How can I improve my 4G signal speed?

Is there anything worse than slow Wi-Fi or a poor data connection? Waiting for a webpage to load or watching a video b-b-b-buffer. It is so frustrating! 

 

More and more people are now opting for 4G or 5G cellular connectivity in their homes, replacing fibre broadband that’s too slow. Many households are also using 4G/5G connectivity as a back up in the form of hybrid broadband. 

 

Why do people choose cellular broadband? Sometimes it’s because of the price of regular wireless broadband, which can be expensive – Especially in more rural areas where it’s also slow. In these instances, cellular signal if more often than not a faster option. 

 

4G LTE and 5G do have their own restrictions though. Slow data rates on 4G LTE and 5G are also common. But is there a way to improve your 4G signal speed and data rates?

 

How Can I Improve My 4G LTE or 5G Speed?

 

There are three main things you can try to help improve your 4G and 5G data rates:

  1. Update your Device

    If you are using old devices, you may only be connecting to older bands. Using a new phone, tablet, laptop or hotspot could help you to connect to new bands. The newer the device, the more likely they are to support a newer version of the 4G LTe or 5G spec, which would in turn bring you faster data rates.

  2. Try using External Antennas

    Many major carriers have hotspots that support external antenna ports. You may find that using an external antenna could help you to improve signal strength, signal quality and help you access bands that aren’t getting indoors. 

 

  1. You could try a Signal Booster

    The majority of phones (as well as some hotspots) do not have external antenna ports. If you are trying to improve data rates on your phone, you could use a signal booster. They work by amplifying your signal as well as increasing the signal strength of the signal. You can also use them alongside external antennas – They enable the rebroadcast of improved indoor signal.

What configurations can I use to improve 4G / 5G signal strength?

There are a couple of configurations that our Wi-Fi experts would recommend giving a go.

 

1. Latest Hotspot + Directional Outdoor Antennas

 

If you’re happy to use Wi-Fi for distributing your signal indoors, then you can use a hotspot (from your chosen carrier) used alongside external antennas which are mounted on the outside of the building.

Pros

  • If you already have a hotspot, this can prove highly cost-effective
  • Easy to support MIMO (multiple input, multiple output). Using multiple antennas can help improve performance
  • Offers the fastest available data rates
  • Using directional outdoor antennas can help improve signal to interference and noise ratio (SINR) as well as enabling you to access weaker outdoor bands, and improve MIMO performance


Cons

  • It requires a hotspot, with a line of service
  • Your system will be hard-wired. Mobile phones will be able to connect via Wi-Fi but won’t see better 4G/5G signal.

 

  1. 4G LTE or 5G Signal Booster + Directional Outdoor Antenna

 

A mobile signal booster is a great alternative if you don’t have a hotspot, don’t fancy one or simply cannot afford the monthly charges associated with adding a phone line. You may also just want to have wireless 4G / 5G coverage inside, which a mobile signal booster will give you. 

 

A mobile phone signal booster works by amplifying the signal from outdoors and then rebroadcasting it indoors via wireless. Thus getting you the best data rates. 

Pros

  • Provides wireless coverage for multiple devices
  • Will works with existing phones
  • You don’t need a hotspot or extra phone line
  • Using the directional outdoor antennas can help to improve SINR
  • A booster could enable you to connect to weaker bands

Cons

  • Boosters are SISO (single input, single output) with one antenna outside and one antenna inside. This means you cannot use MIMO with this option, and it decreases speeds by approximately 33% 
  • This option can be more expensive than external antennas

 

What can cause slow 4G / 5G data rates? 

 

If we’re trying our best to improve our 4G and 5G data rates, it would make sense to identify what actually causes rates to be slow. There are five main factors that can affect the 4G LTE / 5G data speeds you experience.

 

  1. The Signal Quality (SINR)

    The quality of signal in 4G / 5G networks is measuring in signal to interference and noise ratio (SINR). If you can increase your SINR, you can dramatically improve your data connection speed. As outlined above, you can improve your SINR by using a directional outdoor antenna, which can also be connected to a signal booster or directly to your 4G / 5G hotspot.

  2. The Number of Connected Bands

    Carrier Aggregation is when your phone (or hotspot) is able to use multiple bands to connect to the tower simultaneously. This means that the more bands you are connected to, the higher your data rates.

  3. The Signal Strength (Reference Signal Received Power)


You might be thinking that signal strength must be the most important factor, but it’s actually not. In 4G and 5G networks the RSRP signal strength certainly does matter, but it’s not the most important thing. Check your RSRP – If it’s already stronger than -100dBm, then having a stronger signal won’t help to increase your data rates. 

 

  1. Congestion

    As you can imagine, the more users there are on the tower, the lower your data rate is going to be. The congestion in the tower will also vary by band. In general, lower frequencies penetrate buildings more than higher frequencies. This means that the higher frequency bands are usually less congested. This means that using an outdoor antenna and connecting it directly to your hotspot or signal booster Ican really help you to access the less-congested bands.

