Needless to say that the UNIVERSAL Clip-on antenna was not worth the money and we recommend only buying one of these if your USB Modem is lucky enough to have a CRC9 connector built into it. Even then you can only expect a small improvement; unless you’re willing to spend considerably more on a big directional High Gain or Panel antenna (must be positioned towards your operators nearest transmitter, assuming you know where that is – try http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk
or ask your operator).
In addition, if you live in an area only covered by a 2G service then do not expect to magically receive a 3G or 3G+/3.5G signal from any of these. True it is possible for this to happen but the signal will be extremely weak and most coverage maps are already fairly liberal with the truth about reception for Mobile Broadband services. Note that antennas will give you a better improvement when used in an open outdoor location.
6. The Do-it-Yourself (DIY) solution
Inventive people will of course find their own solutions and there are a few things you can do that will improve your reception without costing the earth.
a. Buy a USB extension cable (not too long though or signal degredation could become a problem, it is somewhat of a balancing act to get right) and stick your modem as near to or high up on your window as possible. You could even dangle it out the window but make sure it is secure in case the modem drops off.
b. Buy a USB extensions cable and grab a used plastic drinks bottle. Pop the USB Modem in the top and then seal it up with tape or something similar. This can then be left outside, in mild weather only (never leave your modem out in cold or hot weather, especially direct sunlight), with a cable running back through your window.
Be aware that, as the image shows, we found that some modems are too big to fit a 2L coke/pepsi bottle. However you can always leave the screw cap on and cut a small slit in the top with a knife, which should allow you to just slide the modem in.
c. Buy a USB extension cable and a long plastic pole.. well by now you probably know where this is going :) . Affix the modem to the top with rubber bands, stick the pole in the ground and then run the cable back to your computer. Try to avoid wrapping the rubber band(s) over the modems antenna area as that could obstruct the signal.
d. (NEW). One reader has pointed us to This Silicon article that mentions using a satellite dish to help amplify the signal :) . Just be aware that some dishes may require local planning permission to put up outside.
e. (NEW). Or how about using a Saucepan to boost the signal?