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Choosing 3G/4G outdoor antenna
#1
Hello Seán,

I am hoping that you can help me in choosing the correct outdoor antenna to improve my internet connection at my single story cottage with a single story extension at the rear (Northside). The provider is Three (unlimited mobile broadband using a Huawei B525s-23a router with the two indoor antenna's that came with the router attached).

[Image: three-broadband-map.jpg]

So I did some testing this afternoon on a sunny day, with the router’s preferred network mode set to ‘4G’ only and with the network search mode set to ‘Auto’.

Test 1: Router placed inside near the top of a south facing window.

TestMy Germany server - Direct connection vs. connected by free Hide Me VPN server in Germany:
[Image: window-test-direct.png] [Image: window-test-germany-vpn.png]


Test 2: Router placed outside.

Placing the router near the top of the Northern gable-end of the extension facing North towards Mast 1, or near the top of the western gable-end of the cottage facing South-West towards Mast 2, or near the top of the eastern gable-end of the cottage facing South-East towards Mast 3, did not improve the connection.

However, with the router placed on top of the cottage roof and facing South, the connection improved significantly:

TestMy Germany server - Direct connection:
[Image: roof-test-direct.png]

Router signals of rooftop test (readings with result only):

<pci>401</pci>
<cell_id>231426</cell_id>
<rsrq>-8.0dB</rsrq>
<rsrp>-105dBm</rsrp>
<rssi>-77dBm</rssi>
<sinr>5dB</sinr>
<mode>7</mode>
<ulbandwidth>20MHz</ulbandwidth>
<dlbandwidth>20MHz</dlbandwidth>
<txpower>PPusch:13dBm PPucch:-2dBm PSrs:0dBm Pprach:13dBm</txpower>
<ul_mcs>mcsUpCarrier1:18</ul_mcs>
<dl_mcs>mcsDownCarrier1Code0:8 mcsDownCarrier1Code1:8 </dl_mcs>
<earfcn>DL:1700 UL:19700</earfcn>
<rrc_status>1</rrc_status>
<tac>42603</tac>
<band>3</band>
<nei_cellid>No1:442No2:192No3:399</nei_cellid>
<plmn>27205</plmn>
<ims>0</ims>
<lteulfreq>17600</lteulfreq>
<ltedlfreq>18550</ltedlfreq>
<transmode>TM[3]</transmode>
<enodeb_id>0000904</enodeb_id>
<cqi0>9</cqi0>
<cqi1>9</cqi1>
<ulfrequency>1760000kHz</ulfrequency>
<dlfrequency>1855000kHz</dlfrequency>

I would be delighted if you could recommend a 3G/4G antenna for my fringe location that allows me to set the router’s preferred network mode to ‘3G’ only when it gets busy in the evenings.

Kind regards.
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#2
Based on your tests with the VPN, it looks like the cell you currently connect to is heavily congested or with high interference. That rules out traffic shaping.

With that weak RSRP reading on the roof, I recommend going for the following pair of LOG antennae if you feel comfortable with mounting them:
https://smile.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06Y5XTJ5T/ (LOG periodic with 7.5m leads)

These need to be installed about 1m apart, both pointing at the same mast. The easiest way to install them is on a long pole. If the mast is on a hill much higher than your house, then I recommend getting a shelley clamp and a second 1m pole to mount them side-by-side as this will let you tilt them up. Based on my experience of using these, they give about 8-10dB stronger reading than the router alone on band 3.

One flaw with those antennae (same with another bare LOG antennae I tried) is that rain droplets wick between the elements and kill the signal. This is easily fixed by shoving a rigid piece of plastic between the bars. With mine, I got an old plastic pen that no longer writes, removed the ink tube and cut the pen in half. I shoved one half midway between the bars of one antenna the same with the other and rain now barely affects the signal.

If you want an antenna that is more straight forward to install, I suggest getting either of the following panel antennae:
https://www.irishwireless.net/lte-diy/xpol-a0002 (Panel antenna with 5m long leads)
https://smile.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01E7CWNSI/ (Panel antenna with 10m long leads)

While not as sensitive as the LOGs, it should still provide an improvement over what you had with the router alone in the same spot on the roof. A panel antenna just requires an outdoor TV antenna bracket. It also has a wider opening angle compared to the LOGs, so you can roughly aim it at the desired mast.

