Cell / signal information tools?

4 views
Skip to first unread message

T i m

unread,
Sep 21, 2022, 5:26:06 AMSep 21
to
I'm getting some conflicting info re pinning down what cell gives me the
best mobile BB service.

Eg, Cellmapper doesn't show a cell (that I can see with my eyes) as
being on 3 near me but the 'Network Cell Info' app on a phone with my
Smarty SIM is shown as connecting to it? [1]

Also, the connection info as presented on my TP-Link MR600 seems quite
slow to update, seeming to require a browser refresh on the status page,
not very good when 'sounding' for the best signal strength with my
directional antennae?

So can anyone recommend a good 'tool', be it phone app or combo of apps
or even a 4G router / dongle that can take an external aerial that is
good for cell deveining please? ;-)

Even a basic 4G router with a single external antenna might be worth
buying, especially if it's status page is realtime and ideally included
cell IDs etc?

Cheers, T i m

[1] When it looked like this particular cell supported 3 I put the
Smarty SIM back in the router and pointed the MiMo rigged LPDA antenna
at it and fairly quickly got a 4G+ indication on the front of the router
and in the stats. It didn't seem to be using channel aggregation and the
speedtest wasn't very good though. ;-(

Andy Burns

unread,
Sep 21, 2022, 5:57:08 AMSep 21
to
T i m wrote:

> Cellmapper doesn't show a cell (that I can see with my eyes)

I think all the free databases are pretty outdated.

Martin Brown

unread,
Sep 22, 2022, 7:02:51 AMSep 22
to
On 21/09/2022 10:26, T i m wrote:
> I'm getting some conflicting info re pinning down what cell gives me the
> best mobile BB service.
>
> Eg, Cellmapper doesn't show a cell (that I can see with my eyes) as
> being on 3 near me but the 'Network Cell Info' app on a phone with my
> Smarty SIM is shown as connecting to it? [1]

None of the databases are remotely up to date. Your best bet is walk
around with a phone in engineering mode and on the right network so you
can see which masts have the best signal and mark them on a paper map.

You are really only interested in the strongest ones within a 1km square
of your location if you are in a town or maybe 5km in a rural setting.
It is easier in the countryside since they tend to be on tops of hills
or cliffs and visible from a long way away.

Beware that trees and walls may attenuate the signal especially when wet.
>
> Also, the connection info as presented on my TP-Link MR600 seems quite
> slow to update, seeming to require a browser refresh on the status page,
> not very good when 'sounding' for the best signal strength with my
> directional antennae?
>
> So can anyone recommend a good 'tool', be it phone app or combo of apps
> or even a 4G router / dongle that can take an external aerial that is
> good for cell deveining please? ;-)

Phone in engineering diagnostic mode is pretty good and realtime(ish).

> Even a basic 4G router with a single external antenna might be worth
> buying, especially if it's status page is realtime and ideally included
> cell IDs etc?

Mifi pebbles usually have a 4 bar LED real time signal level indicator
which is plenty good enough for determining antenna pointing. A tripod
with a pan tilt head helps a lot with getting it right.

> Cheers, T i m
>
> [1] When it looked like this particular cell supported 3 I put the
> Smarty SIM back in the router and pointed the MiMo rigged LPDA antenna
> at it and fairly quickly got a 4G+ indication on the front of the router
> and in the stats. It didn't seem to be using channel aggregation and the
> speedtest wasn't very good though. ;-(

You might be better off with lower gain less directional wider beam
requiring less careful pointing if you are having such trouble
optimising it with a directional antenna. Once aligned properly I have
never had a problem with either speed or reliability.

You don't care what the thing is called only that it is on your
frequency and carrying your ISP's signals at decent strength.

--
Regards,
Martin Brown

T i m

unread,
Sep 22, 2022, 3:11:40 PMSep 22
to
On 22/09/2022 12:02, Martin Brown wrote:
> On 21/09/2022 10:26, T i m wrote:
>> I'm getting some conflicting info re pinning down what cell gives me
>> the best mobile BB service.
>>
>> Eg, Cellmapper doesn't show a cell (that I can see with my eyes) as
>> being on 3 near me but the 'Network Cell Info' app on a phone with my
>> Smarty SIM is shown as connecting to it? [1]
>
> None of the databases are remotely up to date.

