Could 4G Boosters on Church Towers Improve Rural Wi-Fi in the UK? 

Using OpenRAN (Open Radio Access Network) technology, Vodafone are working alongside the Church of England to help extend mobile broadband via 4G for those in rural parts of the UK. They are doing this by utilising 11 church bell towers as base stations for the deployment of this small bits of kit. 

Which Rural Communities Will Benefit From These Church-Based 4G Base Stations?

The first to be installed were Brompton Regis (Blessed Virgin Mary Church) in Somerset and Ewyas Harold (St Michael’s and All Angels) in Herefordshire. 

9 further church-based 4G base stations will be going live over the next few months across the following counties:

  • Dorset
  • Essex
  • Norfolk
  • Wiltshire

Why Do Churches Make Good Base Stations for 4G Mobile Broadband? 

Generally speaking, churches are tall buildings that are often found on high ground, as well as being at the heart of communities. This makes them the ideal location to install a mobile site to help boost 4G mobile broadband connectivity for these communities. 

Even better, current technology means that the base stations are small enough to not spoil the architecture and tone of the churches themselves.

Vodafone’s aim is to use this technology to improve connectivity and better reach these rural communities that struggle so much with traditional broadband. 4G mobile broadband via these church-based base stations could be a huge step forward in connectivity for rural communities across the country. 

Rural communities deserve to access good, strong, reliable internet speeds like anyone else, and boosting 4G mobile broadband in this way could be just the thing to deliver it. 

How Do These 4G Base Stations on Churches Work? 

These 4G mobile broadband base stations are called new cell sites and involve small cells in the form of well-hidden boxes being employed on church towers. 

These new cell sites have a coverage radius of 500 metres, so are ideal to serve the community based around the church itself which is usually close by. 

The Idea of Church-Based 4G Base Stations is Actually Nothing New

Church spires and towers have been identified as a prime place for bits of mobile and fixed wireless broadband kit before, so this idea is nothing new. It’s been done many times before! 

A previous agreement between the Church of England and Cornerstone (Vodafone UK and O2’s network sharing division) was made back in 2019. 

But while the premise might not be new, we still think any action taken to improve the connectivity of rural communities across England and the UK is a great step towards access to reliable broadband for all. 

Do You Need Wi-Fi Assistance? 

For Wi-Fi and Mobile Broadband Assistance for your business across Hampshire, Cardiff and London, get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts today. Our experienced and professional engineers are on hand to help with your Wi-Fi woes as well as determine if 4G mobile broadband could be a viable option for you.

Call us or email us today.

London Underground: 5G Deployed by Virgin Media O2 UK 

Last month, VMO2 became the last of the four primary mobile providers to begin their deployment of their ultrafast 5G mobile broadband service on the London Underground. 

Their 5G mobile broadband has been deployed on the:

  • Central Line – Between Queensway and Holland Park
  • Northern Line – Between Kentish Town and Archway 

5G Mobile Broadband on the Central Line

If you are a commuter on the Central Line, the Underground tunnels between Queensway and Holland Park now have 4G and 5G services following the new roll out. 

You should experience seamless connectivity when travelling through these stations. 

Nestled between Queensway and Holland Park is Notting Hill Gate Station, which has now been upgraded to be a fully 5G station. This means that Central Line platforms and ticket halls at this station will now have this latest mobile network available. 

The stations at Queensway and Holland Park have now had 4G introduced. 

With thanks to https://www.london-tube-map.info/central-line/ for the image

5G Mobile Broadband on the Northern Line

As a commuter on the Northern Line, you should now be able to connect to 5G from Archway to Tufnell Park stations. 

Kentish Town station will also now have 4G connectivity. 

With thanks to https://www.london-tube-map.info/northern-line/ for the image

Shared Platform from Boldyn Networks 

The same network platform from BAI Communications (Boldyn Networks) is being shared by all of the primary operators.

Transport for London have a 20 year concession deal with BAI. This allows them to build the infrastructure needed for fibre-fed mobile connectivity, and then make it available via wholesale. 

Revolutionised Commuting in the Capital

Having Underground connectivity has long been a dream for commuters travelling around London using the tube. 

Chief Commercial Officer for VMO2, Gareth Turpin, says:

“For the first time, our customers can access the latest 5G mobile services deep under London. This is set to revolutionise commuting in the capital, and in the weeks and months ahead we’ll be rolling out ultrafast mobile services at more Tube stations, in tunnels and on platforms to bring high-speed connectivity to our customers as they travel on the Underground.

This is part of our commitment to upgrading the UK and ensuring customers can access our network wherever they are.”

When will all of the London Underground have 4G / 5G mobile broadband connectivity?

The network coverage is set to expand further throughout this year. 

Back in 2020, earlier work by TfL and other mobile operators meant that there are already 4G services on the Jubilee Line between Canning Town and Westminster stations. 

Last month we saw the additions on the Central and Northern Lines outlined above. 

The target is for ticket halls, platforms and Underground tunnels throughout the London Underground network to have 4G and 5G connectivity by the end of 2024. 

Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements! 

Could Mobile Broadband Be Right For You?

If you think your rural home or business could benefit from 4G / 5G mobile broadband then please get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts. We operate across the South of England out of Hampshire, covering West Sussex, Dorset and the Isle of Wight. We are specialists in designing and deploying mobile broadband networks for those who struggle with the more traditional forms of broadband internet. 

4G and 5G Mobile Broadband Antennas: Frequently Asked Questions

Last week we blogged about 4G and 5G antennas – How to choose them and how to install them. If you are planning to choose and install your 4G/5G mobile broadband antenna yourself, then you might end up asking one or more of the below commonly asked questions. 

As always, if you’re feeling unsure about which antenna you need or how best to install it, then perhaps consider calling in the experts.

Otherwise, let’s have a look at some of the questions that might arise when you’re installing a new 4G/5G mobile broadband antenna. 

4G/5G Mobile Broadband Antennas – Frequently Asked Questions and Handy Hints

Q: My antenna works better on a window than it does outside – Why is this?

Unfortunately when it comes to installing 4G/5G mobile broadband antennas, the most logical solution isn’t necessarily the right one for your property. Hence why sometimes you might find that despite doing everything correctly, you find that your signal and data speed is better indoors (e.g. from your smartphone) than it is the correctly positioned external antenna. This could include getting a better signal and speed from an antenna on a window rather than the top of your property. 

If you find yourself in a situation like this, then the best course of action is to understand the signal readings and bands being used as best you can at various locations around your property. 

Remember that; 

  • Mobile signals can be affected by lots of things – Such as reflections from environmental objects and even the weather. 
  • The router you use can also mix things up by automatically switching bands which could result putting you on one with a slower speed. 

The best way to get an idea of how your antenna and router are responding to the signal is to test different locations around your property and take some measurements. 

Q: How do I know which is the best mobile service for my area? 

There are a couple of ways you could go about this. If you have a friend or colleague on a different network to you, then you can ask to borrow their smartphone and test out the broadband speed in different locations. 

For accurate results when doing this, try to ensure;

  • You test out all the available networks 
  • Use a smartphone that is as up to date as possible 
  • Use a handset on a Pay Monthly SIM (they are less likely to have data restrictions that a PAYG)

You could also consider calling an expert to carry out these tests for you. Our friendly and knowledgeable engineers can visit your property (home or business) and perform no-obligation tests to ensure that a suitable 4G signal and speed can be achieved at your property, and advise on the best equipment and hardware to attain optimum speeds. We do this with specialist signal analysers that provide printable reports showing the best setup.

Q: What is Carrier Aggregation (LTE Advanced) and does my router need it? 

Carrier Aggregation, or CA, means that the router can boost performance by combining several different radio spectrum bands at once. 

You should find that most of the latest 5G networks and urban 4G deployments support CA. 

Unfortunately it’s possible that some rural areas are not reached and so are not supported. However, it’s wise to buy kit that does support CA to ensure you are covered. You should get support for a good selection of bands and speeds from modern mobile routers.

Some things to look out for;

  • Devices that support the 3GPP release 10 standard (they also support LTE-Advanced).
  • From Release 12 and onwards, CA became much more refined.
  • 5G features tend to start from Release 14 and onwards.
  • LTE Categories – These can help you to identify the theoretical peak downlink and uplink speed of a 4G modem. The higher the category, the higher the download/ upload data handling capacity. Remember though, these are theoretical peaks and even on the best networks with optimum signal, lots of CA and capacity you might still not reach that peak.

Q: How do I know which connector I need for my 4G/5G mobile antenna? 

Wouldn’t it be simple if all mobile routers and antennas came with the same external port type? Unfortunately, they don’t – In fact, some routers don’t even allow external antennas! 

Before buying your kit, make sure that both the router and the antenna are compatible with each other in terms of connectors and sockets. 

Types of connector you are likely to come across are:

  • SMA (most common)
  • TS-9
  • CRC9
  • RP-SMA
  • TNC
  • BNC
  • N-Type
  • MMCX
  • FME
  • U.FL.

Already bought the kit and found that the connectors don’t match up? Don’t panic – You should be able to buy an adaptor cable to convert two different types of connector. 

Q: What is a CELL ID and how can I use it to fix performance issues? 

A CELL_ID is the number your device will show for the mast or tower that it’s getting it’s signal from. So where you might not be able to see what band is being used (some devices and apps won’t show you this information) you can still see what the CELL_ID is and whether it changes. 

If the CELL_ID number changes, this means that the signal is coming from a different source. This could indicate that the band has also changed. Monitoring this information can help you work out any issues with performance. 

Q: I’ve got bad signal with good speed, and bad speed with good signal – What is happening?

Unfortunately, a good signal doesn’t automatically mean good speed. We know, it doesn’t seem fair does it?

The reason this can happen is that you could be receiving an excellent signal, but the band you are connected to is congested with lots of users. 

You could also have great signal, but little capacity to carry data through not enough spectrum frequency. 

It also works the other way – You could have a poor signal but find you’ve got decent speeds. Yes we know it seems bonkers. Mobile signals can be affected by various factors so the best thing to do is to keep on testing until you work it out! Or call in the experts and let us do the hard work for you. 

Q: I can see I’ve got good mobile signal from the antenna, but I’m still having connection problems – Why? 

Remember that your connection is only as good as your router. You could receive a strong, fast signal to your correctly located antenna, but the Wi-Fi (ie. the signal from your router to your device) is poor, resulting in connection problems. 

Your mobile broadband router needs to be able to take the signal from your antenna and transfer it to your device. You can find more tips on how to fix common Wi-Fi problems (like your router location) on our blog

How do you know whether it’s the antenna that’s the problem or the Wi-Fi? The easiest way to test where the issue is, is to plug your device into the router through a LAN port. If the signal and connection is still poor, then it’s your antenna. If the signal and connection is strong, then the problem lies with the Wi-Fi. 

Hopefully this blog has helped iron out some of the commonly asked questions when it comes to installing a 4G/5G mobile broadband antenna and some of the issues you might run into. 

If you are still feeling unsure about whether 4G/5G mobile broadband could be the right option for you, or you would like some expert help with choosing and installing the kit, please get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts today

How To Choose and Install an External 4G or 5G Mobile Broadband Antenna

Like with so many of our utilities, we only really notice them when there’s a problem or they’re not working properly. Wi-Fi is just the same! Just like when the power goes out, if your Wi-Fi is on the blink then you know about it – And it is so frustrating! 

Whilst most people are lucky enough to connect to superfast broadband through a wired connection, there are also many rural homes that cannot access and connect to broadband or internet in the same straightforward way. 

Here at Geekabit, we work with lots of people – Businesses and homes – who struggle with the more traditional ways of connecting to the internet and have to turn to mobile broadband through 3G, 4G and 5G. 

And again, many people are lucky to have a business or home within range of a strong enough UK mobile broadband network.

‘Could I benefit from an external antenna?’

There are some more remote rural homes and businesses that find themselves struggling to connect to mobile broadband too. If your business or home is:

– Unable to connect to a decent fixed line ISP 

– Within range of a mobile broadband alternative but find it unstable on various operators

Then you might find it beneficial to get an external antenna installed. But which one do you need? 

Are External Mobile Broadband Antennas Easy to Install?

In terms of actually installing an external antenna, it’s actually pretty straightforward. All you need to do is choose a high, stable location on the outside wall of your house near the roof, and screw the antenna on. Remember to make sure it’s pointing in the right direction (ie. towards the nearest mast). 

You might also choose to mount your antenna on a pole to raise it higher than your house. If you’re going for this option, always make sure that it is stable and won’t cause any damage to the building you are mounting it to. It’s also worth liaising with your local authority before installing a large pole as in some areas, a tall pole could be in breach of planning rules. 

You will also need to drill the cable into the house – It’s very important to avoid any other electrical cables and water pipes whilst you are doing this as well as sealing up the holes afterwards. 

It’s also pretty important to keep the position of your router in mind. Will it be placed near the where the cable feeds into the building? Ideally, the cable between your antenna and router needs to be 5 metres or less otherwise you could find yourself struggling with interference and/ or signal loss. 

If that all feels a little daunting then you can hire a professional installer to do the job for you – Our expert Wi-Fi engineers here at Geekabit can do just this! We operate out of Hampshire, London and Cardiff.  

Whilst the physical aspects of installing an external antenna are quite straightforward, it’s not always easy to choose the right kit. The radio spectrum is variable by nature, which makes it very dependent on your environment. You might manage to install the antenna but not get the outcome you were expecting. 

What antenna you need depends on your specific location and needs. This blog will outline some of the options that could be right for you. Sometimes it’s a case of trial and error to find the right antenna for you – But that’s where it might be best to leave it in expert hands. 

‘Do I need an Omni-directional or Directional antenna?’

When it comes to installing an external antenna, the first thing you need to decide is whether you need an Omni-directional antenna or a Directional antenna. 

Choosing a Directional antenna

If you know where your nearest mast is and have a clear line of sight, then the Directional antenna might be the one for you. Whilst it’s weaker in other directions, the Directional antenna will have higher reception in one direction, hence why it works well for a clear line of sight with the mast or base station. This is often the better choice if you live or work in a rural area. 

What problems can you have with a Directional antenna? 

Using a Directional antenna can run into issues if the station is congested or goes out of service. E.g. during upgrades. 

Choosing an Omni-directional antenna

If you live or work in a more urban, built up area and aren’t sure where the nearest mast is then an Omni-directional antenna could be the better option for you. Whilst they have a lower overall gain, they are able to attract similar reception from all directions. Because the Omni is looking at a wider area, you may find that it provides better reliability. 

Generally, if you are finding and installing an external antenna yourself, then the Omni-directional antenna is probably the one to try first. 

What problems can you have with an Omni-directional antenna? 

It’s possible that because it’s looking at a wider area, the Omni could attract more interference. If you are able to utilise a well positional Directional antenna then you could get better performance that way. 

‘How much power does my external antenna need?’

So you’ve decided whether you need an Omni-directional or Directional antenna. What do you need to consider next? 

You’ll notice that antennas have gain figures in dB / dBi – This is how the power of the antenna is measured. 

In simple terms, the gain of an antenna is the relative measure of its ability to direct radio frequency energy in a certain direction or pattern. What do the gain (dB / dBi) figures on an antenna mean?

We could go into a lot of complicated detail here, but seeing as we’re writing this blog for someone looking to buy and install their own external antenna, we’ll keep it super simple. 

Basically, the higher the gain (dB / dBi) the better the antenna’s performance and range. Obviously, the higher the gain, the more expensive the antenna will cost. 

When you are at this stage of choosing your antenna, it is worth knowing what bands your mobile operator uses so that you can ensure how the different gain values given for an antenna correspond to the spectrum band you will be using. 

‘Choosing an external antenna – What are the challenges?’ 

As we said above, when you are installing a new external antenna, it’s really important to know:

  • Where and which direction the signal is coming from 
  • How strong the signal is
  • Which bands are being used in your local area by local operators

These are some of the biggest challenges you’ll face when installing your antenna. 

‘How can I find out the spectrum information I need to choose an antenna?’

If you go online to mobile operator’s websites you can find coverage checkers (Vodafone, Three UK, O2 and EE (BT)), but these can be rather vague and not always accurate. It’s worth comparing to what Ofcoms Mobile Coverage Checker says too.

Perhaps the best way to identify which bands are being used by your local operator is to download a relevant app or look up the mobile network details on your Smartphone or router. 

These apps will often just tell you the band number for your own operator rather than tell you the spectrum frequency. You’ll find that operators tend to own several bands, but usually use one band for national connectivity. 