  2. MIMO Support

    Using MIMO means that you can use multiple antennas to increase data rates by about 30%. The majority of mobile phone signal boosters are SISO (Single Input, Single Output) but you could install two systems in parallel to get a MIMO booster. 

  3. Throttling

    If you’re with a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, it means that the service provider does not own the wireless network infrastructure. This means that the main carrier’s network may treat your connection like a second-class citizen and find yourself throttled! Throttling may also occur if you use a lot of data per month. Throttling is how the service providers manage the data they provide – They can de-prioritise certain users and even stop their connection going over a certain speed.

 

Get in touch

If you’re struggling with wired broadband, and not getting the reliable internet connection you need in your rural business or home, then 4G / 5G could be a fantastic option for you.

It can feel like a big jump to give up on your wired broadband connection and opt for 4G – Which is where our Cell Coverage 4G survey comes in.

We can tell you exactly whether 4G broadband would work for you, and which network would be most reliable.

 

Geekabit Cellular Survey Launch

Is your business considering moving premises? Do you need to know whether a property has decent cellular and data coverage?

Here at Geekabit, we are delighted to launch our latest service when it comes to all things wireless. We understand how important it is to maintain a strong connection in any business premises – Whether that be in the office or at home.

Geekabit’s Cellular Survey

We are now offering internal 4G mobile phone coverage surveys. Why might you want one of these? Well, this would be perfect for our clients looking to map the availability of cellular and data coverage within a building. This is useful for when an organisation might be contemplating moving offices and want to ensure mobile phone signal coverage before signing on the dotted line.

It could also be very useful for landlords or estate agents who are selling business and residential properties. The strength of cellular reception is a common question from potential house buyers and tenants. People want to ensure that where they live and/or work will have strong mobile coverage. A cellular survey is the perfect way to prove your property has just this, and on what mobile networks.

Where else might you need to ensure strong, reliable cellular connection?

We can also carry out driven 4G and 5G surveys of external areas. This could be along a road, part of a transport network or throughout leisure facilities.

In this day and age, we take our need for connection wherever we go. We’re not tethered to a desk, and need reliable mobile coverage on the go. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or other device – We need to be able to stay connected with a strong and reliable signal.

Our 4G and 5G mobile surveys can tell you how strong the cellular coverage is in a certain area, and which networks would work best.

How do we report the results?

We can provide results, heatmaps and detailed reports measuring the details of phone coverage for 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G. We can measure the cellular connectivity, data upload and download speeds and the occurrence of dropped and failed calls for all the main mobile network operators.

Long before the pandemic, companies were beginning to realise the importance of cellular coverage – And the last 2 years have only spurred this need on. When it comes to investing in mobile enterprise, it’s vital for organisations to consider the Quality of Service and Quality of Experience their employees get from cellular coverage at work.

Whilst we have always been able to provide mobile phone coverage survey results for a fixed point, we can now provide this matched to geolocation data over a moving area, and on building plans and maps. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, we can also provide this information for 5G surveys.

The recorded data, provided in graphical and interactive formats, allows companies to drill down into the data and support investment in further mobile technologies.

A word from our Founder

Steve Cross, Founder of Geekabit, comments:

“Mobile phone coverage has continued to increase in importance, with a massive investment throughout the pandemic in mobile working technology. With the great shift in office working already happening, organisations are looking to ensure that mobile phone coverage in potential office locations will be suitable for their workforce. Our new internal cellular survey tool gives clients the opportunity to make sure there will be no issues with mobile phones and tablets when moving buildings or downsizing.”

Want to know more about our 4G and 5G surveys?

For further detail about the data which can be captured, or to discuss a potential project, please email our Wi-Fi experts at info@geekabit.co.uk and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.

What’s the difference between LTE and 5G?

There has been much hype surrounding 5G, relentlessly for years. Now as part of a global rollout we see 5G available in most major cities as well as some towns and more rural areas. Soon enough, we’ll be using 5G just as we use 4G as the standard.

But 5G is still new to the wireless scene. And for some, the question is – Do we really need 5G when we’ve got LTE?

Many of us are still depending on long-term evolution technology. Indeed, there are only a few areas in the UK that don’t have any LTE presence.

What is LTE?

LTE was first launched back in 2009, and whilst it took a number of years to become part of our national connectivity fabric, it is still now a standard for wireless communications.

The reason for its staying power is down to its reliability and stability – Leading many wireless users to wonder if they even need to move over to 5G.

What is the difference between 4G LTE and 5G?

It was necessary to identify LTE as an element of the 4G standard as many telecoms companies weren’t actually able to provide 4G speeds due to infrastructure. The regulator ITU-R (International Telegraph Union Radiocommunication) established LTE as a standard to show the progress being made towards true 4G.

