unlikely work in a router either.

Antenna troubleshooting

MIMO SMA connectionsWhile the right antenna can do wonders for the signal strength and speed, it can lead to additional issues or even no connectivity at all!  The first thing to check is that the antenna leads are properly connected and that the router is configured to use the external antennas if there is such a setting.

Before carrying out any performance troubleshooting, first check that the issue is not purely down to high contention, i.e. try running speed tests in the early hours of the morning.

Apart from surveying the area for alternative less congested masts at peak time, the following troubleshooting tips should only be carried during off-peak periods such as early on a weekday.  This is especially important with the Three network which faces high to severe contention in the evenings.

Modem/router will not connect with outdoor omni-directional antenna

4G MIMO antenna (Xpol)If the device can connect to 4G with its internal antennas only, it is quite possible that the outdoor antenna is picking up a stronger signal from a mast outside of the range limit, in which case the device will keep unsuccessfully trying to connect to it, ignoring the nearer mast that may be obstructed by a hill / trees.  First try swapping the two antenna leads as it may pick up a stronger signal on the nearby mast on the opposite polarity.

If swapping the cables does not work, try temporarily placing the antenna on each side of the house (e.g. using a DSLR camera tripod).  With the side that works and provides the strongest signal reading, mount it on that side / gable, ensuring it is obstructed by the wall/building in the opposite direction.  This way the unwanted signal is attenuated by the house.

If lowering the antenna height obstructs the line of sight or results in little improvement over the router’s internal antenna, then a directional antenna is required to mount it at a height.  This will provide better gain over the omni-directional antenna for the wanted signal, while also attenuating the signal of unwanted masts in other directions.

Unsatisfactory download performance with outdoor omni-directional antenna

YouTube strugglingOmni-directional antennas are only truly omni-directional for its vertical polarity element.  The horizontal element is sensitive to the direction it faces, just like a horizontally positioned FM radio antenna.  Try turning the antenna left/right by 30 degrees to aim its horizontal polarity element and rerunning the speed test.   Repeat until you achieve the highest consistent speed.

If the performance remains like the router’s built-in antenna, the mast may be congested, in which case a stronger signal will not provide any additional speed.  Try comparing the performance against the router’s internal antennas early in the morning such as before 8am.

If the performance is worse, the antenna may be picking up a stronger signal from a more congested cell tower than what the router’s internal antenna was picking up.  In this case, it would be worth taking down the antenna and trying it temporarily on each side of the house such as with the help of a DSLR camera tripod and rerunning the speed tests, then mount the antenna on the wall/gable on the side that provided the best performance.

Modem/router will not connect with outdoor directional antenna

MIMO 4G antenna (Proscan)If the device connects fine with its internal antennas, but not with the outdoor antenna, first try swapping the two leads to rule out a break in one of the cables.  Many routers establish the connection over antenna port #1, so if this antenna lead has a break, swapping over to the second lead may provide connectivity, although degraded due to the lack of the second antenna connection.

Is the antenna band specific?  Some patch antennas only pick up a specific band such as LTE band 20 (800MHz), 3 (1800MHz) or 7 (2600MHz).  Yagi antennas are similar.  For example, a Colinear LTE antenna pair typically only covers 1700MHz to 2700MHz and this will not work on LTE band 800MHz or the 900MHz 3G band.  Similarly an LTE band 3 patch antenna will not work on LTE band 20 or vice versa.  Most LOG antennas (triangle shape) are wideband and generally cover all the LTE bands between 800MHz and 2700MHz.

The higher frequency bands such as LTE band 3 (1800MHz) and the 2100MHz 3G band are typically used in built-up areas such as large towns.  Rural areas are mainly covered by LTE band 20 (800MHz) and the 900MHz 3G band, which propagates and penetrates a lot further than higher frequency signals.

Even with clear line of sight with a cell tower operating on a higher LTE band, that transmitter could be outside of its configured range limited, determined by the round trip delay between the device and the transmitter.  This is more common with multi-carrier transmitters where it hands over nearby devices to a high frequency band such as LTE band 3 which typically provides higher bandwidth and further away devices to the lower frequency such as LTE band 20 which propagates further.

If LTE coverage was lost after a cell tower upgrade, the upgrade may be providing multi-carrier support (4G+ / LTE Advanced support), in which case the cell tower likely also enforces range limits based on the LTE band.  In this case, a user that was using the high frequency band (e.g. LTE band 3 on Three) is now outside the allowed distance limit, in which case an LTE band 20 or wide band antenna is required to connect.

Unsatisfactory download performance with outdoor directional antenna

If the performance remains like the router’s built-in antenna, the mast it is aimed at may be congested, in which case a stronger signal will not provide any additional speed from that mast.  If the antenna can freely swing direction without facing the wall or other obstacles, try aiming the antenna at alternative masts, including 3G masts.  In many areas facing network congestion, many of the 3G masts in the area may have little congestion, especially with the Three network as most people let their routers automatically go into 4G mode.  A good directional antenna can take advantage of this by letting the user connect to any 3G mast within range, which may be substantially faster than the 4G mast during peak time.

Try adjusting the antenna’s angle of elevation, especially if the cell tower is located on a hill.  A few degrees of elevation can make a significant difference, particularly if the building is in a valley.

Try also turning the antenna left or right by a few degrees, even if it results in a slight dip in the signal strength.  The antenna may be picking interference near the direction of the mast, such as from another mast operating on the same frequency further off, such as across a bay or lake.

B593s-22 signal reading figuresIf the antenna is a panel/patch antenna mounted vertically, try mounting it horizontally.  This can have a significant effect on its performance, particularly with fringe reception.

If the antenna consists of two separate antennas, these must be mounted in opposite polarities, one vertically and the other horizontally.  Try also separating them further apart.  The two antennas can be mounted on separate poles, which will also improve the performance with fringe reception.  I have mine roughly 2m (6 feet) apart, so they don’t need to be right next to each other either.

To adjust one antenna at a time to optimise its performance, connect just that one antenna to port #1 of the modem/router.  Once optimised, disconnect that antenna and connect the other antenna to port #1 to adjust it.  Finally connect both antenna cables.

Unsatisfactory upload performance with external antenna

TestMy slow uploadMost modems and routers use port #1 for uploading.  In 3G mode, only port #1 is used for uploading, while port #2 is used for diversity.  Depending on the signal strength / quality of each polarity, the uplink performance can vary significantly between the two polarities.