Ah. I thought some of them were 'dynamic' (live data from users) and so
might be reasonably up to date, including the apparent location of the
masts (it wouldn't be difficult to do etc). Obviously I was wrong. ;-(

> Your best bet is walk
> around with a phone in engineering mode and on the right network so you
> can see which masts have the best signal and mark them on a paper map.
I'm not sure how to get a phone in 'engineering mode' but I have done
what sounds similar using Network Cell Info and it has an elastic line
that jumps between cells as I walk about. With that I wasn't sure if it
did that only with signal strength or also other things like signal
quality or available bandwidth?
>
> You are really only interested in the strongest ones within a 1km square
> of your location if you are in a town or maybe 5km in a rural setting.
> It is easier in the countryside since they tend to be on tops of hills
> or cliffs and visible from a long way away.

Pretty urban here and probably 5 masts supporting 3 within a 1km radius.

>
> Beware that trees and walls may attenuate the signal especially when wet.

Noted.
>>
>> Also, the connection info as presented on my TP-Link MR600 seems quite
>> slow to update, seeming to require a browser refresh on the status
>> page, not very good when 'sounding' for the best signal strength with
>> my directional antennae?
>>
>> So can anyone recommend a good 'tool', be it phone app or combo of
>> apps or even a 4G router / dongle that can take an external aerial
>> that is good for cell deveining please? ;-)
>
> Phone in engineering diagnostic mode is pretty good and realtime(ish).

Ok. The 'spare' phone I have is a Samsung Galaxy S4 and it runs the
likes of Network Cell Info reasonably ok but it might need a new battery
as it can't even last a dog walk with the GPS on etc. ;-(
>
>> Even a basic 4G router with a single external antenna might be worth
>> buying, especially if it's status page is realtime and ideally
>> included cell IDs etc?
>
> Mifi pebbles usually have a 4 bar LED real time signal level indicator
> which is plenty good enough for determining antenna pointing.

Yah, thsat would be enough, although some of the Youtube videos on this
sort of thing suggest 'Bars mean nothing'. ;-)
>
> A tripod
> with a pan tilt head helps a lot with getting it right.

That's quite sophisticated (and I may have one left over from Dad
photography stuff). ;-)
>

>> [1] When it looked like this particular cell supported 3 I put the
>> Smarty SIM back in the router and pointed the MiMo rigged LPDA antenna
>> at it and fairly quickly got a 4G+ indication on the front of the
>> router and in the stats. It didn't seem to be using channel
>> aggregation and the speedtest wasn't very good though. ;-(
>
> You might be better off with lower gain less directional wider beam
> requiring less careful pointing if you are having such trouble
> optimising it with a directional antenna. Once aligned properly I have
> never had a problem with either speed or reliability.

TBF, if the test of an acceptable solution is being able to do what you
need, when you need to do it then I've probably had that even with the
rabbit ears on the router with it on the bedroom windowsill. However, as
I'm both trying to optimise my rig for the best results so that it might
be more tolerant of poor conditions and new to the whole thing, I'm
interested in seeing what sort of thing makes a difference and how the
speed tests results can be peaked.
>
> You don't care what the thing is called only that it is on your
> frequency and carrying your ISP's signals at decent strength.
>
Quite. ;-)

I have ordered a suitable hi torque, low RPM motor to make an aerial
rotator (probably integrated with Home Assistant) and should be able to
poke a temporary mast out though the loft light and see what I can find.

I also received my Poynting XPOL-1-5G V2 omnidirectional antenna earlier
and before going out tacked it inside the same bedroom window I was
using the LPDA's and for the first time ever saw all three bars on the
signal strength indicator. ;-)

The router is currently indicating it's supporting 4G+ but with a 50%
signal strength and a RSRP of -90dBm and an SNR or 1.2dB.

I need to play with it it further but it feels like there is too much
choice and it's jumping between the different cells?

Tomorrow I'll try sticking the Xpol outside the bedroom window and
optimise it (the face) towards the mast that is Line Of Sight at the end
of this road.

Cheers, T i m

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages