How much will an antenna improve signal

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Rizzader
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:17 am

How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by Rizzader » Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:31 am

Hello.

I am new to the forum. I have seen a lot of good discussion, so I decided to pop in with my own question. Currently we are using an AT&T Nighthawk hotspot with an unlimited data plan. Verizon and AT&T get 2 bars of signal at our house, so we went with AT&T as they had a cheaper unlimited/unthrottled plan (through some 3rd party online site). At it's best, when connected to the Nighthawk my laptop can get downloads in the 30mb range on (5GHZ network) and my phone can get in the 12mb range (2.4GHZ network), but normally the laptop is around 16mb download and the phone is around 6mb.

Which brings me to my question: Would I see improved download speeds by purchasing an external antenna and attaching it to my nighthawk? I see a lot of articles about custom built modems using outdoor antennas to improve signal strength, but I didn't know if they would have the same effect on a factory item like the Nighthawk.

I am open to a custom build as well, but since I have the nighthawk, I thought I would see if I could "max" it out and save the additional money. Has anyone had any luck with the nighthawk and external antennas, or would I be better of with a custom build and some external ones?

Note: My wife has ATT for her cell plan and my work phone is verizon. Her ATT phone normally has 2 bars and she downloads around 15MB when using her phone data plan (not connected through our nighthawk). My cellphone can pull 50+MB (also at 2 bars LTE). So it might be that our best option is to switch to verizon, created a custom built router, and get some outdoor antennas.

I am completely new to all of this, so any suggestions would be great.


Thanks in advance!

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by swwifty » Thu Feb 14, 2019 12:43 pm

It's very rare to not see an improvement in throughput with an "external" antenna.

It's basic RF physics. A bigger physical antenna (and a directional one, vs an omni direction one) with higher gain, is going to get a better signal to noise ratio, and subsequently provide more throughput. I've personally seen on a number of ocassions just going from inside your house, to outside your house (with the same 3dbi omni directional antennas) resulted in a 10dbm signal increase (which is a 10x stronger signal!)

Phone antennas really aren't that great of a comparision, cause they are typically terrible in performance, due to their size and shape limitations (having to be inside of a phone after all).

A few questions:

1. Are you using the nighthawk factory antennas, or did you change them out? Any specs on what you have currently?

2. Can you provide a screenshot of your LTE signal stats that the nighthawk has?

Rizzader
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:17 am

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by Rizzader » Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:06 pm

Hi swwifty. Thank you for the quick reply.

Currently I am using the nighthawk straight out of the box with no after market antennas. Just sitting on the ledge in front of our south facing window. Tried a few different windows on different sides of the house but the south seems to have the best speed. Here is the Netgear link.

https://www.netgear.com/home/products/m ... -techspecs

Since that has a built in router, I just have my laptop and phone connected directly to it through WiFi. I thought about buying another router and running the nighthawk into that through an Ethernet cable. I read on one forum that the WiFi on the nighthawk can be finicky but the Ethernet port is faster. Plugging a laptop directly into it did not yield much of a difference though.

When you say signal stats, is there a program that allows me to see them? Or just the general info I can get in the Nighthawk settings? I am currently at work, but will try and post when I get home.

Other info: I personally wouldn’t consider us in a rural area. We live around Evansville, IN and are just 5-10 minutes outside the city. However on our side of the highway there is mainly farmland, so I guess broadband/dsl providers didn’t see the investment worth it to cross over. I can provide an exact address of that helps as well.

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by swwifty » Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:06 pm

After I posted my first response, I did a bit of research on this device. It does appear that it can take external antennas, and I suspect that, that could make a significant difference in performance overall.

When I say signal stats, I'm referring to your LTE signal strength/info. You should be able to login to the nighthawk (via a web UI) and view that information, but unfortunately, I know very little about this device.

You might have to look at the user guide/manual in order to figure that out, if you don't know already.

Rizzader
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:17 am

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by Rizzader » Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:09 pm

This Is all the info I can find in the settings. Is this what you expected or did you expect other information?

At the time of taking these screenshots I was getting 12mb download and 10mb upload.