Try running a few speed tests, then swap the two antenna cables and rerun the speed tests.  If one lead configuration provides greater upload performance, leave it in that configuration.

The signal strength also has a greater impact on the upload performance than it does for the download performance.  Increasing the antenna elevation will generally help.

Router will not boot or power up properly

The power supply may have failed.  In most instances where I experienced a failed power supply, it provides just enough power to light and LED or two of the router, giving a false impression that the router has a firmware or boot issue.

Check the voltage and amp rating of the router or of the existing power supply and try another power supply of the same voltage and at lease the amp rating mentioned.  Many routers such as Huawei routers use a 12V 2A power supply.  Do not attempt to connect a power supply with a higher voltage rating as the higher voltage will damage the router.

Meteor / Eir Mobile Broadband usage

Meteor prepay broadband usageYou can check your remaining allowance by sending the SMS ‘balance data’ to 50104 from the router web interface.  This also works for Meteor prepay broadband.

The following steps are based on the Huawei B315 router, which Eir has been supplying with its 4G broadband contract:

  1. In your web browser, go to
  2. Go into the ‘SMS’ menu.
  3. The default username and password are both admin.
  4. For the recipient, enter: 50104
  5. For the message, enter: balance data
  6. Send the message and the check the message that comes back.

This works even without registering for My Eir or MyMeteor.  As the router stores the messages on the SIM card, be sure to delete the messages afterwards.

62 thoughts on “Troubleshooting 3G/4G mobile broadband and antennas”

  1. Good day sir, may i ask if u have an idea on how to lock into a particular cell id? Im using B315s-936, my cell id that im connected to is too slow and congested, but when i bring my modem to my friends house approximately 150 meters away from my home, he can detect a cell id that is x10 much faster speed..

    1. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any way of locking a router to a specific cell ID.

      One potential option you can try is get a directional outdoor antenna, such as a MIMO LOG or Panel antenna that covers the band your network is using. Do a trial set up, such as mount the antenna on a camera tripod and aim it various directions until your router locks on to the stronger signal. If it locks on to the congested network, continue turning the antenna roughly 20-30 degrees at a time, then pause a minute. As the antenna faces towards the mast you’re after, it may take a minute or two for the router to hop over.

      Hopefully you are not too far from the required mast. Mobile operators can set a physical range limit on cells, which it can measure based on the round trip time between the cell and the user device. If it’s over a certain threshold, the cell will refuse access regardless of the signal strength. This issue is quite common over lakes and bays where a device can see a strong signal from a cell tower across the lake/bay, but is outside the cell’s maximum range limit.

  2. I forgot to tell you that I’m currently using a 24dbi MIMO Parabolic Grid Antenna. I have the line of sight on the tower, but every time i try to rotate the pole where my antenna was connected, I always got the same Cell ID. Even though I can see a lot of cell towers I always end up with the same cell id which is too slow and congested. And my friend only uses a 9dbi panel type antenna, no line of sight to the cell tower but still got the better cell id and internet speed than mine.

    1. The only other thing that comes to mind is if the network you’re with uses a band that your router doesn’t support, but which your friend’s router does. I don’t know what country you’re in or network you use, so this is just a guess. For example, in the UK, the networks use the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands on 4G. The B315s-936 lacks support for the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands, so if you happen to be in an area served by transmitters operating on 1800MHz and 2600MHz, your router will connect to the 1800MHz site only.

      One other possibility could be an issue with the antenna. 24dBi seems like an unusually high gain, something I would expect for a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi parabolic antenna that covers a very narrow frequency range, i.e. 2.4-2.5GHz. If the site’s 3G/4G frequency is outside the antenna range, this can cause strong reflections along the antenna cable whenever the router transmits. This would give the impression of a congested site as the router would be busy requesting retransmissions each time it loses packets due to signal reflections. A simple way to test would be to run a speed test early in the morning (before 7am). If the early-morning test is poor, then it’s likely an antenna/cable issue.

  3. By the way I’m from Philippines. I think it’s an antenna problem, coz my antenna range is only 1700-2100MHz even though its high gain dbi and my friend’s antenna has wider range 1700-2600MHz. Thanks a lot sir for giving me useful information about routers and antennas. Keep it up.

  4. I’m sorry I commented too early on another article of yours then read this one, Your the man I wanted to talk to!
    I would love to hear your expert opinion, I live in north country dublin on the top of a hill with no obstructions to the cell towers below, and have a tplink mr200 LTE router on a 3 pay as you go 20euro every 28 day package for unlimited 4g connection , when I first fired her up I got 3 bars from just the routers two on board externally mounted antennas, with the router mounted in the window reveal next to the glass, I was happy with the 3 bar coverage but one day it dropped to 1 bar, I since bought this antenna, it came with 15m factory connected cables on the antenna side and I bought cable connector adaptors to fit the router,, I then mounted it on a 2 m pole,on top of the house and pointed it towards a group of towers that my oneplus3 would cycle connection between as i angled the phone east to west, and pointed the antenna slightly downwards facing the towers, and my results … The same one bar I have using the standard tplink antennas! , when I remove one cable the antenna drops to 4bars of 3g internet on both the standard tplink antennas and the external panel antenna, any ideas or if you need any further information to assist I would be very grateful, thanks in advance.

    1. What I suspect is that Three upgraded the mast that you originally picked up the 3 bar 4G signal from, such as to 4G+. With many of their upgrades, they also limit the maximum range devices can be for to connect, which is based on the physical round-trip time. For example, 4G devices very near the site will placed on the high bandwidth 1800MHz band (with 4G+ devices getting access to 800MHz also for carrier aggregation). Devices further away will be placed on the 800MHz band which has higher propagation. However, after a certain distance, devices will be deemed “out of range” regardless of the signal strength to try forcing them to find a nearer site. With Three, the 4G range limit of the upgraded sites is shorter for routers than phones.

      As you still get a 1 4G bar signal on your router, this means that there is still a site within range, which is likely from another direction or further away. For example, it could be from a rural 800MHz mast that has a much wider range limit. If you are able to aim your antenna at that site, there’s a good chance you’ll get a stronger signal. Before you do anything with the antenna, first try swapping the antenna leads around on the router. Some routers report the signal strength from one lead only.

      The next step would be to do a site survey, i.e. try the antenna in each direction to see where you are picking that 4G signal from. As your antenna has a 36 degree beamwidth, you can do this in roughly 30 degree increments all around. Generally I recommend doing this by setting up the antenna temporarily on a DSL or speaker tripod before finally mounting it on the house, so hopefully it’s not too awkward to get to with the ladder.

      For example, if you can see 270 degrees around, this would give roughly 9-10 test points and take about an hour, e.g. 5 minutes going up/down to turn it and check the connection. I wouldn’t worry that much about aiming down/up for this test unless it’s currently aimed at a very deep valley or tall hill. Each time you move the antenna, reboot the router to force it to reconnect and give it 2-3 minutes before moving the antenna angle to the next test point. If you get a 4G signal, run a speed test regardless of the signal strength. For example, even in the worst case scenario that you only pick up weak signals in various directions, you’ll likely pick up multiple 4G sites, which will have different network loads.

      Finally, aim the antenna back to where you achieved the highest speed test and fine-tune (e.g. ~5 degree increments) for the highest consistent speed test before tightening. Even if a small movement has no effect on the signal, it could mean a significant speed difference, particularly if a few degrees one direction means it’s peaking up less noise/interference from something in the distance.

      1. Hello dear Mr Sean.

        First, thank you very much for the extremely useful information you share with the lame public!

        What is your best — educated — guess about the Three’s range limit for data devices? I live in a very rural house (so rural, that my previous room-mate bought a satellite internet from Viasat…)

        On my phone I’m getting 4G connection, but all this talking about the “Three’s range limit for data devices” is making me nervous, because yesterday I bought Huawei B525 (with Three’s broadband 18-month contract) and the distance to the mast is 3.69 km (according to Google Earth).

        What is your educated guess? Is the 3.69 km distance going to be a problem for the router?

        According to the Coverage Checker
        my jungle cottage, with Eircode P25 (Removed for privacy), have even indoor 4G coverage — which is true for the phone.

        1. 3.69km should be fine, particularly if you are getting 4G on your phone with that. It is more of an issue if you were getting the signal from across a large open area such as across a lake or bay where the mast is over 10km away. I know someone that lives 8km from their Three 4G mast and has no problem connecting to it with an older Huawei B593s router.

          For example, we live near the coast where there is clear view of Sligo coast and mountains across the Donegal bay. Three has many 4G masts along the Sligo coast where phones can pick up fine along the coast between Kilcar and Killybegs. However, these all range from 10km up and are outside the range limit of data devices from my last testing. So 10km seems to be roughly the range limit for Three.

  5. Hi Sean
    I am trying to set up exactly the same here, the house is in a valley with no reception but has 4G on the side of hill, I’ve had guys over from the uk, they want me to run cat6 cable and a power source to a waterproof box for their antenna and back too house joining to 3 sim router from the house, from what I’m reading there is a better approach to this , could you recommend a better set up and a company that could do it.

    1. Depending how high you need to go to get the 4G reception, you might be able to use a pair of directional antennas mounted 1-2 metres above the gable on a pole, similar to trying to get very fringe TV reception. Personally I would not recommend running a long Ethernet cable up a hill, particularly along the ground. If lightning strikes the hill, the cable could pick up a surge as the lightning dissipates through the ground.

      If I was faced with this, I would consider a solar-powered system for the hill. This would involve a 20-30W 12V solar kit (like this), a DC lead from its controller to the Three router (example), a 40-60Ah leisure battery (from an automotive parts supplier) and a plastic waterproof enclosure for the kit. On the house, I would use a Ubiquiti LiteBeam (or similar outdoor directional 5GHz Wi-Fi antenna) to connect to the Three router within the setup on the hill.

      Unfortunately I don’t know of any company involved with setting up outdoor kits. If you are into DIY (or know someone who is), this would be a good project to try. If you would like to try antennas high up above the gable, a TV antenna installer would be able to do this as most 4G antennas clamp on to the pole the same as a TV yagi aerial and the cabling is a similar diameter to satellite coax. They just need to use the coax supplied with the antenna as satellite/TV coax is not suitable.

      1. Thanks Sean
        I would be fairly handy at setting this up myself. It’s a bit of a mind field out there for tech and the right way.
        What they want to is to quote them
        “Morning Simon, we’re supplying an external antenna (omni directional rather than directional, based on experience – what you lose slightly on download speed, you gain in reliability and time in ongoing adjustment)

        Cat6 cable is needed at the antenna end, to connect the 4g router in the waterproof box, back to the wireless AP at the house. Power cable is needed at the antenna end, to power the 4g router. We will supply the coax cable required for this.”

        The house is in a valley surrounded by trees.Where I have found 4G receiption is on a hill about 50m from the house that goes to open field and is picking up a signal from a tower 5km away.
        What I can’t get my head around is , from pole you have antenna , they want a waterproof box that holds their own router and then a cat6 cable with electricity in plastic trunking/piping and then back to sim router in the house supplied by 3. I would have thought that there was a simpler way.
        Antenna to pole to co ax to house routers in the house???
        This is for a property I am managing for a guy in the UK. I think the installers in the uk are taking the mickey a little especially flying over and renting a car each time.
        Thanks for your speedy response

        1. Indeed I’m quite confused at their setup. The only way it would work is if they place the Three SIM in their router. In my area, an omni-directional antenna simply will not work. Then again, I’ve another issue in that I pick up interference from a 4G mast across an exposed bay, which I need the directional antenna to avoid picking up.

          If you would like to run cables to that location, I would suggest placing the physical Three router in the weatherproof enclosure on a pole in that location you get 4G coverage. Run a shielded (STP) network cable back to the house and ensure it is earthed at the house end (shielding connected to the mains earth wire). You can use a basic cable Wi-Fi router in the house to connect to the Three router, which in turn will provide Wi-Fi within the house. For power, I would suggest running a two core 1.5mm electrical wire to the router. A female 5.5mm jack will connect this wire to the router’s 12V power supply and a male 5.5mm male jack at the pole end will connect to the router. These adapters are widely available (example). Just make sure the polarity is correct with a multimeter (+ at the centre tip) before plugging into the router.

