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Author Topic: how to improve mobile phone signal strength  (Read 1050 times)

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Offline jack-fc

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how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« on: Sep 05, 2021, 11:31:39 AM »
We often camp far from mobile reception and happily accept this. Often we deliberately camp in such areas to be blissfully incommunicado! However, our 'eco-warrior' son recently convinced us to (very reluctantly) cease buying newspapers and get them on computer/phone. This will apparently prevent the oceans from rising, slow down global warming and save the planet in general... (We live in western coastal Lockdanistan and enjoy going north for more warmth; if global warming happens, we mightn't have to burn so much fuel seeking warmth!)
Two issues have arisen since we went techo papers - one; we no longer have paper to light campfires and I'm not good at rubbing sticks together, and two - too often the phone reception is not good enough for the LotO to read the papers in bed while I light the campfire, make her a cuppa and toast the savoury damper for her brekky in bed. Consequently, the LotO reckons I should 'do something' to improve the phone reception. My suggestion that she should get her arse out of bed and take her 'devices' to the top of the nearest  mountain, or climb a big tree was somewhat less than warmly received...

So the old fart techtard (me) went searching on the interweb thingy when we got home, and after many hours I have achieved a state of confusion marginally higher than when I started... Some gizmos promise the world but cost more than a sat phone. As much as I hate antennas, I would tolerate one on the bullbar in the interests of marital harmony. For $130 or so, seems do-able, but do these antennas plug directly into the 'device'? Do they need a 'cradle' etc?? What about those wire external antennas? Or there seems to be thin wire thingies that can be stuck on the inside of the windscreen....

I only need a minor boost, say from 1-2 bars to 2-3 bars, and want to keep it as simple (and cheap!) as possible. I was hoping for an antenna with a lead that could plug straight into an android phone that is loose in the ute. Am I dreaming?

Can anyone on this wonderful forum shed some light on this murky subject?

Cheers, Jack
Old Fart still pushing the envelope... but it remains stationery
 

Offline KD02

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #1 on: Sep 05, 2021, 12:46:10 PM »
I've been using ZCG mobile phone aerials mounted to a bonnet mount or bullbar bracket for last 6 years, 3 of those in the Goldfields of WA and Pilbara. Aust made and only a little dearer than the other options.

I use a patch lead to connect directly to either the modem or
the mobile phone that has an aerial connector on the back  ( telstra T 85)
Or to a Strike cradle that i use when using an iPhone.
Patch leads are btw $12-20. Connect to the aerial FME male coax connector, but sometimes SMA male.
Strike cradles are about $90.

Been getting aerials and patch leads from, https://www.telcoantennas.com.au/antennas/mobile-marine-antennas/vehicle-antennas/ great service online.
I was using my phone out on fires at Cocklebiddy about 15-20 ks from highway, where everyone else had to use sat phones. But there needs to be a little bit of signal for the external aerial to work.

Had a Cel fi Go booster/ repeater in the work ute in Pilbara, but was turned off most of time as my set up worked better and in more places. But I suspect that was due to the aerial setup on that unit. For a lot less $ also.

Bullbar mounting is pretty rough on aerials thru vibration on dirt roads, and is also not the best choice for signal strength.
I snapped 3 uhf short stainless cable GME aerials in 600 ks of dirt road one afternoon on a bullbar mounted uhf elevated feed ZCG that was sitting next to one of there mobile phone aerials on my ute. Bonnet mounting is better, but roof or tray headboard is best. But really need aerial tilting bracket if using tray headboard. Which increases cost of setup by $200.
Only use fibreglass aerials on bullbar uhf aerials as wire tuned length will snap off much sooner.

Hope this is some useful info. Its what has and is working for me in marginal reception areas.
 
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Offline yvesjv

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #2 on: Sep 06, 2021, 05:58:19 AM »
We often camp far from mobile reception and happily accept this. Often we deliberately camp in such areas to be blissfully incommunicado! However, our 'eco-warrior' son recently convinced us to (very reluctantly) cease buying newspapers and get them on computer/phone

I only need a minor boost, say from 1-2 bars to 2-3 bars, and want to keep it as simple (and cheap!) as possible. I was hoping for an antenna with a lead that could plug straight into an android phone that is loose in the ute. Am I dreaming?

Can anyone on this wonderful forum shed some light on this murky subject?


Hi Jack,

Looking at the Telstra coverage map, the areas you mentioned have some coverage and then there are black spots.

