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Posts Tagged ‘mobile broadband signal’

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Mobile Broadband: Finding your nearest transmitter

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This is part of a series of posts on How to improve your mobile broadband signal. Here’s what we’ve covered:

The one thing that I’ve not covered yet though is how to find your nearest 3G transmitter so you can work out how to position the High Gain Antenna or Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna correctly.

High Gain Antenna for USB Modems

High Gain Antenna for USB Modems

Both the High Gain and the Mobile Broadband Panel antenna need to be pointed towards the network transmitter in order for them to work effectively, but chances are you won’t know where your nearest transmitter is. Fortunately there is a great tool on the Ofcom website. Sitefinder shows you not only where the transmitters are, but also which network they belong to, what frequencies they transmit on and how high they are.

Before we get to using Sitefinder, it’s worth putting your postcode into the coverage checker on your network’s website (see links below to network coverage maps) to make sure that you do actually live in a 3G coverage area before you start. If the coverage map shows that you live on the edge of 3G coverage, both antenna’s should help, although the Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna will be the better option. If your network says that you don’t have coverage, then neither High Gain and the Mobile Broadband Panel antenna will be of any use to you.

Edge of Coverage Vs No Coverage

Edge of Coverage Vs No Coverage - Click for more information.

Once you’ve established that you’ve got 3G reception, you’ll need to know where it’s coming from, so for this head over to Sitefinder by Ofcom. It works in a similar way to the network coverage checkers, but instead of showing coverage, shows you the locations of nearby transmitters as small blue triangles on the map. To see details of the transmitter, you’ll need to zoom in as close as you can, until the ‘Zoom in’ option changes to ‘View Base Details‘ as shown below. Once it’s changed click on the blue triangle on the map to see details of that transmitter.

Transmitter Locations on Sitefinder

Transmitter Locations on Sitefinder

A pop up window will then open to show you the information on that transmitter. The first thing you’ll need to check is that it belongs to your network. If it does then you should check the Type of Transmission – 3G Transmitters will be UMTS where as standard GPRS transmitters will be listed as GSM. If it doesn’t belong to your network or is a GSM one then the transmitter is of no use to you and you’ll need to go back to the map to find the next nearest. To do this you’ll probably have to zoom out again until you see more blue triangles, then zoom in on them.

Transmitter Details

Transmitter Details

If you’re struggling to work out exactly where the transmitter is, I find it helps to have a satellite view of Google maps open in a different browser window so that you can cross reference the main roads from the Sitefinder map with the Google map and work out where it is.

Once you’ve determined which transmitter is your nearest 3G one you’ll be able to point your High Gain or Mobile Broadband Panel antenna in the right direction. Keep an eye on the transmitter height too, as you might need to angle it up or down if it’s mounted on the roof of a tall building or you live on a hill.

Coverage Maps

To get started you’ll need to visit your network to check the coverage where you are. These links should take you straight to the relevant page on each networks website.

FAQ’s

We get a lot of questions about the mobile broadband antennas, most of them asking the same thing, so to try and answer your questions here are some of the most common questions and answers:

Where can I find 3g coverage map?

Use the links above to go to the networks coverage checkers

What signal booster would we need?

There’s no set answer to this, but as a rule of thumb:

  • Clip antenna is best suited for mobile users that use their laptops while they’re out and about in areas with generally good coverage
  • High Gain antenna is best suited for those who get 2-3 bars of 3G signal and want a stronger, faster connection
  • Outdoor Antenna is best suited for those who get 3G signal outside, but not inside or those that live on the edge of an area of coverage

Which connection type do you use for my dongle?

Please see our post titled “Which Antenna Do I Need?” or find your dongle on the Mobile Broadband section of the Mobile Fun website

I thought the antenna would help boost that but when I connect it, if anything, it reduces the signal.

This can happen if you’re using an antenna with a long cable in an area that already has good signal. You lose some signal strength the further the signal has to travel, so by using extension cables with the outdoor and high gain antenna the dongle can lose signal. If this happens either disconnect the antenna as the signal is strong enough for you not to need it, or reduce the length of the cable. You shouldn’t see a drop in signal strength if you’re in a poor signal area

Does the 3G USB Modem Antenna work?