      2. Hi Sean.
        just reading this comment you wrote 2 years ago sparked lightning bolts in my head. You have suggested something here that will possibly solve a long standing problem for me.
        To keep it simple, i need to ‘bounce a wifi signal’ across a valley where we own a piece of ground between two locations, one which has broadband and the other doesnt.
        I am considering using
        to bounce the signal. I am happy enough with that aspect of it – it is the solar panel and power aspect that most inrigues me and the reason for the lightbulb moment.
        the devices (of which i need 2) are 8.5 watts each and then some active hardware in the middle probably running around 5w.
        Can you suggest what I could possibly use to power them when not connected to the grid.
        I really appreciate this.

        1. The following below is just a very rough idea of the components you would need as I have not actually set up an off-grid setup before and some of these suggestions may not be right. I’m certainly no expert in this area, so it would be worth having a looking around for a forum that specialises in off-grid power as they would be able to suggest what brands and models of each to choose or avoid.

          Solar Panel – 100W or larger to start with. It may sound overkill, but on dull wet winter days, it may only provide 10-20% its output for the few hours of daylight, so you may need more if the batteries start running out during the winter.
          MTTP Solar charge controller – 20A or larger, that is LiFePO4 capable. A 20A model should handle up to 250W of solar panels.
          100Ah or larger deep charge battery, preferably LiFePO4 – Check that it has frost protection. SLA deep cycle batteries are much cheaper, but with a cycle a day, you’ll probably be replacing them every 1.5 to 2 years.
          Boost converter and a PoE injector to supply the unit with 24v passive PoE power. Most are adjustable, so it’s just a matter of using a multimeter and adjusting the potentiometer until the output reads 24V.
          An insulated structure to house the equipment and to also protect the batteries from frost. You’ll also need some way of mounting the solar panels that can withstand storm force winds.

    1. Just one more thing , which directional antenna would you recommend . We have a mast about 3km away but in a hilly area
      Thanks again

      1. I suggest first checking what signal strength (RSRP and RSRQ figures) you get with the router in the location you get 4G coverage. To check these figures and the band when it is on 4G, first go into your router’s web interface (, then click ‘Settings’ and log in. Enter the hidden URL and view the page source (right-click page and View Page source). Look for the lines ‘rsrq’ (signal quality), ‘rsrp’ (signal strength) and ‘band’ (LTE band number)’. Press F5 to update the figures. If it shows code ‘100003’, you need to log back into the router’s web interface again.

        If the RSRP is less negative than -105dB and the band # is 20, I would suggest the Novero Dabendorf LTE 800 MIMO antenna (link) and the 5m cable kit (link) (both on Amazon Germany). This antenna has very good feedback on fringe/rural reception from what I’ve been reading. It works on band 20 (800MHz) only, which is what Three uses in most rural areas.

        The antenna I currently use is the Wittenberg Lat 22, which is considerably larger band 20 antenna. It is more directional (which I need for my location), but I would only suggest going for it if the RSRP is more negative than -105dB without any antenna or the RSRQ value is more negative than -10dB. This antenna is here (includes 10m of coax) and requires a twin mount (such as this) to mount the pair side by side.

    1. Unfortunately, cellular repeaters are not currently legal for sale in Ireland and ComReg reportedly has customs seize them in transit. ComReg is working on legalising them and there’s a possibility they will be available to purchase over the next year. The only provider I’m aware of that sells EU complaint repeaters is StellaDoradus, but due to the current ComReg licensing, they cannot sell within Ireland.

      If your handset is Wi-Fi calling capable, Eir currently supports Wi-Fi calling, which uses an existing broadband connection to handle incoming/outgoing calls. From what I’ve heard, Vodafone plans introducing Wi-Fi calling over the next few months. I haven’t heard anything about Three or other providers.

  6. Hi Sean,

    Should it be possible to get 4/5 bar coverage on a Huawei B593 with Meteor, Three or Vodafone in the middle of Dublin?

    I’ve two paddle antennas connected to the router and have been cycling through the following settings, but to no avail:

    Setting the router to 3G only vs Automatic.
    Changing the antenna setting from Automatic to External
    Changing the location of the router
    Changing the orientation of the antennae
    Changing from to etc

    No matter what I try, I can’t seem to get any more than 1/2 bars worth of coverage.

    1. Try swapping the two antennas around or changing the antenna setting to Automatic with both antennas detached to see what signal you get with the router’s internal antenna. It could be a faulty antenna or connection, particularly if you get a full signal on your mobile.

      Note that the router’s signal read out is more sensitive than a phone’s read-out. For example, a 2 bar signal is the equivalent to 4 bars on a phone. However, if your phone is showing a steady 5 bar signal, the router should be be able to get at least 3 bars. If you still cannot achieve more than 2 bars and your phone shows a full signal on the same network, then the router likely has a faulty radio. The APN setting does not affect the signal read-out.

      If the house is very well insulated such as foil backed insulation in the walls and loft, this could also be the culprit. One way to test would be to try holding the router outside a window for 10 seconds. If its signal reading is much higher, then you may need to install an outdoor antenna for it.

      1. Great stuff, appreciate the suggestions. Thanks again.

        Is there any ‘killer’ antenna for this kind of router, by the way, even if only to ensure good 3G coverage? I gather that different antennas target 3G and others 4G.

        1. The antennas vary depending on the gain, i.e. the higher the gain (more sensitive), the larger the antenna. As you are in the middle of Dublin, antenna height is more important than going for a large very sensitive antenna. If you have access to the loft, see how the router performs up there. If you get a much stronger signal, that would be a good place for the antenna. The best place would be outside above the gable where it has clear view over the houses. A TV antenna installer may be able to help mount it high up and help aim it.

          If you are able to mount the antenna on the roof or in the loft, I suggest going for a wideband LOG antenna, such as the following. This covers all the 3G and 4G bands the Irish operators use and is directional.

          If you are unable to access the roof, but can still mount it outside, I suggest going for a omni-directional antenna. As the signal bounces off buildings at a lower height, a directional antenna may perform worse by not catching the reflected signals. The Poynting XPOL A0001 is one I’ve heard good feedback on, although it’s quite expensive at around €100.

  7. Hi Sean, while fitting a Poynting 4G-XPOL-A001 external antenna, I damaged one of the cables. Do you know it this Antenna can be opened and what type of fitting connects the cable to the antenna? I’m really new to all this stuff.

