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EE 4G External Antenna alignment query

jawilson59

Casual Member
Greetings one and all.....

Some great reference material on this forum, and I am hoping some answers / guidance to my situation / query below.

Background
I live in County Down, Northern Ireland, about 3 miles west of Ballynahinch, property faces south / south south west. About a mile out of BT Infinity range so ended up going down the 4G broadband route, of which EE is the only provider in my area.

Received the 4G router (Alcatel HH70 as I understand) - no signal received on internal antenna of router after setup.

Bought a Poynting XPOL 2 - 5G V3 antenna (future proof!) and mounted it. Beginners lunch managed to get the full 3 bars signal strength on the router, and 4 bars (full strength) as indicated in the routers web interface. Download and upload speeds pretty good except for the afternoons when upload goes down to less than 1Mb.

Due to lockdown I purchased and installed the antenna myself as TSG (EE) were unable to visit. Only problem is, I have no idea of readings such as RSRP, RSRQ or SNR as the web interface on the router is pretty basic. Can’t help but feel that the antenna should be properly aligned using the readings rather than a superficial ‘maximum’ bars approach.

I downloaded the Alcatel Wi-Fi Link App in the hope it might give me more information, unfortunately not, but what it did show was up to 5 bars of signal strength could be achieved....hence my tinkering with antenna direction started, trying to get 5 bars on this app and now am only showing 3 bars despite aligning on the bearing to the mast location below.

image2.jpeg


I have used Mast Data (Not much use)and Cellmapper to try and find the position of the EE mast, but having driven round the area shown (west side of Slieve Croob), I can't see the one shown (ID 26072), but for anyone who knows the area, there are plenty of masts on the top (location used for bearing).

image3 (1).jpg


Question(s)
Can anyone confirm the exact position of the EE mast in this area so I can align the antenna using a bearing? Or alternatively can anyone recommend a way for me to tune the antenna direction without using blind luck? Is there different software I can use to interrogate the EE router or even better, a way to telnet into the Sim to run a cell query on it (*3001#12345#*).

I have rung round a few aerial installers but none carry the correct cellular signal meter to align the antenna using the RSRP/RSRQ/SNR values so if you know who might perform this service or even a company that might hire out a cellular signal meter that could work.

I have even thought about trying to find another 4G router on Amazon that supports EE nano sims and MIMO antennas and has a software interface that provides the signal dB readings - any suggestions? One that supports a primary and secondary broadband source would be perfect as I am using my mediocre BT broadband copper line as a backup when the 4G signal is interrupted.

If anyone has any info / guidance or wants further info, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks in advance
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
Cellmapper uses calculations to try approximate the location of a mast from the data that its users have collected by running their app. If there isn't much/enough data then mast placement wont be accurate.

Ideally it needs lots of data from all the way around the mast to best determine where it is, but even then that might not be quite right so it allows its users to re-position the mast if they know where it is.

On cellmapper at the moment, for EE, the masts around that area are all red (low accuracy) which means no-one has manually positioned them (they go green when manually positioned).
Also, when selecting the 26072 mast there are no cell sector coverage displayed - suggesting there simply isn't enough data to be able to show that.

If you have an Android phone, then the best thing you can do is install cellmapper and go walking/driving all around with the EE sim logging data where you think the mast is to begin to provide more data to cellmapper which can be used by the calculations to more accurately position the mast.

Obviously the best would be to get a signal meter to check where the highest signal comes from, but looking at the azimuth radiation pattern of Band 3 (1800mhz) in the specs of the antenna then you can be ~80degrees off either way before signal will be degraded by -10db. Since its not a directional antenna, this makes sense, but finding the sweetest spot by trial and error feels like it'd be difficult as other environmental variables could distort the signal level metrics while testing, even if you had a router did report the metrics.

Depending how old your EE router is and which firmware it has, there was/is a security vulnerability found whereby the SSH password was hardcoded and the same for all devices. Newer firmwares just have SSH disabled as the 'mitigation' for the vulnerabilty.
However, even if you could SSH in, I don't know if, or where, the radio metrics could be found.

I find it very strange that your upload is affected the most, and only in the afternoon. That feels more like increased interference or increased load on the mast (or chain of masts, if they're using a radio-linked backhaul with being quite rural), than your specific setup. Have you tested the EE sim in other devices (mobile phone) to compare?
 

jawilson59

Casual Member
Thanks for the response Gavin....one point to note, my understanding is that the XPOL-2 5G V3 antenna IS directional....i.e. not Omni.

Sounds like I shouldn't rely too much then on a particular bearing and realign to that bearing which gives me the highest number of bars until or if I get a signal meter on it to optimise.

My work mobile is a BT /EE carrier, so I will try a speed test on it in the afternoon.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
I didn't say it was omni, I just said it wasn't directional... the azimuth pattern isn't a circle (as you'd expect with omni), but its also not as focused as a directional, its somewhere in between - and Poyntings product descriptions/marketing aligns with that.

Omni:
1588761352404.png


Directional: drops -10db at ~35degrees
1588761332114.png
 

kommando828

Top Member
Even if you do get the correct location for the mast, the best signal may be not when you have pointed your antenna directly at the mast but could be slightly off due to reflections. May be an idea to get aloan of a 4g router than does give the raw signal data so you can get the best aim and then swap back to your router.
 

jawilson59

Casual Member
That's my thinking....unless I can find out someone / some company that could provide a cellular signal meter.
 

