My 4G direct line of sight INTERNET connection
After too many promises by Orange and 7 years of waiting! my frustration of Orange’s lack of concern over the poor quality fixed line connection was peaking beyond belief. I am a heavy user of the net and need a connection of reliability and capacity capable of carrying large video files for my You tube channels.
You can imagine my joy when I hear that many of the mobile service providers have flicked the switch to the marvellous 4G otherwise known as LTE. This now widely used mobile Internet service has made smooth and progressive content uploading a thing to appreciate. The days of broken connections and slow speeds are now a thing of the past.
This is great but when you need the 4G to be broadcast into your home as if you had a home type Internet package. Some education is needed to be sure you will get the clean connection we all strive for. This may sound almost impossible but it is achievable if you have a Cell tower nearby.
All sounds good would you say? but there is some work and investigation you need to do:
- do you have a cell tower nearby that carries 4G?
- what is the maximum MBPS for your chosen cell tower?
- which cell tower is the closest?
- where can I install my antenna?
- how high does my antenna need to be?
- which provider is best for me?
- what equipment do I need?
- how much will it cost?
Do you have a cell tower nearby?
This may seem obvious but depending where you are based and your providers government commitments will dictate to how many and how up to date the equipment is. Everybody’s circumstances will be different but I can only advise with my own findings. I devised a simple process of educating myself as to where the towers are using the Cellmapper site online which gives information on cell tower positions and what carriers use that tower. We found Orange tends to have it’s own towers but the French providers Bouygues, SFR and Free use 3rd party masts. We decided to use Free.fr as the service was of good value at 19.99e per month at the time of writing for 100GB of monthly download bandwidth.
My approach to collect data using the Cellmapper app was to locate all my local antennas upto 20km away. Once I found them on the map I jumped in the car and located each tower and set out to get download rates for said towers using the Speedtest.net app and then noted the speed on the map. So now I have a map covered in dots with my home location in the middle and speed tested tower locations. I selected the four fasted and closest towers and drew lines intersecting my home location. With keeping North North I used a protractor or a compass rose to extract the angles of the line hence the direction in degrees of each mast from my home location.
I now know the location, orientation and speed of the available towers.
Learning the Equipment?
Well it is great that we have the service data from my chosen provider free.fr but now I have to select suitable antennas that are capable of receiving a strong signal from our weak 4G mobile phone coverage that is currently available at our home. Using my LGG4 currently we only benefit from 2MBPS download on 3G as we are in non listed coverage area. It is clear that the 4G is weak and almost non existent so we must use powerful aerials.
The power of the aerials is measured in decibels (db) and basically the higher the decibel gain is the best chance you have in getting a good result.
You may see lot’s of aerials / antennas advertised with high db gain but many are a hoax and these companies are lying to you with their ridiculous claims.
A18 db Yagi directional antenna is available on Amazon but be aware you will require two antennas on the same mast.
Follow this link: https://amzn.to/2HjpVBd for the UK
Follow this link: https://amzn.to/2HggzlD for France
4G or otherwise known as LTE requires two directional antennas or a combination panel antenna. For my situation which is a location of practically no signal whatsoever with my phone. I decided for twin directional antennas boasting 28db each. Strong signal is possible with these boosting antennas but there is a ‘But’ and that is we have to consider the terrain and the ‘Line of Sight’ of the chosen cell tower. Luckily we are on a similar level and I only need to consider the obstruction by trees etc. Thankfully this is easily overcome by increasing the height of the antennas by mounting them on a mast several metres high.
Each provider uses its preferred radio frequency for transmitting and receiving the 4G LTE service. You need to know what frequency your provider is using so you can choose an antenna combination that satisfies the requirements. As a ‘Rule of Thumb’ you may find your provider may select a lower frequency such as 800mhz for use in town as that frequency band can carry more data but the range is reduced. The higher frequencies like the 1800mhz used by Free.fr is better suited to rural areas due to it’s improved range. The new 5G roll out will not be for many years and is not likely to be available in rural areas! The reason for this is that the micro antenna system has very low range and a weak signal that cannot penetrate walls or even rain. Now for 5G to be useful a network of these small repeater antennas will need to be installed at short range of each other so for rural use I just don’t see that the cost of installing rurally is economically viable.
The mast is made from 40mm diameter TV mast tubing and mounted to the house with my DIY welded bracket. The bracket was made with adjustment in mind so with the mast fully extended the antenna can be rotated for seeking the best signal.
Once you have the mast installed and antennas mounted pointing in the direction in degrees of the cell-tower you previously selected, you now need to connect the two cables to the antennas and fathom a route to your preferred 4G modem location.
The 4G modem choice? Well there are a few brands but they can be separated into groups but I will discuss here two main versions. Firstly, ask yourself if you will require portability for instance:
Will you be installing the system in your motorhome? If the answer is yes then a portable 4G modem may be your best option as it has it’s own power source in the form of a lithium battery which can be charged via a 12 volt lighter socket or wired to a 12 volt breaker.
If you are looking for a system purely for the home (a fixed ‘non portable’ system) then I can easily recommend 4G units made by the Chinese brand ‘Huawei’ because this is what we use and have done since December 2017 without any major issues. These ‘Huawei’ are affordable but there are other brands that we have no experience of, anyway this article is not a product review but an overview of our experience of installing a 4g home based internet system! The Huawei modem model we use is the Huawei LTE CPE B593 which came with two on board aerials but they were of no use as our signal was non existent. The only option we had was the two directional antennas.
The ‘Huawei LTE CPE B593’ is no longer available but a newer version ‘Huawei B315’ is available on Amazon if you click the link below. Remember your router must not be tied to a Network so must be unlocked unless you are using a sim for the provider your device is locked too.
https://amzn.to/2qNix69 for the UK
https://amzn.to/2HPRrDk for France
These routers provide home WIFI, LAN and Telephone solutions so an all round device.
You may ask yourself: why do I need to install these high gain antennas as we already get 4G in the house? the answer is “Power and Reliability”. Your home is already full of electrical radiation which will severely degrade your 4G signal. Just having full bars on your smartphone is not enough for a decent house setup especially If you consider that we benefit from up to 80 mbps on our 4G system after having NO signal in the house I can just imagine the benefits you could receive by installing thus mentioned: ‘4G LTE internet system’ with dedicated directional antennas. This is a no brainer and can be completed for under 300e which can be recouped as the monthly subscription to Free.fr is only 19.99e per month including free calls and we were paying with Orange 45e per month so that’s a 25e saving. Orange also has a policy of charging 50e cancellation if you decide to move away from their platform and I certainly will never return as a result! I am not suggesting you should move away from an already good connection in favour of a 4G system but this suggested approach is a viable solution when like us your available land-line based internet is extremely poor and does not meet your needs.
Once you have all the hardware installed then you just need to setup the modem which is very easy. I assume you already have chosen your 4G provider and received the SIM card? This sim just needs installing into the modem. Obviously your chosen modem may be different so I wont describe in detail but you are likely to need to login into the modem via it’s WIFI or LAN connection and then add the sim unlock code just like the code you put into your mobile phone when you first turn it on. There may be some parameters you will need to add such as your providers ‘APN’ settings such as the Free.fr example below:
MMSC :Non défini (ne rien renseigner)
Type d’APN :default
This is all that should be required for your new installation and you should be able to enjoy the benefits of fast and reliable internet and phone connections.
I hope you have found this article interesting if not entirely relevant for your current situation but I do wish that it may of give you some insight and some direction to what solution is right for your location.
Please feel free to share but I do ask that you reference it ‘Marcus Kett’