Radio Communication Basics
Before we can get into how to boost your mobile signal it is
important to understand a little about how it works, what causes
problems and how we can alleviate them. Don’t worry, this will only
be a short science lesson but it will be worth, it I promise.
The electromagnetic spectrum may be our greatest resource and we can’t even see most of it. In our busy day to day lives we often don’t give much thought to the things that make our way of life a reality, we just expect them to work. It’s often not until they don’t, that we start paying attention.
We rely on radio waves everyday but we can’t see them, these invisible heavy lifters provide much of the modern conveniences that we take for granted like mobile phones.
If your mobile phone signal is not as expected, then you have come to the right place… read on
We “see” only a very small section of the electromagnetic spectrum, which we know as light, but is actually called the “visible spectrum”, it has a frequency of about 400 - 800THz (Terahertz). As you can see in the image above there is a much greater amount of spectrum that we cannot see but has become integral to the way we live. Specifically, radio waves which are used for communication and which we will be exploring more here so you can understand what causes them to perform in a less than ideal way.
Radiofrequency (RF) is the band of the electromagnetic spectrum from about 20Hz to 300Ghz and includes microwaves. It is a type of non-ionizing radiation which is not strong enough to remove electrons from an atom, unlike X-Rays and Gamma Rays which are ionizing and will strip electrons.
This makes the RF spectrum very useful and relatively safe and is why it is used for communications. Most of this spectrum is licensed and heavily regulated so to reduce interference, and telecommunications companies spend millions of dollars to secure frequencies so they can operate their services, enabling us to have the various options for communications we have available to us today.
3G,4G and 5G
We are all familiar with the G’s, we see them on our phones, in advertising from networks and relate them to performance and speed of our services, but what do they really mean. I am not going to get too carried away with the technical aspects of each, for our purposes it is only important that we understand how they are different and why some work better in some circumstances than others.
As I mentioned above, networks or carriers like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone spend millions on licensing, each operates on a slightly different frequency or band but for ease of understanding I will generalize them. There are some anomalies to these but once you understand the concept, I hope that you will see how these anomalies fit into the overall concept I am trying to purvey.
These are the rough frequency bands that these services operate in.
3G (800 – 950Mhz)
4G (1800 – 2600Mhz)
5G (3600Mhz – 48Ghz)
Anomaly: Low band 4G operates in the 700Mhz range
Performance of Radio Waves
The frequencies that we use for radio communications are much lower than visible light and they also have much longer wavelengths. This is important to understand because the longer the wavelength is the easier it can pass through objects. Light can easily be blocked by a curtain but the same cannot be said of a radio wave, if it did our wireless connected lifestyle wouldn’t be possible.
The same concept applies on a macro scale within the RF spectrum (20Mhz – 300Ghz) and we have used it to our advantage for a long time. HF radios (3 – 30 MHz) can communicate over massive distances, thousands of kilometers in fact whereas a mobile phone is only good for maybe 30km. It can bounce and pass-through objects that a cellular signal would be defeated by. You are probably wondering why if this is the case that we don’t use HF frequencies for cellular communications and the reason is throughput. We can pass a lot more data over the higher wavelengths like cellular than we can over HF Radio, we can have a duplex conversation and even stream video whereas the amount of data that can travel over lower frequencies would make this kind of communication largely impossible.
The same also applies within the cellular bands, we all know that trying to stream a video over 3G is less than optimum and those with access to 5G know the blistering speeds it can provide. 4G is the most common at the moment and its frequencies make it ideal for fringe of coverage situations.
As we have discussed the ability of HF waves to pass through objects much better than light, the same is true within the cellular bands. 3G signals travel further and penetrates better than 4G and 5G signals. Lower 4G bands at 700Mhz will penetrate better than high band 4G signals like 1800, 2100 and 2600Mhz although with a lower bandwidth and throughput which we experience as slower speeds.
Current 5G services in Australia operate at around 3600Mhz and while this can deliver very fast speeds/throughput it will penetrate very poorly. In April 2021 the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) conducted an auction of the 26Ghz Millimeter wave (mm Wave) spectrum Band. There were 5 winning bidders including Telstra and Optus and the total revenue for this spectrum was $647,642,100 AUD
Whether the 26Ghz Millimeter Band becomes the new 5G Frequency or will be the first 6G Frequency Band is anyone's guess right now but one thing you can be sure is that with an investment like that these companies will be rolling out services on the 26Ghz Millimeter Band soon.
Simple ways to boost your mobile signal
Now that you have a basic understanding of Cellular frequencies and how they perform in relation to each other it will be easier to understand the techniques I will teach you. There are many more strategies that RF (Radio Frequency) Professionals use but here are the top 3 simple ways to boost your mobile signal. To get a personal assessment of your situation you can request a Free Desktop RF Path Survey at https://cairnssignalboosters.com.au
#1 Simple Strategy to Boost your Mobile Signal
If you are really fringe of service, or are simply trying to make a phone call that annoyingly keeps dropping out, then you may find it better to select 3G only.