What are the most common 4G Mobile Bands in the UK?

800MHz (Band 20)

900MHz (Band 8)

1800MHz (Band 3)

2100MHz (Band 1)

2300MHz (Band 40)

2600MHz (Band 7)

Remember that 5G uses a different band model and is currently only deployed on the 3.4GHz band. 

‘How do I know where my nearest mast is for installing my new antenna?’

So you’ve made sense of the bands on offer in your area from local operators. Next you need to work out where your nearest mast is and whether it’s the most appropriate for your location. Unfortunately it’s not always the option that looks most logical! 

When you’re choosing the most appropriate mast for your use, you need to consider the following:

  • Forms and features of local land surfaces (artificial and natural)
  • Local surroundings
  • Operator choice

There are apps and websites that can help with this such as Mastdata.com and Cellmapper.net. The Opensignal app could also be of use.

Did you know that operators also have sharing agreements with each other? Just to make things a little more complicated. For example, there is a sharing agreement between Vodafone and O2 as well as between EE and Three. What does this mean? Well it means that a mast could be serving more than one operator. 

How do I use signal strength information to position my external antenna?’ 

If you are able to gain an understanding of signal strength in a few different measurements, then you are more likely to position your antenna correctly. 

Signal strength is measured in quite a few different ways, so we’re going to just focus on a few that you are most likely to encounter. These are:

  • Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI)
  • Reference Signals Received Power (RSRP)
  • Reference Signal Received Quality (RSRQ)

These measurements are given by a negative dBm (decibel milliWatts) value. In this situation, negative values are actually good (most of the time). They are negative because they represent tiny yet positive numbers on a logarithmic scale, making them easier to consume. For example, -100dBm would be 0.0000000001 mW.

What is a good RSSI signal? Essentially, the closer to 0 dBm, the better the RSSI signal (although it does get more complicated past a certain point with diminishing returns of data speed). An example of excellent 4G RSSI signal would be -65 dBm. A poor RSSI signal would be -85 dBm. 

RSRP works on a similar scale to RSSI, where an excellent 4G RSRP signal would be -80 dBm.  

RSRQ operates on a very different scale, which means that an excellent signal is anything from around -10 dB (not dBm) and a poor signal would be -20 db.

Interestingly, most mobile modems are able to maintain a pretty fast data connection using a poor signal. Problems may arise however in more rural areas where speeds are slower and stability poorer due to the distance from a mast. 

What factors are most likely to affect signal strength? 

  • Distance to mast
  • Interference from competing signals
  • Router band switching
  • Physical obstacles in the environment like buildings, tall trees etc
  • The weather

Of course, these factors are not in your control, but you need to bear them in mind when positioning your antenna in order to get the best signal possible. 

Feeling confident about choosing and installing your external antenna?

If you are about to choose and install an external antenna to improve your 3G, 4G or 5G mobile broadband signal, then hopefully this blog has given you some of the basic information you need to make your decisions. 

If you’re still feeling a bit daunted, then why not get in touch with one of our Wi-Fi experts? We’ve been installing mobile broadband for clients in and around Hampshire, Cardiff and London for a while and can help identify which antenna solution would best suit your needs. Get in touch today! 

4G LTE Antenna – What Do I Need to Consider? 

If you are using a 4G LTE broadband connection, or plan to, then you’ll need to be considering your external antenna. 

 

4G broadband is a fantastic option if you struggle with a standard broadband connection, especially if you live or work in a more rural area. Over the past few years we’ve seen a big uptake in 4G and mobile broadband options – For homeowners as well as businesses. 

 

What you don’t want is to switch to mobile broadband, and then end up with download speeds that are lower that what you were expecting. Whilst this may simply be down to poor reception, there are some other factors that can come into play. 

 

So, with you as the user, what considerations do you need to make to ensure your 4G mobile broadband connection will be the strongest it can be?

 

Did you know that LTE is MiMo technology?

LTE, like 11n Wi-Fi, is a multi-stream radio, multiple in/multiple out (MiMo) service. So similarly to 11n Wi-Fi, LTE uses multiple radio data streams to and from the end client – Which means the more streams of data the client can take, the faster the broadband. 

Just like in 11n Wi-Fi, the number of streams is T (the number of transmit radio streams) multiplied by R (the number of receive streams the connection can support) so TxR. This means that if something supports 2×2 streams, it can support twice the upload and download speed of a device with 1×1. In 4G LTE, you get anything from 1×1 to 8×8 stream capability (including all the possible mixes in between them). 

The number of transmit and receive streams dictates how many antennas the client needs. So for a 1×1 service, you would only need a single antenna. For a 2×2 service you would need 2 antenna. You get the idea. 

A connection can only support the number of streams the service provider is capable of via their masts. It is also dependent on the client device and its radio capabilities. 

The majority of devices – Like phones and routers – have dual stream capabilities. 

 

Choices of Antenna

If you’ve already been looking for a 4G LTE antenna then you’ll likely already have realised that there can be a difference in price. One of the main differences between antennas will be, as we said above, the number of connections they have. 

 

As you’ll have probably guessed, the more connections they have, the picier the get. So a 2×2 (or 2×1 or 2×2) device will cost more than a 1×1 device. You’ll typically see a choice between single (1×1) and dual connection (2×2) antennas. 

 

In most scenarios, you will be wanting a dual connection (2×2) antenna so that it supports the functionality of your router and other devices with dual stream, MiMo functionality.

 

But how do you know if the antenna will be any good? 

 

That comes down to polarisation. There needs to be a physical difference between the radio streams so that the receiver can differentiate between them. This can be as simple as mounting the antennas, leaving a physical gap between them of a few inches. 