    Kind Regards

    1. Unfortunately I have not opened any Poynting antenna before. Have a look around the antenna to see if there are any screws. It’s possible it may use snaps and hopefully not glued. Based on a few other antennas I’ve opened, the coax shielding and core wires are either screwed in (like a TV antenna) or soldered on. So if you manage to get the antenna open, you should be able to cut off the damaged piece, expose a bit of shielding and core wire to reattach. If you need a soldering iron, you can pick up one easily such as on eBay along with solder. If the connector end is damaged, this requires a new SMA connector and suitable crimp tool to replace, which unfortunately is not cheap.

      If you are unable to open the antenna without brute force or the connector end is damaged, I suggest speaking with a ham radio operator or retailer. They usually can crimp their own cables. For example, at the damaged piece, they could cut the cable, attach two 50-Ohm N connectors and a 50-Ohm N-coupler. Don’t try using F-connectors/couplers or other connectors for satellite/TV coaxial cable as these will cause impedance issues.

      1. Thank you Sean for reply. I ordered a couple of the SMA crimp Male connectors this evening. I have enough play on the cable to attach the Male SMA. This might be the best option and not mess with the antenna side of the cabling. Again thank you Sean

  8. Hi Sean, my B593s-22 router on a 3 data sim has started constantly flipping between 4 and 2 bars of coverage. It does not seem to matter wether it’s on internal or external antenna, I have line of sight to transmitter at about 8km.
    External antenna are either the recommended dipoles or the two that came with the router, both behave the same.
    Just wondering if you have any suggestions?
    Best regards

    1. Check in the router’s antenna settings that it is set to external. It is also quite possible that the mast you pick up is a 4G+ mast. The B593s treats the two bands as two separate masts and will automatically switch between them depending on the signal quality / strength. Usually it will try to go onto band 3 as it has a higher bandwidth, but if it’s near the cell’s signal strength/quality threshold, it will be handed over to band 20 which transmits further, i.e. stronger signal, but lower capacity. This cycle can occur in a loop.

      Unfortunately, the B593s does not display the cell or band information. With the Huawei B525 and possibly the B315, you would likely see the band # or cell ID toggling back and forth. If you have an Android 7 or newer phone on the Three network, you can try the App “Network Cell Info Lite” outside to see if it uses band 3. In this case one potential fix would be to get an 1800MHz antenna (or one that does around 1700MHz up) to keep it on band 3.

  9. I suspect your right about the band toggling, if I lock the router down to 3g I get a stable 5 bar signal. Thanks for that suggestion. My daughters phone is on 3 and get 4bars of 4g.
    I will try repositioning my aerials for a slightly clearer route and then look at your antenna frequency suggestion if that does not work.
    Thankfully eir are rolling out fibre to the home here in North Sligo, so hopefully in a years time I can sell off all these 4g devices.

  10. Hi Sean,

    I live out in the sticks near Mitchelstown, Co. Limerick. I get by on what I can afford, currently I am with Tesco ‘pay as you go’ and I got an old ZTE R216-z.

    I’d do a manual search for a provider, a few things popup, but the only network I’ve always been able to connect to is O2-IRL on ‘3G only’, which switches between 3G+ and HSUPA, depending on the weather I guess, but it works.

    So I recently acquired this relatively new Huawei B315s-936, I select the ‘3G only’ option and do my usual manual search and O2-IRL just don’t come up no more? Yet when I swap & reboot the old ZTE, there she sits and does her thing.

    I was hoping for a bit more speed, but it’s turning out to be much more of a drag and I’m starting to loose track of all the reboots.
    I checked and as far as I can see, there should not be any issues with the frequencies as both support 900/2100MHz? Am I missing something or am I just getting to old for this?

    I rang Tesco, they’re about as much use as a one-legged man in an arrse kicking competition and refuse to have anything to do with my 3rd party tech, case closed.

    Sir you seem to have a handle on things of this very nature, much more so than me. If you have any advice I would be much obliged.

    Thank you in advance.

    God bless!

  11. Having just gone through getting 3g turned on in a similar router make sure roaming is set to ‘on’
    3g wont seem to connect without that set.(even when 4g works without it!

  12. Hi Sean

    I have Vodafone 4g 528 router and excellent reception. After a recent fault at mast, turns out I’m not connected to mast 750m away with clear line of sight as I thought, but another mast 2km away behind a hill. Tech support confirmed which cell I was connecting to.

    Is there an app for iPhone or similar that can help identify which cell mast I’m connected to and a way to translate that to match with ComReg mast site.

    I would like to see if I could force it to use nearer mast.

  13. Hi Sean,
    Great article, 1 of the best i have seen so far in trying to find whats going on with my connection.
    I have a tower that was put up 1 mile from my house, i have a Poynting External directional antenna and connect up to the tower, and get my full 40 meg download. But then for some reason i am kicked/loose connection to the tower 1 mile away( line of sight), and then connect to another tower 8 miles away, its a 4g connection with 1 bar, but you cant even browse the internet.
    here is my connection details.
    Antenna 1 ( 1 mile away)
    RSSI : -67
    RSRP : -91
    RSRQ : -7

    Antenna 2 (8 miles away, no line of sight)
    RSSI : -81
    RSRP : -110
    RSRQ : -9
    These results are without the external antenna as im trying to limit it connecting to other towers.
    Why would i connect to the tower 1 mile away for anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours, and then connect to a tower with crap signal?
    As far as i was aware, my router would look for the strongest signal and connect to that?
    before the tower in my village was put up, i was connected to another tower 9 miles away, 3g only, and i was NEVER kicked off that mast, but only got around 8 meg download, but on the new tower, im kicked/ DC multiple times a day.
    I called the provider up and they said “Its how it works” …

    1. It’s difficult to say for certain what’s causing it to jump mast. The most likely reason I can think of would be an intermittent brief spike in traffic on the local mast. When there is load on the mast, the RSRQ reading will drop. The router will scan for any other masts with a more favorable readings and potentially jump to the further away mast.

      The next time this happens, try turning the antenna a few degrees to the left/right to weaken the unwanted mast. For example, bright the router’s web interface on your mobile and adjust the antenna until the reading drops to let’s say RSRP -115dBm or the RSRQ goes below -12dB. If this causes the reading or the speed of the nearby mast to drop, turn it the opposite direction in case the further away mast comes in stronger to one side over the other.

  14. Hi, I just want to know if it is possible that an external antenna is not automatically detected by the modem? I’m using B525 modem and an omni antenna. Should I manually just set up the “External Antenna” on the setting or there might be a problem on the antenna?