Why it works…
3G is slow for internet data but is ideal for mobile calling, it also travels further and will penetrate into buildings far better than 4G and 5G signals. If you are in a low signal area switching your phone to 3G only will give you a much better chance of not dropping a call and while the data will be slower than 4G/5G you will still get an email out.
How to do it…
Swipe down from the top of your phone and select the gear icon
Select “Connections”, then “Mobile Networks”, “Network Mode” …
You are probably set to “Auto”, simply select “3G only” and you are done.
iPhone IOS 11
Go to “Settings”
Select “Mobile Data”, “Mobile Data Options”, “Enable 4G”
Select “Off” to disable 4G
You are now using 3G only
#2 Simple Strategy to Boost your Mobile Signal
If you are having trouble with 4G/5G data but it is a bit flaky then this one is definitely worth a try. It’s a little more complicated but it will often give you a more stable connection if it works. This will be dependent on a few things but mostly the type of phone and the services coming off the tower.
Modern Phones usually want to find the fastest signal possible (iPhones are notorious) but this might not be the most reliable or stable, especially if you are inside. The higher 4G/5G frequencies coming off your nearby tower will not penetrate as well as the lower 4G Frequencies.
What is often the case is that in your home you get some low band 4G signals penetrating the walls but you might be getting high band 4G/5G signals coming in through windows and bouncing around, even weakly penetrating the walls. Your phone is latching onto those high band signals when it sees them which might take your connection off the low band. This causes a slight interruption, often not noticeable but often causing problems as the phone jumps around from band to band, so we are going to manually select the low band LTE 4G frequency (700Mhz) and lock the phone to that.
How to do it…
Now, if you tried my #1 strategy you might have noticed that there weren’t many options in the phones settings and you are correct, this strategy involves finding a 3rd party app. To modify your phones band and lock it requires not only the correct permissions but also the relevant firmware. This means that there will not be one best app for this purpose.
For example, if you have a Samsung phone like I do you will need an app that will talk to Samsung’s firmware, if you have a Google phone you will need something specific for it and likewise with an iPhone. Simply go to your App Store and search something like “Samsung LTE Band Selector” or “iPhone Band Selector” and try it out to see if it works.
It may be that where you are the tower is only serving 1 Band in which case this method won’t work but I hope you get the idea and can explore what signals you have available. Remember you are trying to lock to the LTE Band 28 which is operating at about 700Mhz as this signal will travel and penetrate the best.
#3 Simple Strategy to Boost your Mobile Signal
If you have tried both strategies above and you are still having problems then assuming you have at least 1Bar of 3G/4G there is 1 sure fire way to solve the problem and really boost your mobile signal. Buy a Mobile Phone Signal Repeater!
You will notice I said “Mobile Phone Repeater” not “Mobile Phone Booster” and this is because the ACMA has prohibited the use of “Mobile Phone Boosters” in Australia because they can “interfere with mobile networks signals” and “weaken network performance for other users”.
There are plenty of websites selling illegal boosters in Australia and you can pick up a prohibited device for not a lot of money, the catch is if they (ACMA) find you and they likely will then you can be slapped with a hefty fine and even jail time, and nobody wants that!
OK, so now you’re confused, I get it. Just know that the only approved “Mobile Phone Booster” in Australia is actually a “Mobile Phone Repeater” you can read more about the difference on the ACMA website…
Sometimes the terms ‘cellular mobile repeater’ and ‘mobile phone booster’ are used interchangeably. However, they are different devices.
So how do they work?
A SMART Mobile Phone Repeater is a device that rebroadcasts weak signals from a cellular tower which it collects via an external antenna out to a radius of a bout 80m, depending on the type of rebroadcast antenna it has attached to it. It does not “boost” the signal indiscriminately like the illegal types but by using hardware and antenna gain in a smart way (think auto-negotiation) it will give you the effect of a boosted signal. Without the fines and jail term!
The Cel-fi GO SMART Repeater can be configured with varying antenna options and depending on the coverage required can be quite complicated to design and get working optimally. This is why we provide a consultation and design service so you know that what you are spending your hard-earned money on is actually going to work and not land you in jail.
To engage our services, you can visit our website at https://cairnssignalboosters.com.au we can provide the right advice Australia wide.
If you are simply looking to purchase a Mobile Phone Signal Repeater you can jump straight over to our shop.
I hope by now you have learned something that will help you with your poor mobile signal woes, to keep up to date with changing technology and more mobile phone communication tips follow us of Facebook or join our newsletter.
Cairns Signal Boosters – better signal where you need it