 

It’s also a good idea to have each antenna at a different angle – Ideally at 90 degrees to each other. This is because although the radio waves might leave the mast in a lovely vertically polarised fashion, after a few reflections they will likely not be like that any more. Setting up the antenna so that they can also receive radio waves that are no longer vertically polarised will mean you will better receive the signal – A cross shape would achieve this. 

 

Do I need a Directional or Omni-Directional Antenna Set Up? 

Whilst it might be tempting to just opt for the highest gain directional antenna, this isn’t actually always the best choice – For 4G LTE or Wi-Fi. 

 

If you imagine a radio wave travelling from the mast to your receiver, with nothing in the way, it would have a straightforward route and an uninterrupted signal. In real life, this is unfortunately not the case. The signal cannot go through anything solid, so whenever something gets in its way, it reflects and scatters from those objects until it reaches the antenna. This means that the radio signal could come to your receiver from all different directions. 

 

Directional antenna, although high gain, have limited coverage in terms of their angle. So with radio waves potentially coming in in all directions, the directional antenna is going to cause you problems. 

 

The best situation for a directional antenna is when there is a clear line of sight between the mast and the mount of the antenna – Which is not a very common thing. 

 

The omni-directional antenna might well be lower gain, but it should pick up the signal regardless of what directional the radio waves are coming from. 

 

The best way to improve the signal you receive is to mount the antenna outside and as high up as possible.

 

Directional Antenna Pros

  • Can occasionally give a better, stronger and cleaner signal when carefully aligned with line of sight 
  • With a clear line of sight (and no ambiguity) then a directional antenna would be preferred choice

Directional Antenna Cons

  • Careful alignment with line of sight can be very tricky
  • Without line of sight, you have to rely on how it reflects and scatters
  • Changes in environment can result in how the signal is reflected (e.g. something as simple as a dry wall reflects better than a wet wall)
  • It is harder for the system to switch to a different mast (this could be dictated by the provider)

 

Omni-Directional Antenna Pros

  • Easy and quick installation (no tricky, careful alignment needed)
  • It is easy for the system to change transmitter masts
  • Antenna can be mounted outdoors, making a significant improvement in signal despite the lower fain

 

Omni-Directional Antenna Cons

  • In comparison to the directional antenna, the omni has lower gain
  • Can be more susceptible to radio frequency interference coming from different directions

 

Frequency Bands

There are a number of frequency bands that are used for 4G LTE in the UK. There’s the 800MHz band, the 1400MHz / 1.4GHz band, the 1800MHz / 1.8GHz band, the 2100MHz / 2.6GHz band, the 2300MHz / 2.3GHz band, and the 2600MHz / 2.6GHz band.

 

Although not set in stone, you generally find that the lower frequency bands are used more in rural areas due to them having longer transmission range than the higher frequencies and having to cover a larger geographical area. The higher band would likely be used more in built up towns and cities. 

 

What does this mean for antenna? Well, it means that you, as the end user, need to ensure that your antenna will support the service and frequency band of your provider. If you are sensible and savvy, you will choose an antenna that can cover the different frequency bands in case your service/provider changes. 

 

Stream Bandwidth

The available spectrum is divided and allocated between providers into sub-bands. The connection you get as the end client will depend (and vary) on how many clients the local signal mast can support as well as the bandwidth. 

 

If you live or work in a high user area, the density will mean that you may struggle with throughput speed or even getting a connection in the first place! 

 

What high user density situations could impact your 4G connection? Well, if you live near a football stadium or a busy motorway, you may find that on match day or during a bad traffic jam, your internet connection comes to a standstill as well! 

 

Which Antenna Do I Need for my 4G LTE Connection? 

 

How do you choose? Let’s take a look again at the main considerations you need to think about to ensure the best possible connection. 

 

Single or Dual Antenna

 

Does your router only have a single antenna connector? If so, then you should probably choose an external antenna with a single connector. 

 

If your router has a dual stream connection then you need to choose an antenna with 2 connectors. You could also choose two single connection antennas. 

 

Remember – If the local signal mast sends out a 1×1 service, then that’s all you’re going to get, even if you have a router and antenna set up that supports 2×2. Having the 2×2 compatible service won’t see you any difference if it’s a 1×1 signal service.  

 

Directional or Omni-Directional Antenna? 

We’re not trying to tell you what to do… But our Wi-Fi expert’s advice would be, in most scenarios, to go for an omni-directional antenna. As we mentioned above, it’s tempted to just go straight for the antenna with the biggest gain, usually the directional, when you could face very tricky alignment issues. Very few properties, business or home, have a clear line of sight between their local mast and their antenna. Unless you have this clear line of sight, then an omni is the best option.  

Correct frequency

Remember to ensure that your choice of antenna will work with the frequency range coming from your service provider and local mast. It’s only going to work if your frequency band matches what your antenna supports! 

 

To avoid potential issues when services or providers change, you should aim to choose an antenna that covers all the 4G LTE bands here in the UK. That means that your antenna should always work, even if you change provider or your local service changes. You might have to pay a little more, but it could save you problems in the future. 

 

Location

You should always mount the antenna wherever it has the best line of sight to the local mast. Sometimes you might not be able to see the signal mast, especially if you live or work in a very built up area. Even if you cannot see the mast, bear in mind the direction it’s in – Does your antenna need to be at the front or the back of your building? Even without a clear line of sight, this will vastly improve the signal you get. 

 

Generally speaking, the higher up you can mount the antenna the better! 

 

Also make sure that you’re not locating it close to a thick wall or anything metal. Even an omni-directional antenna would struggle to get a good signal in these situations! You want to make it as easy as possible for the signal to reach the receiver on your antenna. 