    1. I recommend setting the antenna option to external, otherwise the router may continue to use its internal antenna. When I had my B525 set to auto, it seemed to switch intermittently between the internal and external antennas. If the omni-directional antenna performs worse, you may need to rotate or reposition it.

      One thing worth noting is that an omni-directional antenna is probably no more sensitive than the antennas built into the B525, so if you are testing it side by side with the router, you’ll probably not see any improvement in the readings. The purpose is to let you pick up the signal where it would not be practical to place the router, such as outdoors on the gable or high up in the loft.

  15. Hi Sean, i bought a Poynting XPOL-2-5G V3 Directional cross Polarised LTE MIMO Antenna to pick up 4g signal from a new tower roughly 3km from my house with line of site. I was currently connected to another mast roughly same distance away but speeds are not great now. The download speed with the antenna pointed at the new mast didnt improve much but the upload speed went through the roof. Im getting on average 45mb upload speed and 20mb down no matter what time of day. The mast has the potential of 50-60mb download in my area as i have tested with my phone over at my neighbours house 100 yards away.. The speed there is approx 50 down and 20 up.Im using Three for both phone and broadband. My phone and router will only connect at my house to the old mast due to it being a bit closer i presume. Any idea why i get high upload but not download speeds? Interference from the other tower? Thanks in advance.

    1. One good possibility is the mast you are connecting to at home is affected by Three’s traffic shaping, especially as you mention the speed does not improve in the morning. While interference from another mast will affect the speed, generally you would still get a large variation between day and night speeds as the interference would get worse during the evening when the other cell has more traffic.

      On your PC, time how long it takes to download the 100MB test file on the following web page on Vultr:

      This Vultr host seems to escape traffic shaping and the same with uploading to any host. 50Mbps is the maximum upload speed for a band 3 cell on Three. To calculate the speed: 100 / seconds * 8. For example, it takes 40 seconds to download, 100 / 40 * 8 = 20Mbps. If it downloads much quicker than this, traffic shaping is the likely culprit.

      You can try turning the antenna to see if you can get it to lock on the other mast, where you see the CELL ID change (On Huawei B525, go into the Settings menu -> System -> Device Information). Although 100 yards may not seem like much, it could be enough for one mast to be obscured in one spot but not the other.

  16. Hi again:) , Soo I’ve already had a massive improvement in regards to my inet speed following your advice buying the antennas and blog itself (which deserves a lot more credit it’s the best thing I’ve ever found for this stuff) . But I have a few questions/things to consider since I’m trying to get the absolute best I can out of it. The setup I have currently is like this : : it’s the ones you told me to get off dipol, they’ve been really great compared to the poor setup I had in the past.
    Went from having 1-10 mbps max , to being able to finally make use of 4G+ and pick up the 1800 mhz mast which im assuming is in dungloe? and the 800 mhz one is on arranmore?. which improved download up to 100 mbps in the middle of the night. I suspected they’re in two different locations because of the signal readings in LTE inspecter when moving the antennae around. But now to my other question, so the goal for me is to stream a game to twitch which I have been doing but it’s rather unstable and I have a lot of hiccups with the stream itself. My upload can randomly drop out completely and basically having to close everything except the game and OBS (streaming software) so that I don’t lag. If anything utlilizes download at all it causes the ping to spike and make it unplayable/and the stream becomes unwatchable (dropped frames etc). To be fair its decent and works most of the time, sometimes it takes multiple restarts/to get the upload to work properly and stay consistent. the ping goes from 20-40ms in game without the stream to 70-90ms when I start the stream, (using about 3950kbps bitrate) . even though speed tests would indicate I have 10-20 mbps upload. So I was wondering first of all, I use a mobile phone sim with the all you can eat data thing for 20 euro for years, I have it in my B525 hooked up to those antennas outside. Is there any difference between this sim and the actual mobile broadband one speed wise, like do they limit them in someway? I was also wondering is it worth trying vodafone’s 4G with the 300GB plan to see if the upload/signal/ping-(maybe less congested) is better for streaming on theirs.( I know three lock the router so I dont have the unlock code for the router (would jailbreaking the router using some online method work maybe?), and the router that appears to come with the vodafone plan wouldn’t be suitable for the antenna setup I have with the B525 cuz they apparently have those small ts-9 ones?. I also dont know would I pick up both 800 and 1800 mhz like I currently do with three to get 4G+ . For streaming I use LTE inspector to pick 800 mhz only cuz it has the best signal and upload, then back to 1800 mhz + 800 mhz for regular usage/browsing. Id happily pay 40 a month or whatever it is even If i just used the vodafone one for streaming (if it is infact better) and then use three again for normal use. Hope you can answer my questions,/maybe advise what you think I know theres a lot :D.

    1. I’m not sure if Three would do carrier aggregation between two masts that far apart. Usually it does the carrier aggregation of both bands from one sector of the same mast.

      Unfortunately, the download issue looks like a network buffering issue (sometimes known as buffer bloat). This is where incoming data gets queued up, giving the latency spikes. If the 1800MHz band has a sufficient upload speed (e.g. 5Mbps+), try forcing your router to 1800MHz-only to test to see whether whether the additional download speed reduces the latency spikes. This might still have lower latency than carrier aggregation mode where it connects to both bands simultaneously.

      One example you can try is run a continuous ping test from the command line and download the 100MB test file from this page to see the impact on the latency. Try this with 4G+ enabled, then set to 800MHz only and finally 1800MHz only.

      From my own testing, I cannot tell any difference in performance between using a prepay Three SIM and their broadband SIM as I use both. The APN sometimes makes a difference, so try the 3internet APN if your router is set to The only difference I’ve noticed is that their network seemed to randomly disconnect me when using the prepay SIM in the router, but even then that only happened once every few days. In the past they appeared to throttle the prepay SIM if it did a massive amount of downloading (e.g. download a 4GB ISO), but this seems to be no longer the case now.

      If you would like to try Vodafone, you will need a pair of TS9 to SMA adapters to attach your antenna leads. You can get them on Amazon or eBay, such as these: I suggest getting them first as this way you can connect the antennas during the 14 day cooling off period in case it doesn’t work out.

  17. good day sir. If the external antenna was elevated as high as possible, giving the modem with full signal bars but do only have less 1mbps speed. What could be the problem? How could it be solved?

