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Old 02-13-2016, 08:40 PM   #1
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Is a directional cellular antenna worth it?

I'm currently using an 8dBi omni mounted on the AS roof connected to a Verizon JetPack and I'm wondering whether it's at all worth upgrading to a directional antenna. I predominantly boondock in the desert southwest and it seems to me that I'm much more limited by cell distance limitations (i.e. timing limitations) than signal strength.

For example, I was in the south of Death Valley last week ~38mi from Furnace Creek, where the cell tower is as far as I know. I saw 3 out of 4 bars for 1xRTT and could connect. For 3G I saw 2/4 bars but could not connect, the JetPack cycled though connecting...disconnecting, which typically indicates that it's beyond the range that the cell tower accepts.

This experience is very typical for me: I have signal but am too far out. If I'm within range the JetPack usually works even without external antenna. In what circumstances have you found more antenna useful?
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Old 02-14-2016, 09:04 AM   #2
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Cell phone signal is affected by two factors - signal strength and line of sight. The higher the antenna, the farther the distance to the horizon, and the longer your line of sight.

As for signal strength, radio signals obey the inverse-square law. For each doubling of the distance between transmitter and receiver, the signal strength is quartered. A directional antenna does not increase the total strength of a transmitted signal, but it restricts the area covered, thereby increasing the effective signal strength accordingly. If you restrict the signal to a 90° arc instead of 360° (for example), you've quadrupled the signal strength in that arc, and thereby doubled the effective range, but only up to the line of sight limit.

Thus a directional antenna mounted higher than your existing antenna should give you the best results by increasing both signal strength and line of sight distance.
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Old 02-14-2016, 03:25 PM   #3
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Protagonist, I understand the signal strength thing (I've been running a 36mi Wifi 802.11 link since 2005 out to an off shore island). My point is that I haven't seen signal strength to be an issue. Maybe the day I camp in a deep forest and I wish I could get through the canopy. That was my question... Also, I wonder whether there are any tricks to get around the distance limitation.
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Old 02-14-2016, 08:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tvoneicken View Post
Protagonist, I understand the signal strength thing (I've been running a 36mi Wifi 802.11 link since 2005 out to an off shore island). My point is that I haven't seen signal strength to be an issue. Maybe the day I camp in a deep forest and I wish I could get through the canopy. That was my question... Also, I wonder whether there are any tricks to get around the distance limitation.
And with that, we have passed the limits of my knowledge about the subject. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will chime in. In fact, I'm kind of surprised no one has up to now…
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Old 02-14-2016, 09:16 PM   #5
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You don't mention if you are running a booster but biggest gain might be getting something like the WeBoost 4G-X. That would be a good next step. After that then a WeBoost directional Yagi would be a logical step.

Good review of the WeBoost 4G-X on the Technomadia rvmobileinternet.com site.

I use the 4G-X and start with the a WeBoost trucker antenna and if that doesn't do it try the WeBoost Yagi. If still no usable signal I would need to move but haven't had that situation happen yet with these tools.
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Old 02-14-2016, 10:27 PM   #6
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I don't think that many realize the timing limitations of cell service that you mention in your first post. I have run into the same issue. Just having a signal does not mean that you can use it. Apparently cell towers have limits set in them as to how far the signal can be received and used so atmospheric skip and other things of that nature do not let a tower work outside of a limited range, no matter the signal strength. I have read it is in the 25 to 35 mile range, but I am not sure of that. And it may vary by tower too. So, a directional antenna within the tower set range will improve the signal, especially inside a metal sheathed trailer, but will not change the overall range set by timing.

Maybe someone else who is associated with the cell industry can help with the range of a tower as set by timing. I have seen this mentioned now and then, but have not located any good article or explanation about it. The one article I did see mentioned the milage limit I mentioned above.

I go to a Forest Service lookout at 7000' and you can see the town with a Verizon tower, which is about 40 miles away. I get about a 2 bar service signal, but you cannot make any voice connection as the distance is beyond what the tower is set for apparently. However, it is interesting that I can make my MiFi work at that same lookout location, so apparently I am out of the voice range but not the data range. Strange, huh?

So, a directional antenna might improve a week signal if it is in the tower set range, enough to use it, but it would not change the tower set milage range.
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Old 02-14-2016, 10:46 PM   #7
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Idroba: thanks for that info! Great info!!
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Old 02-15-2016, 09:23 AM   #8
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With the help of Google, here is some more reference to timing and other limits of cell phone reception. The Wikipedia reference is especially good.

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/far-c...nal-32124.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_site
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Old 02-15-2016, 09:51 AM   #9
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YES.

Do any of the people who responded use one?



I am going to recommend you match the directional and omni to a WeBoost Drive 4G-X without that you are kind of wasting your money. I have to work on the road, every day. And we boondock/dry camp exclusively. We've been boondocking for the past 3 months nonstop and I've had to use the directional twice. It's a huge improvement when you can point it at the antenna on the tower.
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Old 02-15-2016, 09:58 AM   #10
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I have satellite TV and practically never use my TV antenna. Could I take my antenna off the mast and replace it with one of these gizmos?
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Old 02-15-2016, 10:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
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I have satellite TV and practically never use my TV antenna. Could I take my antenna off the mast and replace it with one of these gizmos?
See my photo above. That's what I did.
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Old 02-15-2016, 10:06 AM   #12
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> I am going to recommend you match the directional and omni to a WeBoost Drive 4G-X without that you are kind of wasting your money.

Why??? I have an antenna connector on the JetPack as I mentioned. External omni plugs straight into the Jetpack. Why would I get a WeBoost?

> We've been boondocking for the past 3 months nonstop and I've had to use the directional twice.

Mhh, doesn't sound like a great ROI to me, but to each their own... What was the improvement of using the directional over the omni?
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Old 02-15-2016, 10:07 AM   #13
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In addition to a directional antenna, you will need to know the best direction to point it. You can use antennasearch.com to find sites, althought you may need to put in a dummy location because it has distance search limits.

It will tell you every antenna in your area, including the antenna at the nearest MacDonalds restaurant and tow truck operator. You may need to sort through lots of data. There are other apps out there that have filters.
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Old 02-15-2016, 11:46 AM   #14
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Wilson repeater

Google Wilson cellular repeater I have one and it works great with all bands.
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