 

I’ve followed the advice but still don’t have good download speeds? 

You could have the perfect signal – And still not get good download speeds. This could be down to a few different reasons:

  • The service capabilities of your provider (the frequency they are allocated)
  • The service provided from the local mast
  • The capabilities of your router
  • If you live or work in a high user density area with lots of people trying to connect at the same time

 

Whether or not this matters depends on what you are using your connection for. If you are a business and are relying on your 4G LTE connection for your business operations, then this is going to be an issue. 

 

Trust the Experts

 

Here at Geekabit, our Wi-Fi experts can tell you just how reliable a 4G (or 5G) mobile broadband connection would be with one of our surveys. 

 

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.

 

PCI: What Is The Difference Between 4G LTE and 5G NR

In this blog we are going to look at the difference between 4G LTE and 5G-NR, specifically in terms of PCI. 

 

What is PCI when it comes to 4G / 5G?

 

PCI is the Physical Cell ID and is one of the most important ways a cell identifies itself in a 4G or 5G wireless network.

The physical layer (or PHY-layer) Cell ID is what determines the Cell ID Group and Cell ID Sector, and it is this that is needed for DL synchronisation. 

DL (Downlink) Synchronisation is the process in which a UE (phone) detects the radio boundary and OFDM symbol boundary. In other words, the exact timing of when a radio frame or OFDM starts. (In telecommunications, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a type of digital transmission and a method of encoding digital data on multiple carrier frequencies.) 

This DL synchronisation process is done by detecting and analysing the SS Block. From a UE’s (phone’s) point of view, Downlink is the ‘receiving’ transmitting direction. The SS Block (SSB) stands for Synchronisation Signal Block and refers to the synchronisation signal and Physical Broadcast Channel (PBCH) as a single block that always moves together.

 

Why is PCI Planning important? 

 

If you are planning, designing and deploying a 4G / 5G network, then PCI Planning will be one of your most important steps. 

Making sure your network is properly designed with PCI in mind will ensure your network works efficiently and increases how your resources are utilised. 

Excellent PCI planning ensures QoS for those who are subscribed to your 4G / 5G network.

QoS (Quality of Service) is the use of technologies to control traffic on your network, ensuring that the performance of critical applications meets requirements.

The key goal here is to use QoS and PCI Planning to enable your network to prioritise traffic, offering dedicated bandwidth and lower latency.

PCI is one of the technologies used to enhance performance of business applications, WANs and service provider networks. 

Poor planning in this area can result in PCI collisions and conflicts – Which in turn, negatively impact the overall performance of your network.

 

How is the PCI value created?

 

The PCI value is created from two components – PSS (Primary Synchronisation Signal) and SSS (Secondary Synchronisation Signal). 

The PSS is used to obtain the slot, ub-frame and half-frame boundary as well as providing the cell identity within the cell identity group. 

The SSS is used to obtain the radio frame boundary (10ms) as well as enabling the UE (phone) to determine the cell identity group.

After your UE (phone) has successfully decoded the PSS and SSS, it will be able to calculate the PCI. It uses the following formula:

PCI = (3 × SSS) + PSS

 

How is PCI calculated for 4G?

 

PSS has 3 values (0,1 and 2) and is created using the Zad-off Chu sequence.The PSS helps to accomplish slot and symbol synchronisation in the time domain.

SSS has 168 values (0 to 167) and is produced using concatenation (linking together in a series) of 2 m-sequences (max length sequence). The SSS helps to achieve radio frame synchronisation.

The formula to work out PCI for 4G is therefore:

PCI = (3 * 167) + 2 = 503

This means that there are PCI values varying from 0 to 503 LTE, which in turn supports 504 unique PCIs for 4G. 

 

How is PCI calculated for 5G?

 

PSS has 3 values (0,1 and 2) and created using m-sequence. 

SSS has 336 values (0 to 335) and is generated using the product of 2 m-sequences.

In 5G-NR (a new radio access technology developed by 3GPP for the 5G (fifth generation) mobile network), the basic structure of PSS is the same but the number of SSS is increased.

The formula to work out PCI for 4G is therefore:

PCI = (3 * 335) + 2 = 1007

So the PCI values will vary from 0 to 1007. This means that 5G-NR can support 1008 unique PCIs.

 

What does this difference in PCI between 4G and 5G actually mean? 

 

In the simplest terms, 5G-NR has double the number of PCI’s, compared to LTE 4G. 

5G has more Physical Cell IDs (the actual area that the cell antenna on a cell site is covering). Each 5G NR cell has a Physical Cel lD. 5G has 1008 unique possible Physical Cell ID’s, whereas 4G has only 504. 

So if we’re connected to Vodafone on Physical Cell ID No.1, but we could also see Vodafone signals being broadcast out of that cell tower on different cell antennas using Physical Cell ID No,2 and No3, then our mobile device would know to connect to No1. It would get confused if it connected to No.2 or No.3 and impact the quality of service.

The user device connects to the one physically nearest. So for example, a Vodafone tower has two cell antennas out the top broadcasting the Vodafone signal across an area, which will overlap to a small degree. A user’s device will always want to make sure it is connecting to the same one. You don’t want to connect to one antenna and back to another – It’s this that ruins the quality of service. So you will always try and connect back to the one you were talking to, which is normally geographically the one closest to you. 

The Physical Cell ID is used to identify each space. We don’t want those numbers to overlap too often, or our devices get confused and don’t know which to connect to. If a device can see a Physical Cell ID of 2, and there’s another cell antenna using an ID of 2, it wouldn’t know which one to communicate with.