If you don't need long leads, the Poynting antenna (first link) has shorter 5m leads, which will give a little additional gain over the second antenna.

Before you start drilling holes, I suggest doing a temporary set-up to start with such as using a camera tripod as a temporary pole. For testing/pointing the LOG antennae, you can start by mounting one antenna and attach it to the SMA port #1 (nearest the signal LEDs). Once you get the least negative RSRP reading (e.g. -100dB is better than -105dB), you can mount and aim the second LOG antenna in the same direction. From here, you can adjust both about 10 degrees at a time to try getting the SINR value as high as possible, ideally >10dB.

These LOG and panel antenna will also work on both 3G bands and potentially give a fair speed boost on it also.
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#3
Thanks a million for your advice Seán!

I've just ordered your third suggestion, the panel antenna with 10m long leads (https://smile.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01E7CWNSI/), as it indeed appears to be a bit more straight forward to install. And as it will be mounted on the front of the house, it also has the best visual appeal in my opinion. I'll report back with the results as soon as I have it up and running.
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#4
Hi Seán,

Great Forum and blog by the way, I have learned a lot from your posts. Smile

I am in a rural part of limerick with a mast 1.8km away with no line of sight due to a tree line quite close to the house.However ,I am picking up a Band 3 (1800MHz ) signal outside the house and a Band 20 (800MHz) signal inside the house.The best signal in the area is with Vodafone using a Huawei B528 router.

The readings below show the signal from the roof of the house on the phone app where i would install an antenna.Would I be able to improve on the RSRP and RSSNR values with an external antenna even if facing into the trees?
The house is only one story and I wouldn't be able to get the height to go over the trees.

           

There is congestion on the (800MHz) band at peak time which is almost unusable but i'm thinking if i can connect to the band #3 as well I would get a usable connection  during peak times.There are signals from other masts in the area along with the tree line possibly causing interference as well.

I am unsure which type of outdoor antenna to purchase but I was thinking of going with the XPOL - 2 due to the easier setup with MIMO and to cover a wide band of frequencies for future 5G (700MHz).
 
Would the XPOL - 2 be sufficient in your opinion or would an omni-directional antenna be any good in this situation?

I presume that carrier aggregation would work fine since I can get a Band 3 signal outside?

Appreciate any help.

Thanks
Dom
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#5
The XPOL-2 should work well in your situation, especially as your screenshot shows a 16dB RSSNR with the very weak reading. This antenna will likely improve the signal to around -100dBm and the RSSNR a littler further (shown as SINR on the B528). Your upload speed will likely improve to around 20Mbps and your download speed may go higher also. If this reading is recent with the trees in full leaf, the signal shouldn't get much worse than this apart from during heavy rain where the wet leaves attenuate the signal.

The one thing to watch out for is that its leads are only 5m long. The panel Antenna above on the Amazon link has 10m of good quality LMR200 cable, would be a good alternative if you need to run the leads further. The reading will likely be about 3dB lower compared to the XPOL-2. In the worst case scenario that you need to place the router in the loft, you can use a Wi-Fi mesh kit such as a pair of Tenda Nova MW6's to bring coverage to the ground floor.

I would definitely avoid an omni-directional antenna. Basically, an omni-directional antenna performs the equivalent of having the modem in the same spot, which would be fine in an urban environment where one has a heavily insulated house and looking to get an outdoor signal. However, with your very weak signal reading outdoors, the signal will be 2-3dB weaker over the 5m cable run.

You will get carrier aggregation, i.e. 3 + 20. If the reading is -105dBm or better (which I reckon it will be with the XPOL-2), your router will switch to band 3 as the primary band, which will also help overcome the contention.
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#6
Thanks for the info Seán ,

I think I will go with the XPOL - 2 with the 5m cable and put the router in the loft as you mentioned. The Tenda mesh system looks good but does the signal loss with the antenna cable apply to cat 5E cable that could be attached to the router?

I'm on the Vodafone 150GB €45 a month plan for another few months and you mentioned in a different post that the new Vodafone 300GB €40 a month plan caps at 10Mbs.Do you think  (1) this is just to cover themselves for bad speeds due to congestion or (2) if the bandwidth is available would they still enforce it? Basically, I'm wondering if it's worth staying on the same plan with an improved signal and keep current speeds or go with the bigger plan but take a chance they might throttle the bandwidth?