Yes, although the difference it makes to your dongle will vary depending on the dongle you have, the current strain on the network, distance to the transmitter etc. Other customers have told us that the antenna with a physical connection to the dongle seems to give more of an improvement over the universal one, but an improvement is still seen on both. If you are considering taking out a Mobile Broadband agreement, I’d recommend that you opt for a dongle that has an external antenna connection if you are given the choice.

If you’ve got a question that’s not been covered here, please post it in the Mobile Fun Forums.

How to share your 3G Mobile Broadband Connection

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Mobile Broadband is becoming incredibly popular, but it’s not just people that are out and about all day that are finding a use for it – people who can’t get broadband through their phone line, students in halls, those in short term rental.. the list goes on.

Although the prices for mobile broadband have come down considerably over the last couple of years, if you have several people & devices that want to use the internet at the same time, getting a mobile broadband connection for everyone can prove to be quite expensive.

Thankfully though, technology has moved on and we’re no longer restricted to having to use a separate dongle for each computer we want to use and Netgear and Option have both introduced new wireless routers that will make sharing your mobile broadband connection quick and easy.

Netgear 3G Wireless Router MBR624GU

Netgear are well known for making simple, affordable wireless routers that are easy to set up, and this one is no exception. It looks similar to most of their other routers, but the big difference is that instead of having a connection to your cable modem or BT phone line, it has a USB port that you can plug just about any 3G USB Modem in to.

Netgear 3G Wireless Router MBR624GU

Netgear 3G Wireless Router MBR624GU

The router will then establish a connection to your Mobile Network, and once it’s connected it will share the internet connection over both a wireless and wired network.

By creating a wireless network it means that devices like the iPod touch, Playstation3 and eBook readers can all access the internet easily. Infact, it’s not just wireless devices that can use it. The router has 4 ethernet ports on the back that can be used to add non-wireless computers, games consoles, printers and network storage (NAS) devices to the network.

The router has all the standard security options you’d expect to find on any Netgear router and creating your secure wireless network is quick and painless. As your download amount is limited I’d strongly recommend setting up a password for your wireless network. If you don’t and your neighbours start using it, you could end up with excessive bills.

Option GlobeSurfer X1

The GlobeSurfer X1 is similar in many ways to the Netgear, but is much smaller.  It supports all 3G broadband dongles on all networks and can be up and running in a matter of minutes. Like the Netgear router, the X1 can be used to create a wired or wireless network, regardless of whether a 3G dongle is present or not.

Option GlobeSurfer X1

Option GlobeSurfer X1

There are a couple of technical differences between the two routers too. Firstly, the GlobeSurfer X1 supports 802.11 b, g and n, where as the Netgear only supports 802.11g. To be honest, this shouldn’t make too much of a difference when accessing the internet, but if all your connected devices support 802.11n, it’ll make sharing files between them a fair bit quicker. Your Mobile Broadband dongle will have a limit so I’d strongly recommend setting up a password for your wireless network. If you don’t and your neighbours start using it, you could end up with excessive bills.

The other difference is to do with the ports on the back. The X1 only has 2 ethernet ports instead of 4 and has a USB port that you can use to attach USB printers or Network Storage devices as the X1 doubles up as a File and Printer server.

Points to note

It’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to have the Mobile Broadband dongle connected to either of the routers in order for your wireless (or wired) network to work.  By that I mean that even if you remove the dongle from the router, all of the devices that are connected to the network will still be connected and therefore able to access shared files, print to a networked printer or stream content from one device to another.

If you are going to be sharing your Mobile Broadband connection, you need to make sure that everyone using it is aware of the download limit that you have with your dongle. Unlike most fixed line broadband services, you don’t get unlimited downloads, with most networks capping your data at 1, 3, 5 or 15GB a month with extremely high charges if you go over your limit. If you are going to be watching video online, downloading movies or game demo’s on your games console, you’ll need to keep a close eye on how much data you’ve used. You can normally do this through the ‘My Account’ section of your service providers website.