Thanks.
Attachments
DC92BC6D-4BDD-4D34-962C-8E9E348A3179.png
768195AC-5595-4832-82B4-9738BB6F3CEF.png

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by swwifty » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:29 am

Yes, that's the info I was looking for.

It looks like from what I can gather, you have pretty good signal stats already. RSRP is really the value you want to pay attention too, and SINR. I think in this case RS-SINR is your signal to noise value, but I've never seen it displayed with an RS in front of it? It shows you're connected to Band 12 (which is 700mhz range band).

I suspect based on your upload speed, that you are really close to a tower, because typically omni directional antennas have a low gain, and since they transmit every direction (and not only in one) a good upload speed is an indicator that the tower is nearby.

There's really no way to say if you will benefit from external antennas or not. I suspect though that if your SINR is really 0, then you have a couple cells nearby that are interferering with each other, and giving you a low SINR (really you want SINR as high as possible) A highly directional frequency specific antenna could help with this, as it will make the desired cell tower signal stronger, and reject others that aren't in the same direction. Granted, you have to aim the antenna properly for this to work.
ICIC.png
Above is an imagine to give you an idea of what i'm talking about visually. LTE has ways to over come this problem, which explains by the fact that it works (but this could explain why your SINR is so low, because you basically have two cells on the same frequency and you are referring them both equally, which effectively cancels out the desired one. Someone else in another thread recently had this issue as well)

Rizzader
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:17 am

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by Rizzader » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:10 am

Well good to know it most likely isn't a range issue then. Using Cell mapper, it does look like there are several towers within a 2-4 mile radius (Can't personally tell the distance from the map, but just based off how far the drives are to these locations I assume this range). I attached a picture showing some of the towers around me to the South and East. The red circle is the area of my house. Are band 2 and band 17 slower? I don't think I have ever seen my Nighthawk connect to those. Occasionally it will connect to 66, and that is when the speed really drops. Second picture is of two antennas to the north of me. Nothing to the West. Where it shows two towers, one of those is band 2 & 4 and the other is band 12 & 17. In that second pic, it does look like I am equal distance between the two band 12 towers, so your theory makes sense.


Is there an antenna on this site you would recommend me try? I plan on putting it outside on a pole or on my roof, so something that can take a little weather would be good. CAble recommendations and what adapters I would need to plug it into my Nighthawk wouldn't hurt either if you had the time :) Preferrably something that works with Verizon bands/frequency as well in case we ever do switch.
Attachments
Cell Signal.PNG
Capture 2.PNG

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by swwifty » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:33 pm

Yeah, thats basically what I expected. I've found too with small gain omni antennas, they tend to pick up multiple cells equally, or really close (if there is more than one in range).

https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/698-27 ... l-antenna/

I would do those antennas. They will do all LTE ranges, and any carrier.

The cables you will need will be an N-male to a TS-9. I'm not sure if they make any cables like that or not, or you'll have to go through an adapter.

One thing to keep in mind, you want the cables as short as possible, so you don't loose signal strength through the cable if its too long. Some folks mount their modems/routers outside in a water proof case to keep the cables as short as possible, then route the connections back into the house with an ethernet cable.

I don't know what your setup is like, but keep this in mind.

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by swwifty » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:35 pm

Oh, here's the adapters you need:

https://ltefix.com/shop/rf-connectors/t ... e-adapter/

then some length of this cable with a SMA male connector (N-male is already on the other end to connect to the antennas)

https://ltefix.com/shop/cables/lmr200-l ... al-cables/

I'd recommend reading my post about how I did my setup, to get a better idea.

http://ltehacks.com/viewtopic.php?f=37& ... 4f240357f6

I'd also recommend grounding everything properly as well, and water proofing your connectors properly.

Rizzader
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:17 am

Re: How much will an antenna improve signal

Post by Rizzader » Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:09 pm

Thanks, Swwifty. I appreciate all the information. Looks like the store only has one of those antennas in stock, but when more are in stock I plan on ordering a set with all adapters/cables.

Looks like you spent a good amount of time getting your setup together. If I could pull off downloads in the 60+ range, I would be ecstatic.

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