Thanks
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#7
The signal attenuation only affects the signal path leading up to the modem in the router. Anything beyond the router will not affect the signal the router's modem picks up from the antennae. So whether you attach a 1m or 50m cat 5E cable to the router, the speed will still be the same. However, if you were to add 5m SMA extension leads to the antenna cables, that would reduce the signal.

From the reviews I've seen of various Wi-Fi mesh systems, these generally handle 100-200Mbps at the second node a room apart from the main node, as long as they have Gigabit LAN ports. If you get 80Mbps at the router, the Wi-Fi mesh should still deliver the same 80Mbps on the ground floor, much like having the same main router there. Just beware that some of the cheaper mesh systems only have 100Mbps LAN ports, which would be a problem whenever Fibre comes your way.

So far I have heard mixed reports of Vodafone enforcing a speed limit on its 300GB plan. For example, going by posts I've seen on the Boards forum, a few were capped such as this one at 20Mbps and others mention getting the full speed as before such as [url=]this recent example.

With Vodafone's new unlimited Vodafone X prepay phone plan, they clearly state it is capped at 10Mbps on their website, T&C's, in their text offers, etc., yet I haven't heard of anyone mentioning they are capped, but seen plenty of posts mentioning about getting full speed.

I reckon Vodafone is basically covering themselves so that if people do go crazy downloading (e.g. tethering their mobile to download massive video games), they can start capping the speed of those to ease network load.
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#8
Cool Thanks again.
Once I get everything setup I'll post an update on how results went.
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#9
(29/05/2020, 05:44 PM)Classius Wrote: Thanks a million for your advice Seán!

I've just ordered your third suggestion, the panel antenna with 10m long leads (https://smile.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01E7CWNSI/), as it indeed appears to be a bit more straight forward to install. And as it will be mounted on the front of the house, it also has the best visual appeal in my opinion. I'll report back with the results as soon as I have it up and running.

Hello Seán,

I received the antenna last Monday and have installed it on top of a steel pole that I attached to the western gable end of the house.

[Image: DSC-0186-min.jpg]

So today I did a 360 degree test using LTE Inspecteur with the router's preferred network mode set to 4G only.

I fastened the antenna at the most optimised position, pointing towards mast 3 (see map in first post).

On the 800 Mhz band (B20) I received an RSRP average of -95dBm and a SINR average of -8dB with the following speedtest result:

[Image: 4G-B20.png]

On the 1800 Mhz band (B3) I received an RSRP average of -100dBm and a SINR average of 6dB with the following speedtest result:

[Image: 4G-B3.png]

Then I switched the router's preferred network mode to 3G only and got the following speedtest result:

[Image: 3G.png]

Getting these 3G results on a Sunday evening is a massive improvement from what I got before.

Thanks for all your help Seán!
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#10
That's a great improvement in the readings. Those 4G masts sure are congested, especially band 3. Luckily most people in the area are unaware of the quiet 3G mast. Smile

Going by your antenna mounting photo, it looks like the antenna is slightly tilted down. I suggest tiling it up such that it is either plumb vertical or pointing up slightly (if the mast is on a hill) as this may improve the SINR and potentially your 3G speed a little further.

Thanks for reporting your results.
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#11
Big Grin 
Hello Sean,

Found your Forum only recently as I was desperate to try help my Dad get better WIFI on his barge (its a lifeline as hes getting on now and cocooning) I am trying to pick a directional Antenna. Read thru some of the posts about choosing an antenna, downloaded Cellmapper to take readings and search for an Antenna (not seeing the local tower on cellmapper at the train station (in celbridge) anymore (??not sure why). I have attached the info I have so far not sure if its enough to select an antenna.
He currently has Pay as you go mobile wifi from Vodafone (the little pebble receiver)  BTW the barge is metal and the speed is dismal at the best of times hence the need for an external receiver. 
Any feedback much appreciated