What would be of interest is the location of the towers to generally direct the antenna to. With the link below, zoom out to see the global map and then zoom into Aus and the area of interest. On the left under "Select Provider" , pick Telstra or Optus. Then 3G or 4G.
https://www.cellmapper.net/

The Telstra/Optus/etc towers are powerful but just as your mobile phone inbuilt antenna, it can only reach so far due to signal loss and attenuation.
When just in range to boost your send/receive from the car or caravan, solutions exist and some are $$$,
For example: https://totalantenna.com.au/shop/cel-fi-signal-boosters/cel-fi-go-mobile/telstra-cel-fi-go-4wd-extreme-kit/

And then there is ebay: https://www.ebay.com.au/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2047675.m570.l1313&_nkw=Mobile+Phone+Signal+Repeater+Booster&_sacat=0

Luckily the grey nomads asks the question every so often:
https://thegreynomads.activeboard.com/t66835368/telstra-phone-coverage-booster/
https://thegreynomads.activeboard.com/t67045410/has-anybody-personally-installed-cel-fi-go-in-their-caravan/

I'd ask the "eco-warrior" son to help with the cost of a legit cel-fi  ;)

 
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Offline yvesjv

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #3 on: Sep 06, 2021, 06:25:16 AM »
I've been using ZCG mobile phone aerials mounted to a bonnet mount or bullbar bracket for last 6 years, 3 of those in the Goldfields of WA and Pilbara. Aust made and only a little dearer than the other options.

Hope this is some useful info. Its what has and is working for me in marginal reception areas.

Awesome  :cup:
They have a reseller I've always wanted to visit in Darwin, that's now an excuse to visit the shop.
 
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Offline tom60

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Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #4 on: Sep 06, 2021, 03:13:35 PM »
I mounted a ZCG aerial on the roof of our canalboat when we were living on it in England (yes England has blackspots).  The aerial was connected to a short patch lead the other end of which plugged into an external antenna socket on the back of our Samsung phone (the socket was under the back cover.

I believe most of the recent modern mobile phones don't have an external aerial socket which means it would require a cradle for the phone with a wireless connection.  Telco-antennas would probably be able to give advice on that.

An important point is the bullbar is not the best location for an antenna.  Yes they look nice there but it's the wrong location for a good signal.  If you look at a Foxtel dish or a satellite tracking dish the dish collects the inwards coming signals and bounces them to the receiver in the middle.  Your vehicle roof is probably the best equivalent of a dish and a small aerial either on the roof or in the top middle of the windscreen pointing backwards at 45deg over the roof is a good location.  This is where I have my CB aerial and I get just as good a reception as those with a much larger antenna on their bullbar.   
 
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Offline WAI4WD

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #5 on: Sep 06, 2021, 06:42:39 PM »
The best thing you can do is call someone like https://powertec.com.au and talk with them. They have products that range from a simple antenna to help get the signal for better reception, to the legal boosters for all three prime networks.

Talk to an expert about phone reception. Most of what you read online is BS and misinformation. You cannot install an antenna and boost your mobile phone reception. It does not work that way. If you want to boost a one bar signal, or where your mobile has no bars, but a booster can grab some signal to create bars for you, then the only legal way to do that in Australia is a Cel-Fi Go. The only company who counts for those is Powertec. Everyone else is only a reseller for Powertec.

We've been through this with our owners corp. Companies tried telling us they could create signal in our parking levels with antenna boosters from the entry. Told them to try and prove it to us - they quickly refused, as their product could not do as advertised and was rubbish. We went to a professional telco company and had this exact conversation with them, and we installed 3 x 3 sets of the Cel-Fi Go's through 2 parking levels with additional split antenna systems. Where there was no signal, we now have full bars.

Cel-Fi Go is the only legal system sold in Australia to boost mobile signal. An antenna alone does not boost signal, it just clears up spotty reception a little.

Yes, you're looking at around $1000 to $1150 for the 4WD kits (depending on aerial size), but its legal, you won't be tracked down and fined for creating chaos within the network. Yes, they actually do that. Our RFID in our building was on the wrong signal, they tracked us down within 8 weeks as the cause for creating issues in surrounding mobile systems - specifically some emergency ones. They gave us 7 days to disable it or fix it. Telco's don't screw around with illegal signals causing issues in their network.