It is beneficial to know that 5G-NR has more PCI’s available in the planning stages, to enable a higher quality of service (QoS) for end user devices.



Wi-Fi and Connectivity Options for Village Halls

Did you know that village halls in need of a bit of updating and renovation can apply for a share of a £3m fund, all in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?

 

This follows the tradition of village hall investments for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. 

 

125 lucky village hall recipients will have a share of the £3m fund, which can be put towards renovations and building improvements including Wi-Fi.  

 

You might well be hosting or celebrating in your local village hall for this weekend’s Jubilee celebrations! Village halls are often the heart of communities, bringing people together. It’s vital these hubs stay well connected with strong, reliable Wi-Fi. 

Wi-Fi for Village Halls – A Quick Guide

If you’re a part of the committee that looks after your local village hall, then you’ll know that there is an ever-increasing need for these community buildings to offer broadband and Wi-Fi access to their users. 

 

Not only will this support a wide range of community activities and events, it will also enhance the facilities you can offer as a venue to those who hire your space. 

 

So what do you need to consider to improve digital connectivity for your communities and businesses by making sure your village hall is well connected? 

 

Get a Broadband Connection


Before even thinking about Wi-Fi or broadband, you need to make sure you have a telephone landline. The only exception is if you are able to get cable or fibre access to the hall. You can read more about FTTP in one of our previous blogs here. Make sure that you have a business contract rather than residential, as it will be for public use. 

 

To get a new telephone line, order one through BT.com. After that’s done, you can upgrade to broadband. Always make sure you check with the ISP that you are able to make your internet connection available to the public before placing your order. 

 

If you want to get broadband without a landline, you would need to be able to have a cable, full fibre or mobile broadband connection. More on that later! 

 

Not got an official postal address? Some village halls don’t actually have an official post office address which can cause problems with some ISP’s as they may insist that you have one in order to place an order. If you find this is the case, you can contact the Post Office and request an official address here.

 

Some ISP’s will accept what’s known as an ‘unserved’ building but they may ask to do an initial survey before they confirm your order.  

 

How much will it cost to install Wi-Fi in a village hall?

You will need to incur some costs to get Wi-Fi successfully set up in your village hall. Bear in mind the following likely outgoings:

  • Installation and connection costs for a new telephone line (plus VAT) and broadband connection (if required)
  • Line rental for the telephone line (ongoing costs)
  • Data usage charges from broadband / Wi-Fi use (ongoing costs)
  • Any work required to install the Wi-Fi router in a secure location, plus additional devices that may be needed to boost Wi-Fi signal 

 

You can help keep costs to a minimum by shopping around for the best contract available on price comparison websites. Remember you need a business contract, not a residential one! Make sure you balance out the costs with data usage limits and of course, reliability.

 

Remember though, making improvements with the Wi-Fi in your village hall is investing in its successful future. It’s vital that these community hubs are well connected for their users. And even better if you can get the costs covered by securing part of the £3m Jubilee fund!

 

Security

 

We cannot express enough how important it is to make sure that your Wi-Fi is secure. You should manage and filter the access to your Wi-Fi signal. 

 

If you were to allow unmanaged access to your Wi-Fi, people may use your broadband connection for illegal purposes. By providing the Wi-Fi for this, you could be liable. 

 

Luckily for you, it’s super easy to manage your Wi-Fi security – And definitely not something that should put you off setting up a Wi-Fi connection in your village hall. 

 

To minimise the risk of inappropriate use, you should:

 

  • Install your router in a secure place where only authorised users are able to physically access it. Don’t let people connect to your router via Ethernet cable as they could make changes.
  • Routers usually display the passwords you need in order to manage and access your Wi-Fi connection. If you think it’s possible for unauthorised users to access this information, then consider changing the User ID and admin password (instructions on how to do this should be in your router user guide).
  • Regularly change your Wi-Fi access password for users. This means that only current users will be able to use your Wi-Fi connection, rather than someone who isn’t authorised or is re-using a password they’ve previously been issued with.
  • Always ensure that the parental control setting is switched on. This prevents access to any unsuitable websites on your Wi-Fi connection. You can use your router manual to set appropriate firewall settings to set the level of restriction required. 

 

 

The router in our village hall doesn’t reach the whole building

 

If you already have a router installed in your village hall, but it’s not reaching far enough and you’re struggling with black spots or slower Wi-Fi in certain places then you may need to extend your Wi-Fi coverage. 

 

This is particularly relevant if you have a large village hall building – The signal just may not be strong enough to reach everywhere it needs to from one router. 

 

We mentioned above that it’s important for the router to be in a secure area so unauthorised people cannot access it. This could mean that it’s been placed in a less than ideal location for signal strength and connectivity. It’s vital to balance the two! 

 

Ideally, you will be able to place the router in a central location, but if that is not the case then you may need to install other devices to extend the signal to other locations within your village hall building. You could potentially use a powerline adapter or a Wi-Fi extender to boost the signal strength and get wider Wi-Fi coverage in the building. 

 

Mobile Broadband for Rural Village Halls

You and your users might not be in London, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t expect the same Wi-Fi connection that you get in urban areas – Despite being in more rural ones. 

 

Unfortunately there are many parts of the countryside that are suffering from a broadband deficit – Indeed, there seems to be a connectivity imbalance across the countryside, with many village halls struggling.

Over the past year particularly, we’ve installed countless numbers of external 4G antennas and routers in rural areas, effectively replacing the broadband through the telephone cable using a data SIM card.

 

You can read more about our 4G Mobile Broadband solutions in a previous blog of ours here

 

If you are wary about whether Mobile Broadband could work in your more rural village hall, then our Cellular Survey could be just what you need. We can map the availability of cellular and data coverage within a building and report 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. You can read more about this here

 

Want to know more about how Geekabit could help get your village hall connected?

