What is the ‘Fibre in Water’ Trial and Will Fibre Broadband Run Through Water Mains?

For the past year, the DSIT have been trialling ‘Fibre in Water’ in Yorkshire. Fibre has been run along 17km between Barnsley and Penistone to see whether fibre optic (FTTP) broadband cables could be deployed through live water mains. 

The £6.2m trial has just completed its first phase, with the DSIT releasing current progress and what they’ve learned so far, with one year left to go of the trial. 

The theory behind the ‘fibre in water’ trial is that fibre broadband could reach 8,500 more rural homes and businesses without needing to do disruptive and costly street works. Not only that, the fibre could provide capacity to local 5G mobile masts as well as monitor any leakages on the network. 

What is ‘Fibre in Water’?

The main concept behind ‘Fibre in Water’ is to deploy fibre optic cables through live drinking water mains, monitoring them for leakage. It would also mean that broadband companies could use the water network to deliver gigabit connections to any homes and businesses along the water route that the cables were deployed in. 

If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to be putting fibre-optic cables alongside water, then don’t worry! The fibre cables will be inside ‘messenger pipes’ to make sure that they don’t touch the water and are protected. 

The messenger pipe is deployed whilst water is in normal operation so that the pressure can be used to deploy an initial draw line. The installation is completed by blowing the fibre-optic cable into the messenger pipe. 

What do they hope to achieve with the ‘Fibre in Water’ project?

The £6.2m project began in 2021 and is expected to reach completion in 2024 – Taking it from a pilot schemed to facilitate delivery. The aim is to deliver advanced broadband and mobile services to rural locations via mains water. 

Led by the DSIT (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology), the project is also supported by Defra (Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs) as well as the Geospatial Commission. 

There are various objectives to the ‘Fibre to Water’ project, a few of these are:

  • To support the Project Gigabit and Shared Rural Network schemes by connecting the hardest to reach areas of the UK with advanced fixed and mobile services (such as gigabit, 4G and 5G)
  • To reduce the amount of clean water leakage from the water mains (approximately 3 billion litres of clean water is lost per day)
  • To support the digital transformation of the water industry in the UK

What are the challenges of the ‘Fibre to Water’ project?

This project sees the merging of two separate industries, so is of course going to meet its challenges. 

It’s a complex endeavour to safely bring together fibre-optic cables and water pipes in one place. Hence why DSIT, Defra and Geospatial Commission are all involved. Not only does it have to meet regulatory frameworks but also has to reflect a sensible cost for all bodies. 

Project TAWCO was formed – Telecoms and Water Combined Operations – Consisting of Yorkshire Water, Commsworld (telecoms operator), the University of Strathclyde as a research organisation and Arcadis as a Design and Engineering Consultancy. 

They proposed a route that would enable them to put the operational and commercial models to the test – Going from Barnsley to Penistoke. 

What does the ‘Fibre in Water’ project consist of? 

The project is split into 3 phases, the first of which has just reached completion. 

Phase 1

This phase has focused on the research and investigation elements to inform later deployment. It had to look at the technical, commercial, legal and maintenance aspects of everything – as well as the benefits – before being able to present findings to the government. Only then can it move into Phase 2 and 3. 

Phase 2

The second phase will look at the design and build elements of the project, including deployment of the final design. It will also include data collection and the accrual of benefits. 

Phase 3

The final phase will evaluate how the project has performed and how it can be scaled up in line with the analysis results from Phase 2, with a view of rolling out this solution on a national scale. 

What has been learnt from the 1st phase of the ‘Fibre in Water’ project?

Now that the first phase is coming to a close, the project has shown that this is a successful model, commercially viable, between the two industries. 

It would seem that there is an investment opportunity for fibre in water, with a host of benefits for not only the industries but customers too. 

European markets are seeing expansion in this area, with a rise in fibre in water technology and monitoring software solutions. More suppliers here in the UK are looking to gain approval for their offerings. As with all industries, competition in this area will drive innovation and technical improvements further as well as keep prices down.

The telecoms market is a competitive one, so Fibre in Water is likely to be another way for these companies to get broadband services to homes and businesses and provide better options for consumers. 

One issue highlighted by the Phase 1 survey was having to gain access to private landowners along the proposed route. Not only would this be a potential risk, it would also cost money due to compensation negotiations. 

A way to avoid this was to alter the route for the trial, reducing it to 8km of ‘fibre in water’ and avoiding the need for private access. Whilst this mitigated the risk and cost, it also means that the number of rural premises being reached is less, down to 7000. 

Will the proposed ‘fibre in water’ trial go ahead? It’s expected that a decision will be made imminently by the DSIT and other government partners alongside Project TAWCO. 

Could this be an exciting development in getting reliable broadband to rural areas? We might well find out next month – Watch this space. 

Rural Wi-Fi Options with Geekabit

In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your broadband in a rural home or business then get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts today. We have extensive experience with 4G and Mobile Broadband – Bringing you a more reliable connection in rural premises. Read more on our website and get in touch 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. 

Which UK City has the Fastest 5G Speeds? 

Opensignal, an independent global organisation who offer reports and insights into the world’s communication networks, have this month published data revealing the UK’s fastest locations for 5G mobile broadband.

The fastest city for 5G download speeds is Birmingham, coming in at 162.7 Mbps. The fastest region was the West Midlands with 151.4 Mbps 5G download speeds. 