Do it once, do it right, is my advice.
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Offline mewgaf

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Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #6 on: Sep 08, 2021, 03:31:50 AM »
Hi Jack
I've had a quick read here and hope this helps.
Telco's buy bands (radio bandwidth chanels) from the government (costing $m). Each Telco and towers operate on different freqencies inside these bands.
To get better reception for your phone. You can get a better antenna for your phone or a mobile phone repeater .
A mobile phone repeater will use an external antennta regenerate the signal and send it out at a low power on another.
Pros. You can get all sorts of antennas if you truly need mobile comms or just stick to the base kits. (Or to 7m tow bar mount)

Be aware that 3g is being turned off in Australia, and has been in a lot of places, but alot of 3g repeaters are still being sold.
A repeater is a licensed device, and all the ones that I have seen are tied to a carrier (ie Telco). So when you buy one of these there are licencing terms and conditions to comply with communications act. Basically you operate as a mini cell off the mobile phone network.
Btw a repeater that receives no signal can only regenerate nothing.
Mark
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This could save your life.
Prostate Cancer is no joke.
https://prostatetrek.org.au
 
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Offline WAI4WD

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #7 on: Sep 08, 2021, 06:47:08 AM »
Btw a repeater that receives no signal can only regenerate nothing.
Mark
In case this was aimed at what I said, which is maybe misinterpreted, I said: If you want to boost a one bar signal, or where your mobile has no bars, but a booster can grab some signal to create bars for you

A mobiles strength is limited and will drop out before a stronger powered system. In a given location your mobile may get zero signal, but a powered antenna booster may in fact receive a weak signal that the mobile is not capable of doing so. This is where boosters come into their own.

Yes, agree with what Mark said though. A booster with no signal can not boost anything.

This is why you read about people camping together and one couple having no signal for their mobiles and another with a cel-fi go system having full signal around their caravan.

Whilst 3G is marked for 2024 to be turned off, you will find this will start in cities primarily, as no telco has the infrastructure in regional Australia to replace the existing 3G network coverage. 4G just doesn't travel as far, thus more repeaters are required (the infrastructure that does not currently exist). Not sure they can pull that rabbit from their hat in just 3 years.

Honestly, I suspect 3G will remain beyond 2024 in rural Australia because the cost will exceed the demand for telcos to bother themselves with. I believe companies like StarLink will endup providing the rural coverage Australia needs once they release a mobile service for those on the move to use without a fixed address. Rural calls will move to VOIP as StarLink is changing satelite data costs for the better. If you have a good data connection, then a 4 or 5G connection means nothing with VOIP.
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Offline yvesjv

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #8 on: Sep 08, 2021, 07:16:22 AM »
Rural calls will move to VOIP as StarLink is changing satelite data costs for the better. If you have a good data connection, then a 4 or 5G connection means nothing with VOIP.
Not always, I have a decent VOIP connection at work and we are migrating to Teams audio... every so of tern there is a loss of UDP packets significant enough for one of the callers to start the "hello I cannot hear you, you've dropped" routine.
But that is another conversation not relevant to this topic.

3g, 4g and 5 G, it's all about the frequencies and modulations used.
And I concur with 3G remaining prevalent for years to come when rural.
For everyone who likes a quick read, I've googled for a short one: https://justaskthales.com/en/reader-response-whats-the-difference-in-network-coverage-between-3g-4g-5g/

If Jack gets one bar that a cel-fi can make good use of, his son should buy him one  ;)
 