                   
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#12
From the screenshots above, you are picking up both the 900MHz and 2100MHz 3G bands on Vodafone. With the number of cells you are picking up with similar signal strengths, I suggest going for the following directional antenna that covers the 2100MHz band. It has higher bandwidth than the 900MHz band and a directional antenna has a better chance of isolating one from the others.
https://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/gs...-plug.html

You will need an adapter to attach the antenna cable to the mobile Wi-Fi unit. Most of these have two TS9 ports, however, I recommending searching online for its model # just to be sure in case it has another connector type.
https://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/ca...-e398.html

This antenna attaches to port #1. You don't need to connect anything to port #2 for these 3G cells. Before mounting the antenna, I recommend doing a trial run such as mounting it on a camera tripod or another vertical pole (clothes line pole, etc.) to determine which way to point it before mounting a bracket.

Most portable WiFi dongles unfortunately don't show the raw signal information, just signal bars. Start by turning the antenna 20-30 degrees at a time until you get the most signal bars lit. Try a few speed tests. If the speed is poor (e.g. <5Mbps), you can try turning the antenna to see if you pick up a cell from another direction. This way you know which side of the building to install the antenna so that it doesn't point at a wall or any other obstacle.
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#13
(27/07/2020, 10:58 AM)Seán Wrote: From the screenshots above, you are picking up both the 900MHz and 2100MHz 3G bands on Vodafone.  With the number of cells you are picking up with similar signal strengths, I suggest going for the following directional antenna that covers the 2100MHz band.  It has higher bandwidth than the 900MHz band and a directional antenna has a better chance of isolating one from the others.
https://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/gs...-plug.html

You will need an adapter to attach the antenna cable to the mobile Wi-Fi unit.  Most of these have two TS9 ports, however, I recommending searching online for its model # just to be sure in case it has another connector type. 
https://www.dipol.ie/cellular-systems/ca...-e398.html

This antenna attaches to port #1.  You don't need to connect anything to port #2 for these 3G cells.  Before mounting the antenna, I recommend doing a trial run such as mounting it on a camera tripod or another vertical pole (clothes line pole, etc.) to determine which way to point it before mounting a bracket.

Most portable WiFi dongles unfortunately don't show the raw signal information, just signal bars.  Start by turning the antenna 20-30 degrees at a time until you get the most signal bars lit.  Try a few speed tests.  If the speed is poor (e.g. <5Mbps), you can try turning the antenna to see if you pick up a cell from another direction.  This way you know which side of the building to install the antenna so that it doesn't point at a wall or any other obstacle.

Sean,

Tks for taking the time to reply appreciate the information you have given me

tks

Shane

Sean,

quick query about the WIfi router it connects I have some old equipment that I am trying to re-use would any of the equipment below be suitable for connecting into or would I need a new WIFI router .Power consumption is a consideration as it is a barge

1. D- Link DIR-855 Wireless N Quad band router
2. D-Link Xtreme N PCI Express Desktop Adapter, PCIe, 802.11n
3. Any suggestions for another router

tks

Shane
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#14
I didn't realise this was a boat as I was thinking of a type of building. A problem using a directional antenna here is that when the boat changes direction or moves to another area, that antenna will need to be repositioned to point to a mast again.

If you have not ordered the antenna yet, I suggest first getting a router that can lock to a specific band. The pebble size unit cannot do this. That D-Link DIR-855 doesn't have a cellular modem unfortunately.

I suggest either the Huawei B311 or the B535. The B311 is around £60 and the B535 is around £100. The main difference is the B535 has 4G+ support, so can perform faster if the area gets 4G+. Both provide Wi-Fi and the B525 also provides the faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi band. Both run on 12V, so you can run it directly on 12V battery power with a suitable DC adapter. They draw around 300-500mA. Even on mains power, these use very little power, around 10W.

Configure the APN the same as the pebble unit (live.vodafone.com if it's a prepay Vodafone phone SIM or hs.vodafone.ie for a Vodafone broadband-only SIM). If the router picks up 4G, check how well it performs such as with a few speed tests. If it still picks up 3G only, you can use an App such as huaCtrl (for Android) or LTEInspecteur (for Windows) to lock the 3G band to 1.