  18. Hi Sean,

    First off great site and thanks for all the information here. I’ve read through everything but I’m hitting a strange scenario. I’m connecting to vodafone 4G with a directional antenna mounted on the roof. The weird thing is that the signal quality is constantly hopping around from totally unusable to extremely good. Feels like there is really strong intermittent interfence somewhere. The good/bad readings below were taken 30 seconds apart. This hopping is consistent throughtout the day. I’ve turned off all other wireless devices in my home, shortened the cable run to 10m and tried switching around the connections from PORT1 and PORT2 all to no avail. Any advice you could give at this stage would be very helpful.

    BAD case. SNR of -2.0 dB…

    Network Selection Mode = Automatic
    Network = voda IE
    Mobile Country Code (MCC) = 272
    Mobile Network Code (MNC) = 1
    Packet switch domain(PS) state = Attached
    Registration state(EMM) = Registered
    EMM Sub State = Normal Service
    Tracking Area Code (TAC) = 37100
    Cell ID = 41054209
    Primary Scrambling Code = 65535

    Radio Information
    Radio power mode = ON
    LTE Rx Channel Number = 6400
    LTE Tx Channel Number = 24400
    LTE Band = 20
    LTE Bandwidth = 10 MHz
    Current RSSI = -48 dBm
    Current RSRP = -80 dBm
    Current RSRQ = -15 dB
    Current SNR = -2.0 dB
    Radio Access Technology(RAT) Preference = AUTO

    Good case. SNR of 21.2dB

    Network Selection Mode = Automatic
    Network = voda IE
    Mobile Country Code (MCC) = 272
    Mobile Network Code (MNC) = 1
    Packet switch domain(PS) state = Attached
    Registration state(EMM) = Registered
    EMM Sub State = Normal Service
    Tracking Area Code (TAC) = 37100
    Cell ID = 41054209
    Primary Scrambling Code = 65535

    Radio Information
    Radio power mode = ON
    LTE Rx Channel Number = 6400
    LTE Tx Channel Number = 24400
    LTE Band = 20
    LTE Bandwidth = 10 MHz
    Current RSSI = -49 dBm
    Current RSRP = -80 dBm
    Current RSRQ = -15 dB
    Current SNR = 21.2 dB

    1. That sharp drop in the SNR looks like interference from a rogue mobile phone signal booster or mast head amplifier. If your TV antenna has a mast head amplifier, you can try switching off its power to rule it out.

      The next thing you could try is turn your antenna your antenna one way until the RSRP or SNR begins to drop and see whether this reduces the interference when it occurs. If not, try turning the other direction. There’s a good chance the interference is not in the same direction of the mast.

      If that doesn’t help, you can try checking if there is any other Vodafone mast on ComReg’s site viewer that you can try aiming the antenna at. Going by the RSRQ down at -15dB in both read-outs, that current site appears to have heavy contention.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply Sean. I don’t have any TV antenna so maybe now it is a nearby phone signal booster which for me will be impossible to track down. I’ll try moving the antenna about like you suggested, although I don’t think it made much difference last time I tried. I’m only 2km from the mast and it’s within line of site except for a few tiny trees / branches in between. Any other vodafone mast is a good distance away from me unfortunately. Thanks anyway

  19. Good day!
    I bought a second hand huawei b315s-936 and a second hand 2*8dbi mimo external antenna. Now when I was using the modem only I can connect to the internet, but the connection is so slow so I used the external antenna. Though the signal was stronger than the modem alone, I can’t connect to the internet. It said that the modem was used to be a postpaid wifi but the seller never confirmed it. I just dont know what to do.

  20. Hi Sean,

    I would just like to ask because we bought a 2*12 LTE Mimo athenna but it does not work like other antennas that we purchased before, We are using a 525s modem. The problem is the modem does not automatically detects the Mimo anthenna, when we check the modem interface the antenna stilll shows as internal for both even though the externak antenna is already connected to the modem. Though when we change the antenna settings to External only, it does work and the speed is almost the. Our question is is it a defective antenna and do you know what might be the issue with antenna? We already tried using three different model models but all are the same. We will appreciate your input. Thanks again.

    1. Have a check at the signal readings, i.e. go into Settings at the top, then on the left menu into System -> Device Information. The RSRP should be less negative with the antennae attached. If the SINR is below 10 or negative, try moving or pointing the antenna to another location.

      If the SINR is 10 or higher and your speed is still poor, then the issue is very likely upstream contention or traffic shaping. Unfortunately an antenna will get around contention, much like a faster car is of no benefit during rush hour traffic. The following thread has some tests you can try to check if it’s a traffic shaping issue:

  21. Hi Sean,
    I am in the South West England where I cannot get a decent internet connection to my office. About 18 Months ago I bought an Asus Router 4G-AC55U and Poynting XPOL2 Antenna, with Three Unlimited Data SIM. Worked great up until a few months ago when I started getting not complete disconnections, but stalls or momentary drops. The biggest issue with this is with my IP Phone which drops out, being very intollerent as IP Phones are. Browsing you do notice it slow down but obviously not as problematic as cutting off a call !
    I have spoken to Three who were slightly more helpful than I expected and eventually they have said that it is something with their network in the local area, but with no idea on time frames for seeing any improvement. I have also since tried an EE Sim to prove its not my Router causing the issue, and this does work, but speed isnt as good as Three when it was at its best. I have read lots of your info above and notice a lot of talk of Traffic Shaping. I have only ever lined up the Antenna by means of testing each direction because I could never find a map of masts. It’s not particularly high up currently due to the 5m Cable Length.
    I have most recently been playing with settings in the router to try locking it to 4G only mode, Individual bands, etc but it’s still not long term resolved it for me.

    So, do you know of a map for finding Masts here in England, because this would be useful to be sure I’m aligned correctly ?
    And any other suggestions, do you think it would be wise to believe what Three have told me and wait it out ?

    This is my Signal Info right now…
    Cell ID 2755335
    RSSI -64 dBm
    SINR 27 dB
    RSRP -83 dBm
    RSRQ -6 dBm
    Connection Status Connected
    SIM Provider 3 Internet
    Network Provider LTE 3 UK

    Do you think the height could play a part in this, you know Tree’s have really grown immediately by the Antenna in recent months but is that just coincidence ?!

    Appreciate any input – Great site !

    1. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any equivalent mast viewer for the UK that is not behind a paywall. Ofcom’s site finder only shows coverage, but not the actual masts like the Irish ComReg site viewer shows.