Where does the data come from? 

The numbers in this report come from data collected across hundreds of thousands of devices like Smartphones between November 1st 2022 and January 29th 2023. Primary mobile network operators were then compared across different categories. 

Is 5G faster than 4G?

The study also reported on the uplift in mobile broadband speeds when devices went from a 4G to 5G network in various locations. 

The majority of users found 5G download speeds to be between 3.7 to 5.5 times faster than 4G. The biggest uplift was found in Reading, Berkshire where users enjoyed 5.5 times faster speeds on 5G. London however saw the lowest uplift at a rate of 3.7 times faster than 4G. 

With thanks to OpenSignal for the image 

Is 5G or 4G better in urban or rural areas? 

The report also studied the differences between rural and urban areas when it comes to 5G. You might think that there would be a difference in uplift between these types of areas, but there was actually little difference. For rural areas with 5G, the uplift was 4.7 times faster. In urban areas, the uplift for 5G was 4.5 times faster. 

With this being said, mobile broadband users in urban areas do see significantly faster download speeds on both 4G and 5G networks than those in more rural areas. On 4G networks, download speeds are 23.7% faster (5.8 Mbps) in urban areas. On 5G networks, download speeds are 20.1 Mbps which is 17.6% faster than rural areas. 

5G networks are more limited in rural areas with less coverage. Unsurprisingly, this means that users on a 5G network in an urban area spend more time with an active 5G connection than rural users (9.6% and 6.6% respectively. 

With thanks to OpenSignal for the image 

Where in the UK do users connect to 5G the most?

It will probably come as no surprise that it’s Londoners who are actively connected to 5G networks for the longest.

Unfortunately for us (as we’re based in Hampshire) the South East and South West come very near the bottom of the table when it comes to 5G availability and time spent connected to the network. 

Will mobile network coverage improve in rural areas?

As we mentioned above, the data from this report does reflect on there being a gap between the mobile experience of users in rural and urban areas. 

Thankfully, there is ongoing commitment and work happening to try and improve mobile connectivity in rural areas. 

The UK government and mobile network operators are currently working together on the Shared Rural Network programme to increase the geographic coverage of 4G networks. 

Last year in their 2022 Connected Nations report, Ofcom found that through the SRN and other initiatives, users should be able to get good mobile coverage from at least one operator across 92.2% of the UK. This is a rise of 0.3% from the year before so things are moving in the right direction.

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! 

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.

 

The Robustel R5020 5G Router

We’ve talked a lot in recent weeks about 4G broadband and how it can solve many Wi-Fi issues in rural areas and homes with a slow BT Openreach connection.

But of course, the question on everyone’s lips when we talk about 4G routers and mobile broadband is ‘when will there be a 5G router?’

One product we’re feeling particularly excited about is the Robustel R5020. This router is touted to be offering next-generation cellular connectivity at a competitive price.

The R5020 will enable rapid deployment of high speed IoT applications in sectors such as Transportation, Enterprise Connectivity and Digital Signage.

In a compact industrial unit, the R5020 will offer 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G band coverage.

What are the key features?  

Here are the key features of the Robustel R5020 5G router.

A router with 5G capability

As Robustel’s first 5G capable router, the R5020 will also be capable of supporting 4G and 3G bands.

 

A stable operating system

Powered by their tried and tested CPU platform, the R5020 uses their mature and stable in-house Operating System RobustOS. This OS is fully programmable with a fully documented Software Development Kit. It also comes with a free cloud management platform (RCMS).

 

Applications

The R5020 is designed for use by various applications.

In-vehicle applications

  • Passenger Wi-Fi
  • CCTV de-brief
  • Ticketing
  • Other similar “onboard” requirements

Potentially increase internet speeds in these scenarios with the R5020, as well as future-proofing your current installations by making them 5G compatible. The R5020 has achieved E-Mark* certification for in-vehicle use, and supports GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) positioning. There is also a version to protect vehicle batteries with vehicle ignition sensing when the engine is turned off.

Broadband Failover

  • As well as a 5G Router, the R5020 can be configured to use Ethernet or Wi-Fi as the primary internet source. Should there be an outage on either of these, it can then failover to 4G or 5G.
  • If your business is a shop or small office, this can provide a good degree of connectivity resilience at a reasonable cost.
  • It can provide sufficient bandwidth for multiple users.
  • Core networks can utilise connections from IPSEC (Internet Protocol Security), DMVPN (Dynamic Multipoint VPN) and Open VPN (Virtual Private Networks) protocols.

Primary Broadband

  • You might think that using mobile broadband would be a pricey alternative, but mobile networks are now offering unlimited 5G tariffs at reasonable prices.
  • This means that hundreds of Mbps internet are available over the air.
  • There are many technical and commercial scenarios that make a wireless internet connection a favourable option, and mobile broadband offers another level of connectivity on top.

 

For more information on this product, or to register your interest in it when it’s available, head to their website.

If you would like more information on how 4G broadband could make a difference to your connectivity, please get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts here at Geekabit. We have a 4G antenna testing pole so we can assess whether 4G would be a viable option for your premises.

 

 

*An e-Mark proves your vehicle or component complies with the relevant EU/ECE regulations and can be sold in the EU, as well as other regions which have signed up to the ECE vehicle regulations. EU type approval is mandatory for whole vehicles as well as a range of automotive systems and components