If the performance is still weak with that router on band 1, I suggest getting an outdoor omni-directional antenna (such as this) instead of the above for the boat. Although it cannot isolate masts as well as a directional antenna can, it should still perform better than the router inside and at least it will not require repositioning each time the barge moves and will also work while sailing.
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#15
(11/06/2020, 09:12 AM)Dom Wrote: Cool Thanks again.
Once I get everything setup I'll post an update on how results went.

Hi Seán,

I finally got the antenna setup and tested over the bank holiday weekend.I went with the new Poynting XPOL-2-5G version in the end which I got from Novatel in Cork.Anyway, I was quite surprised by the signal results during the setup.Shooting straight into the trees in the direction of the tower gave the below figures.I have the router in the attic and a CAT5E cable running to the tv.

                   

                   

When I did a speed test in the mornings I was getting speeds up-to 90 Mbps and the Upload was at around 30Mbps .

Unfortunately , in the evening and night time the bandwidth dropped right down to unusable,I was hoping to get a steady 20Mbps or even 10Mbps but it was well below that. Ideally I'm looking for just enough to stream IPTV. Netflix seems to work well on low bandwidth maybe due to their codec system. I'm thinking that the contention is just too much at the weekends on this tower.

If my reference values are stable is that all I can do to improve bandwidth, if I got more out of the SINR and RSRQ(which jumps between -4db and -10db ) would it make any difference or have I just ran out of luck? The antenna does seem to tilt down a bit ,would angling it up and increasing the height on the pole make much of a difference? I'm also just wondering if the trees would have any influence on the bandwidth being erratic or does the good reference values take the line of sight issue out of the equation?

   

When I logged into the router it shows that it is connected to band 3. Is there any way of telling if carrier aggregation is in use from the router? I presume that the Huawei B528 supports this ,i was just unable to confirm it. The upload was pretty much constant between 20-30 Mbps on band 3 so I take it that the upload is pretty quiet.

The previous post mentioned good bandwidth on the 3G signal so i tried that as well which worked fine for a while but then it faded eventually. Overall I'm very happy with the antenna Smile but it's just a bit of a bummer about the contention and erratic speeds Huh .I'm also on the new Vodafone 300GB a month for 40 euro a month plan and I haven't noticed any throttling ,which maybe could work to my advantage if it was in place during busy periods.

On a side note I came across a blog by Luke Kehoe http://www.lukekehoe.com/, you may have seen it already, it gives a good brief of the state of play of the networks in Ireland.
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#16
Your SINR values are excellent and with the RSRQ reaching -4dB, it means the cell itself is about idle. That's great being able to get these figures with the trees and also means you are picking up very little interference. I wouldn't worry about the slight downward tilt with those readings.

If the RSRQ was not steadily getting any worse than the -10dB you saw during peak time when your speed dropped, this means that the contention is further upstream. Most rural masts are connected by point-to-point microwave links, so whichever mast has the fibre connection could be heavily congested. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to overcome this. On the positive side, whenever Vodafone upgrades the capacity to your mast, you should see a large increase in your download speed.

To check if you are getting carrier aggregation, start a large download (e.g. 100MB file from below) and look at the main webpage of the B528. It should show '4G+' while the download is running.
http://ams-nl-ping.vultr.com/

I also suggest try downloading the above 100MB file during peak time to see what speed it comes in. Multiply the transfer speed by 8 to get Mbps, e.g. 1.5MB/s x 8 = 12Mbps. With the Three network, they apply traffic shaping to some areas, so there can be as much as 10x difference in speed between prioritised and other traffic. Vultr is prioritised on Three. So far I'm not aware of Vodafone doing this, but worth checking just in case.

For IPTV, you need a stable 2-3Mbps to stream most standard definition channels. 4-6Mbps should be adequate for most HD channels. It looks your connection should be able to stream standard definition fine, but may freeze intermittently on HD IPTV channels.

Netflix and YouTube can buffer video, so will work with erratic throughput including brief drop-outs, even if the average is as low as 0.5Mbps. As a rough guide, with YouTube (and likely Netflix), 0.5Mbps will provide 240p (grainy picture), 1Mbps for 360 to 480p (DVD quality), 2-3Mbps for 720p, 4-5Mbps for 1080p (Full HD) and 6-8Mbps for (Full HD 50/60fps).

Thanks for mentioning about Luke's blog as I was unaware of it.
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