      Based on your 3UK readings, you are directly pointing at the mast. Usually I recommend getting the SINR above 10 if possible and your reading is 27. Refresh the readings over a few minutes just to rule out a fluke reading. The culprit is more likely with Three’s backhaul feeding the mast, such as a microwave link. In rural areas (especially here in Ireland), many rural masts are linked to neighbouring masts by microwave links, so if the main fibre connection has problems or gets congested, it can affect a large area.

      Check the signal readings for EE. If the SINR is much lower, then it’s worth turning the antenna 10-20 degrees at a time to get the highest and most stable SINR reading. Before adjusting the antenna, use a permanent marker to mark between the pole and a clamp so you know where to return the alignment to for Three. If EE’s SINR reading is similar such as above 20 in the current antenna position, then it’s likely the site you pick up is on the same mast as some operators rent or share the same masts in some areas.

      1. Hi Sean,
        I did think I was pointing the right way but wasn’t totally sure. Actually I agree with you about the mast being shared. When I got the EE SIM I started moving it presuming it would need to point a different direction, and ended up back in the same place. I just swapped the SIM cards now and the EE SIM also picks up an identical 25dB SINR without a single movement of Antenna !
        I think you are you right about it being some kind of congestion on 3 Network.
        So just a question of waiting to see if/when it improves or do I sign up with EE, or even try another network again for comparioson. It’s a very strange issue !
        Thanks for your info here and your reply.

  22. Hi Mark, I was using Three for my Internet here in Ireland and found that locking the router to 3G only provided a far more stable connection, even within sight of the mast. So maybe try that if it’s an option.

    1. I tried locking it in to 3G and then 4G individually and it didnt make too much difference here, but I am currently locked in to LTE Band 20 and although its not resolved completely it does seem like it might be slightly better with less disconnections flashing up on my IP Phone !
      Thanks for your reply !

  23. Hello! I’ve read thru most of your posts regarding 4g/3g routers and have a general idea of what my problem could be.
    I’m just not sure or “confident” enough to spend the money on something that could or not fix my situation and I wanted to know what are your thoughts over the matter since I’m really interested in your expertise and your take on this.

    You see I got a cell router that should get around 10 mbps (Which is what I’m paying) but I only manage to get like 1.5 during the whole day (From 8 a.m—11 p.m)
    It’s only when it reaches midnight/morning hours that I get the appropiate speeds, indicating perhaps that it might be an issue with a congested tower.
    What’s weird is that the nearest cell tower is like 1/2 mile away and when I run speed tests literally right next to the tower I get around 15-20 mbps on my phone.
    I made a few tests from there to my house and when I reach my neighborhood street the 4G signal dips HARD on my area. Both for my phone and the router

    So the question is, if I manage to get my hands on a directional antenna to connect to the router, will I’ll be receiving the speed I’m looking for during the day?
    I’m not sure if the purpose of the antenna is to receive that 4g signal, or to distribute my Wifi to wherever I point it to, which isn’t what I want.

    If the case we’re the latter, would a cellular signal booster work so my router receives the 4g signal better?
    If I could achieve a better speed with that thing I would have most of my network problems solved.
    But I need to know before I do anything…

    Please, let me know as soon as you’re able to.

    1. Based on the sharp drop off in speed as you reach home, it is likely your phone is either switching to another mast or band (if not 4G+ capable). I don’t what model # your router is, so if it’s a basic Huawei B593 / B313 / B311 series, it’s quite possibly using the congested band 20.

      I would suggest going for a directional panel antenna such as this or this that you can aim in the direction of the mast. This should help lock it on that mast. Even if it is a switching band issue, having the antenna outside will pick up a much stronger band 3 signal, which the router will choose in preference. Band 20 penetrate walls easier than band 3, but with half the bandwidth, this band is generally heavily congested in built-up areas, whereas band 3 tends to have lower congestion as it’s mainly picked up by those in close range of the mast.

      Even if the antenna does not help much during peak time, it will certainly help improve 3G reception. With most people leaving their routers to automatically connect in 4G mode, most 3G masts tend to have low traffic. I don’t recommend purchasing a cellular signal booster unless you have poor voice coverage. Cellular boosters don’t handle 4G MIMO (unless you purchase two boosters), so will not be as effective as a much cheaper panel antenna for the router.

  24. The purpose of the Aerials is to have a better connection to the tower not to distribute wifi. Try locking your router to 3G instead of 4g. 3g can be a more robust signal and may be less congested than the 4g band.
    As you can get higher speeds at night that indicates a congested tower. So Aerials won’t improve that situation. A cellular booster won’t help either. Perhaps try another provider if that’s an option?

  25. hi currently trying to configure my tplink 4g router (mr6400). I have bought a unlimited data virgin sim card for the router. I’ve also got a external antenna as I live in a rural part of meath. when I plug in the router using the pigtail antenna supplied with the router it works fine, all be it with a very poor speed. when I then plug the router into the external antenna it will periodically drop internet every 4 hours. I’ve put my personal vodaphone sim in and it works fine with antenna, after reading the above article it seems as though its picking up a mast beyond the data limits? any help would be fantastic

  26. Hi Sean,
    Amazing site and exactly the kind of detailed information/help people need.
    My problem is slow download speeds at night.
    It starts off around 10mbps in the morning and reduces to around 2mbps at night.

    My setup
    TP-Link MR6400 router
    Signal Strength between 100/75% in the morning and 75/50% at night
    RSRP -95dbm
    RSRQ -12dbm
    SNR 10.8db
    Only one Vodafone signal source approx 4km away but is line of sight

    My feeling is it’s a congestion problem but would like to know if you think an outdoor antenna might help

    Thanks in advance

  27. Hi Sean. I’ve just came across ur article and found it very interesting. I’ve just left my wireless broadband provider and went with my own set up I’ve a B593 Huawei router and a external mimo antenna and am on the 3ireland network. I’m in a rural area so it’s been a struggle over the years to get any kind of reliable service. At the moment in off peak times I’m around 25/30 mbps down and 20 up and in peak times anywhere from 5mbps to 14 down and 15 up. I’m about 3km from a 3ireland mast but do not have line of sight. But when I aim the antenna to where I’m sure the mast is my speeds drop and when I move it completely away from that they improve am I doing something wrong or any help u can give me wud be much appreciated. Also is it possible to use my old provider’s antenna to use with my router it has a lan socket unlike the sma fittings on my mimo???. Thks

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