For further information about securing a strong Wi-Fi connection in your village hall, please email our Wi-Fi experts at info@geekabit.co.uk and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.

 

We work out of London, Hampshire and Cardiff, covering community buildings, businesses and larger residential properties. 

 

How to Remotely Monitor a Robustel 4G Router

In this blog we’re going to show you how you can link the Robustel 4G router with other platforms, so you can monitor your router remotely in real time, in a way that best fits with your business operations. 

 

Who are Robustel?

Robustel are used across various industries including Retail, Healthcare, Transport, Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Security, Agriculture and Smart Cities. 

 

The design and manufacture of Robustel products provides industrial quality wireless routers, modems and gateways for Wi-Fi, cellular and LPWAN networks. This includes 3G/4G/LTE/5G in cellular networks and Cat-M1/NB-IoT/LoRaWAN/Bluetooth in LPWAN networks. 

 

Robustel customers are provided with EDGE Computing, Cloud Software and end-to-end IoT Solutions to complement the hardware. 

 

If you’re an enterprise or mobile network looking for a competitive edge in the IoT market, then Robustel could be just the thing. They are passionate about long-term relationships with their customers and partners, and work alongside many distribution partners in 120 countries including the UK.

 

Robustel work with businesses across the world in various industries – Solving connectivity problems with scalable, robust and secure IoT solutions. Whether you are just looking for the hardware or a complete  ‘IoT in a box’, Robustel will have a solution. 

 

So where does Geekabit come in, you might be wondering?

 

Well, while Robustel has an excellent interface for remote diagnosis and simple email notifications, it does not provide automated notifications to other platforms, with checks sent to your IT support teams.

 

How can Geekabit help with Robustel 4G router monitoring?

 

Here at Geekabit, we can provide access to our router monitoring software platform for real-time notifications of uptime, downtime, speed issues via:

  • Slack 
  • Teams
  • Text message
  • Automated phone calls

If none of those are sufficient, we can also provide an API connection to automatically import your Robustel notifications to the platform of your choosing.

 

Get in touch

 

If you have or are considering a Robustel router for your use case, but are not sure of the benefits vs a Teltonika router, please speak with one of our Wi-Fi experts.

 

If you think a 4G router will not provide sufficient upload and download speeds for your use case, please get in touch with us here at Geekabit

 

By using the right combination of equipment, external antennas, research and evidence based placement, we can dramatically increase what is possible.

 

Image from Robustel.com – Product shown is the R1520 Dual-SIM Cellular VPN Router.

Wi-Fi to Fall in Love With

Wi-Fi really can be a love-hate relationship, can’t it? When we feel a strong connection then everything is plain sailing. But the minute that connection seems lost, the frustration creeps in. 

 

To keep your relationship with Wi-Fi healthy, here are some top tips. 

 

Ensure a Secure Connection 

Every good relationship relies on that feeling of security. Wi-Fi is no different. A survey found that despite 91% of respondents believing that public Wi-Fi wasn’t secure, 89% still chose to continue using it. 

It’s always a good idea to wait until you’ve found the right network before you start sharing personal information. If you’re using public Wi-Fi, always make sure it has strong security policies and infrastructure – Especially if you are sharing sensitive information on their network. 

 

Some Things Are Best Kept Private

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year, some things are just better kept private. 

If you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, you should not be using credit or debit card information or sharing any bank details. Yes, that means no shopping! 

If you find yourself able to connect with other users in their network, for example through AirDrop, then you should disconnect. If you want to confirm that the network you are connected to is in fact the provider you think it is, you can check and verify the DNS name by checking the public IP address of the network. 

 

Don’t Risk Getting Held to Ransom

You have to guard your heart sometimes – And you should be guarding your devices too. More and more people are being targeted by ransomware nowadays. And most of those people are paying the ransom in order to get back their data. It’s not just your laptop that can be affected – Any phone or smart device can also be vulnerable. You could be looking at a cost of around £500 – Don’t let them fool you and swindle you out of your hard earned money. 

 

Stop the tears from streaming

If you’re currently relaxing in a hotel room about to start a romantic Valentine’s Day movie on Netflix, then be prepared for some buffering. Any kind of streaming service is a rather big challenge for hotel networks or similar. It needs to have the Wi-Fi to match the demand! And we’re sure that’s not the only performance issue that hotel room has seen. If you’re sitting on the other side of the bed, and it’s your hospitality venue that’s struggling with Wi-Fi performance issues, get in touch with our Wi-Fi expert here at Geekabit and we’ll see how we can help get your Wi-Fi from heartbreaker to love at first sight.

 

It’s not you, it’s me

If you got hacked, who would you blame? Yourself, the Wi-Fi provider or the hacker? Research suggests that 56% of people would blame the Wi-Fi provider / venue but 85% would blame themselves. When you connect to a Wi-Fi network, are you confident that it’s safe? It’s very important to make sure you have the information and tools you need to stay vigilant and safe online. 

 

Turn yourself on

Wi-Fi gives us the ability to turn on so many different things these days. From switching on the lights to turning up the heat for when we get home – All from our phones!

You could even dim the lights for a romantic moment… Who needs a wingman when you’ve got strong Wi-Fi?

 

Not feeling a connection?

If your Wi-Fi is leaving you feeling frustrated and disconnected, then get in touch. Our Wi-Fi experts have the knowledge and skills to diagnose the problems with your Wi-Fi network, and deploy what’s right for you. 

 

After all – All you need is love, and Wi-Fi. 

 

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.