Improving your Mobile Broadband signal in the car

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is part of a series of posts on How to improve your mobile broadband signal. Here’s what we’ve covered:

If you use mobile broadband while you’re travelling or you spend most of the day working out of your car, you might struggle to maintain a decent connection to your network – this will be due to the fact you’re sat in a metal box with no end of interference from all the wiring and electrical gadgets in the car.

If you’re in a cafe or at home you can boost your signal by using a Clip Antenna or a High Gain Antenna, but inside a car they won’t be anywhere near as effective. For this reason we’ve just released our 3G Mobile Broadband Vehicle Antenna for use in cars, lorries, caravans, motorhomes, boats etc.

Car Antenna for Huawei USB Modems

Car Antenna for Huawei USB Modems

Unlike the Clip Antenna and High Gain antennas that sit next to you, the Mobile Broadband Vehicle Antenna is designed to be mounted on the outside of your vehicle. This way it can pick up the signal from your network and carry it directly to the antenna to provide you with a better reception and faster download speeds.

The antenna is small and portable and can be stored in the glove box or a door pocket when not in use. It measures just 15cm long and has a small magnetic base that is just over 3cm in diameter. It can be mounted in seconds and won’t cause any damage to the paintwork on your vehicle.

The Mobile Broadband Vehicle Antenna is currently only available for Huawei dongles that use the CRC9 connection.  These dongles include the E156G, E160, E160G, E169, E620 & E110.

Mobile Broadband Antenna range extended

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is part of a series of posts on How to improve your mobile broadband signal. Here’s what we’ve covered:

A few months ago we launched a range of Mobile Broadband Antennas that connect to your Mobile Broadband Dongle to help increase signal strength and download speeds. Up until now there have only been two options available – a Clip Antenna and a High Gain Antenna. Well, we now have a third option – a Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna – a very high gain antenna that is perfect for areas of low reception.

To give you a better understanding of each of the antennas and to help you determine which type will suit you best here’s a quick summary of all their features.

USB Modem Clip Antenna

This an ultra portable aerial that clips onto the top of your laptop screen and connects to your dongle. It has an Omni Directional aerial and will pick up signals from all directions. The Clip Antenna will improve your 3G and GPRS signal by up to 2dBi.

Clip Antenna for USB Modems

Clip Antenna for USB Modems

There is a Clip Antenna for just about every USB modem or Datacard, with most current USB Modem using one of the following connections:

USB Modem High Gain Antenna

This is a much more powerful signal booster than the Clip Antenna and is ideal for people who have real problems with 3G reception. They are directional so you will need to point this towards your network’s transmitter in order for it to improve the signal. The High Gain antenna when positioned correctly will make a difference of up to 9dBi on a 3G network, but will not improve a GPRS Signal.

High Gain Antenna for USB Modems

High Gain Antenna for USB Modems

These antennas include a desk stand, but can also be mounted on an internal wall for a more permanent solution. You get 1.2 metres of cable included, but this can be extended using either a 3m extension cable or a 5m extension cable.

High Gain Antennas are the best option if you have low signal levels or live on the fringe of network coverage and don’t want to be able to mount the Antenna outside.

There is a High Gain Antenna available for most of the current USB Modems with the following connections:

Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna

Visually, the Panel Antenna looks the same as the High Gain Antenna, but there are a number of significant differences – the main one being that the Panel Antenna is weatherproof and is suitable for use outside. Concrete, Steel and thick brick walls can reduce your signal strength, so by fixing the antenna to an outside wall or mast, the antenna picks up a stronger signal than it would inside and carries it along a lossless cable through to your mobile broadband dongle.

Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna

Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna

The Mobile Broadband Panel Antenna is the best option for areas where there is good reception outside but little or variable signal inside buildings or if you are on the fringe of the network coverage. This antenna can improve signal strength by up to 11dBi on a 3G network and up to 9dBi on a GPRS network.

Mobile Broadband Panel Antennas are directional so they will need to point in the direction of your nearest network transmitter in order for them to function properly. They come with 5m of cable and a wall/mast mounting bracket.

Panel Antennas are available for most of the current USB Modems with the following connections:

To find out which type of connector your Mobile Broadband Dongle needs take a look at our Mobile Broadband Antenna Compatibility List.

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