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Offline jack-fc

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Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #9 on: Sep 08, 2021, 02:36:40 PM »
Firstly, a great big thank-you to all who responded! Much appreciated, and very valuable to an old fart techtard.
I'm now starting to get an idea of what best suits my situation. Some parameters I'm applying to my eventual decision are probably worth noting -
1) Personally, I'd rather do nothing; I'm happiest when far away from bloody mobile phones.
2) But I should at least give a little thought to the needs of the LotO who will readily tolerate no phone
    reception but prefers it where possible to talk/video call/skip or whatever to kids and more particularly,
    grandkids, together with the ability to read the daily papers, etc on her 'device' whilst being served
    breakfast in bed in the 'motorhome'. And some miniscule thought is also due to the needs of one
    particular son who seems to fervently believe that it's his birth right to have unlimited access to his
    mummy and daddy 24/7... (he's the one who should pay for the legal cell fi go thingy if he doesn't
    like my eventual decision, but given that he was born with abnormally short arms and has always
    purchased (second-hand of course) trousers with extremely deep pockets, this is about as likely to
    occur as a three-legged race for 110 year old one-legged nuns with STDs...)
3) The LotO and I are both old age pensioners and would prefer to fritter away our meagre available
    funds on mere bagatelles like food, beer, wine and diesel for travelling.
4) My smartypants phone is elcheapo, old and battered. It was VERY secondhand when it was forced
    upon an (until then) blissfully and happily phoneless me by someone mentioned above and solely
    for reasons mentioned above... This phone is old and suffering from a lifetime of abuse (much like
    its current owner), and will likely expire soon (ditto).
Sooooo....., I'm thinking, in light of the above, that the best compromise might be a new Telstra Tough Max phone ('blue tick', scored OK in tests for reception range, just not as good as the (shudder) 1 to 2 grand jobbies). Big attraction is that this phone, unlike any others I've managed to find, has an "RF connection port" that allows, with a "patch lead", connection of an external antenna such as RFI CDQ7195 which came up best on a range test I stumbled upon on the interwebby thing.
So I'm hoping this may somewhat extend reception when it is available, be relatively simple (no cradle thingy needed, no hyper-expensive cell go fier) and address the issue of my abysmal phone; all without a too-horrendous price.
Further comments warmly invited as no firm and final decision has been made.

Cheers and Thanks, Jack
Old Fart still pushing the envelope... but it remains stationery
 
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Offline jack-fc

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Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #10 on: Nov 10, 2021, 11:59:40 AM »

Some feedback for anyone interested.... I purchased a Telstra Tough Max 3 phone, an RFI CDQ7195 antenna and patch lead to link phone to antenna. Ph cost $499, antenna $200, patch lead $15.
We recently went camping on the Murray again (can't get out of Danistan). On a previous trip camped at a spot we call "Big Tree", my old phone (an old Sony Xperia Z something) had no reception at all. The LotO's phone (a much newer $650 Oppo) could sometimes get texts in and out; but almost never was a call possible.
Exact same camping spot, 2 months later, her phone performed as per last time. My new phone, connected to antenna, could make/receive calls reliably AND could be reliably used as a hotspot for tablet/laptop to download daily papers and general internet use (admittedly it was sometimes a bit slow, but always worked). 'Well worth the cost of the antenna/patch lead' was the judgement by the LotO! Now she will have to nag me about something else while we are on the road (like 'why wont my phone charge quicker in the ute?' - I'm now on to that too!)
Interesting to note that a mate who used a similar antenna connected to a cradle for his phone (no direct wire link) found very little improvement. The trick seems to be having a phone with an external antenna port, combined with a very good antenna...
Hope this info may help some of you
Cheers, Jack
Old Fart still pushing the envelope... but it remains stationery
 
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Offline yvesjv

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #11 on: Nov 10, 2021, 01:27:03 PM »
'why wont my phone charge quicker in the ute?' - I'm now on to that too!

Thanks Jack, good news :occasion14:
I put the phones in aeroplane mode and disable wireless when remote (or flying), if not it keeps seeking for a tower and empties the battery quicker.
 

Offline jack-fc

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Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #12 on: Nov 10, 2021, 07:08:57 PM »

That's a good idea. We are a bit more brutal when there is no signal - just turn it off!
Problem with her phone not charging quick enough is that currently the only USB port left available to her inside the ute and while moving is a miserable 1.1 Amp jobbie. Seems 'someone else' has taken over all the 2 and 3 Amp outlets for their unimportant things like tablet (mapping), HUD speedo, etc...

Cheers, Jack
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Offline tom60

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Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #13 on: Nov 11, 2021, 11:03:39 AM »
My tablet battery (converted to outback gps) went flat despite being connected to the dash usb port.  I've since discovered that many vehicle usb ports have a very low power output (500mA) which is too low to recharge (or maintain the charge) whilst the tablet whilst it is in use.

I plan to fit a 12V to usb converter rated at 3A in an effort to rectify the issue.
 

Offline WAI4WD

Re: how to improve mobile phone signal strength
« Reply #14 on: Nov 11, 2021, 12:12:37 PM »
I plan to fit a 12V to usb converter rated at 3A in an effort to rectify the issue.
Just get a dual USB socket: https://jaydeeautocables.com.au/collections/usb-accessories/products/modular-accessory-sockets?variant=32130833842229
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