The download/upload speeds of a particular standard can be different in theory and in practise. Whilst in theory, 4G LTE can achieve data transfer speeds of up to 150Mbps for downloading content and 50Mbps for upload speeds, in practise is is more likely to be 20Mbps and 10Mbps respectively.

These figures will vary depending on:

  • Location
  • Network deployment
  • Traffic

How does 5G compare to 4G LTE in terms of download speeds?

5G connectivity offers theoretical download speeds of up to 10Gbps. A pretty staggering difference! Of course in practise, it may not reach this, but even real-world examples seem to still be dwarfing the speeds of 4G LTE.

Why does 5G reach higher speeds?

5G uses a different spectrum to 4G – Called mmWave which are high-frequency bands. The higher speeds are mostly reached because these high frequency bands support more bandwidth than the ones that LTE uses. This means that more data can be transferred at once.

5G can also use frequencies above low-band but lower than 6GHz. Despite these not supporting the highest possible speeds, they will still outclass 4G LTE. It’s worth noting that 5G coverage could be further expanded by using connectivity below 6GHz, especially as walls and surfaces can block mmWave frequencies.

Basically, 5G uses a different spectrum to 4G LTE and thus:

  • Delivers stronger, faster connections
  • Has a higher capacity for traffic
  • Has low latency (1ms)

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it! It’s worth remembering that the rollout of 5G is still in its infancy, and therefore coverage is still limited. Before the big networks like EE, Three and Vodafone can deliver the top scope of what 5G has to offer, more work needs to be done.

So should we be choosing LTE or 5G?

As with most techy things, there are lots of factors, such as:

  • Your budget
  • Where you’re based
  • What your connectivity needs are – Personal or business

The more countries adopt and expand their 5G infrastructure, the more 5G-friendly hardware we will start to see. The best way to know whether to choose LTE or 5G is seeing what is on the market and whether it meets your needs.

You may find that some of the 5G devices available don’t have a 4G alternative. You may also find that they are rather on the pricey side! So definitely shop around.

Of course, the more 5G devices we see on the market, the more we will see the prices start to come down. So the time for adopting 5G over LTE may not be quite yet. Patience could also serve you more of the promises 5G has to offer – The more the 5G coverage continues to expand, the higher the speeds and the more consistent the connection to mmWave networks.

Since 2019, we’ve seen prices start to come down as competition in the market starts to heat up, but 5G is still costly. If you have a big budget then you could just go for it now, but we feel like the overall coverage, packages and prices will continue to rapidly improve. We’re inclined to hold out a bit longer and stick to LTE for the time being.

What about 5G for business?

If your business relies on heavily on connected sensors and other similar IoT networks then 5G may be the network you’ve been waiting for. The bandwidth and low latency that 5G could bring to your business cannot be easily ignored.

Think driverless cars navigation and smart sensors – 5G could well be the communications technology that will enable some great and creative deployments.

What are the health concerns associated with 5G?

With 5G comes questions about whether it could harm our health. Do you remember when mobile phones were beginning to emerge into mainstream use and there was much anxiety about what the radio waves were doing to our health? Mobile telephone has never been without concerns, but 5G seems to have evoked more than its fair share of health worries.

The installation of 5G masts have been banned in multiple UK locations. And it’s not just parts of the UK that are opposed to 5G – Back in 2017 180 scientists from 36 different countries made a public appea to the EU to pause their plans of 5G expansion whilst investigations were carried out looking at the long-term effects on human health.

Whilst both 4G and 5G use radio waves, 5G uses higher frequency waves. It’s these high frequency waves that provide better network capacity and speed.

Studies that have looked into any potential health risks from 5G haven’t seemed to identify any specific danger from 5G.

What is the future for LTE and 5G?

With the rise of 5G comes potentially society-changing connectivity – Like self-driving cars.

But technological advances can be slow if not steady. Whilst there is definitely potential for 5G to take over, it could take considerable time for 5G-enabled devices to really take hold of the market. Even from the likes of Apple!

There is still space for 4G LTE in our networks, and whilst it may be 5G’s predecessor, it’s not going anywhere just yet.

Research from Ericsson suggests that the dominant cellular network technology seen in most regions globally is still 4G LTE. 78% of mobile subscriptions in Western Europe in fact! Just because the 5G rollout is well underway, doesn’t mean that everyone will immediately jump ship and drop 4G LTE. It’s expected that 4G LTE will still be the dominant network even 5 years from now.

By 2026 Western Europe is predicted to be using 5G in 69% of all mobile subscriptions. However, Ericssons findings suggest that even as 5G usage surges, 4G LTE won’t automatically decline. It’s even predicted that 4G LTE availability will grow, with global coverage of 95% by 2026, with 5G only seeing 60% in those 5 years.

There is no denying that 5G is the future for telecoms. But by the time we are all accustomed to using it, 6G might well be on the way! Despite 5G becoming more prevalent as time passes, we still think there’s no need to be abandoning 4G just yet.