GavinAshford

ULTIMATE Member
You probably have already done so, but you could do the simple trial and error try testing it at each of the 8 points (if it were a compass N, NE, E, SE, etc) and noting the bars for each.

Given the wide range of angles that the antenna can pick up signal at, even if you were within ~30degrees of where the mast is located, I'd think further improvements by aligning directly to the mast would just be marginal.
 

linton88

Member
I’m not sure if this is precise enough, but I am relatively certain the EE mast you’re trying to connect to is in that cluster of towers you can see when you’re on the Drumnaquoile Road near Drumkeeragh Forest. However, I was nearly certain that Three had LTE broadcasting from there too.

With the range of that mast and the ones they’re likely sharing backhaul with, you’re very likely seeing congestion in the afternoon. As far as I know, they have a number of masts with a radio link to each other up there (one of which I can see from the top of my hill) and probably quite a few users in the same situation as yourself as FTTP hasn’t made much inroads there yet. I may be wrong with this though, so don’t count it as gospel. What time of the afternoon is it most prevalent?

I currently use a B535-232 on EE and with a third party application on Windows, it gives you all of those signal readings that you’re looking for and graphs them too. I haven’t used it in a while and can’t remember the name, but will dig it out. I was using an Alcatel device before, but the signal quality and speeds out of it was worse than anything else I’ve ever tried, so it might be worth your while trying the Huawei.
 

jawilson59

Casual Member
I’m not sure if this is precise enough, but I am relatively certain the EE mast you’re trying to connect to is in that cluster of towers you can see when you’re on the Drumnaquoile Road near Drumkeeragh Forest. However, I was nearly certain that Three had LTE broadcasting from there too.

With the range of that mast and the ones they’re likely sharing backhaul with, you’re very likely seeing congestion in the afternoon. As far as I know, they have a number of masts with a radio link to each other up there (one of which I can see from the top of my hill) and probably quite a few users in the same situation as yourself as FTTP hasn’t made much inroads there yet. I may be wrong with this though, so don’t count it as gospel. What time of the afternoon is it most prevalent?

I currently use a B535-232 on EE and with a third party application on Windows, it gives you all of those signal readings that you’re looking for and graphs them too. I haven’t used it in a while and can’t remember the name, but will dig it out. I was using an Alcatel device before, but the signal quality and speeds out of it was worse than anything else I’ve ever tried, so it might be worth your while trying the Huawei.
That's great info thank you.....maybe I should hire you and your router to come and get the readings off my antenna!! 🍺
 
Last edited:

jawilson59

Casual Member
Interesting my signal worsened when I aligned it towards the top of Slieve Croob...it was stronger when the antenna was pointed towards the west side of Slieve Croob. Looking up Google Earth now, but that area (Drumkeeragh) appears further east that I am aiming even now.
 
Last edited:

Simoli

Casual Member
I highly recommend getting a Huawei router (B525 Cat.6) as you can then set which frequency bands you want using various 3rd party apps/programs (LTE Inspecteur/Huawei Manager) along with monitoring all the cell tower/signal info and also set whether you want auto/internal/external antennas. You can also sell the Alcatel modem on Ebay or w/e to get some of the money back.

Cellmapper is good for finding rough location, you can use Google Maps satellite view to double check and/or physically check the location if possible.

If you live in an urban area with better mast tech (speeds over 300Mbps) you might want to look at the Huawei B618 (Cat.11).

I recently bought an XPOL2-V3-5G as well to replace some older yagi log antennas on roof, going to try it in the loft first as my local mast seems to be limited by backhaul and with 5G coming I might need to swap provider/rotate it.

Also with EE I've noticed that ~midnight to ~6am gives you the best idea of maximum speeds as it can be quite congested during the day (making antenna alignment less easy).
 

ShaneMoyce

Member
I didn't say it was omni, I just said it wasn't directional... the azimuth pattern isn't a circle (as you'd expect with omni), but its also not as focused as a directional, its somewhere in between - and Poyntings product descriptions/marketing aligns with that.

Omni:
View attachment 293

Directional: drops -10db at ~35degrees
View attachment 292
It's true you can get higher gain antennas than this with a more focused beam patterns however the Xpol2-V3-5G would certainly be considered as directional. The antenna should work well without direct line of sight to a base station having a -3 dB beamwidth (half power) of 60-70 degrees in both azimuth and elevation from looking at its tech sheet- https://poynting.tech/product/xpol-2-5g-3/
 

jawilson59

Casual Member
Hi - have access to a B535-232...cant seem to get HManager to work and the Huawei webinterface / Smarthome dont give any signal info (past the number of bars)...any other ideas re: software to access RSRP values etc?
 

jawilson59

Casual Member
I’m not sure if this is precise enough, but I am relatively certain the EE mast you’re trying to connect to is in that cluster of towers you can see when you’re on the Drumnaquoile Road near Drumkeeragh Forest. However, I was nearly certain that Three had LTE broadcasting from there too.

With the range of that mast and the ones they’re likely sharing backhaul with, you’re very likely seeing congestion in the afternoon. As far as I know, they have a number of masts with a radio link to each other up there (one of which I can see from the top of my hill) and probably quite a few users in the same situation as yourself as FTTP hasn’t made much inroads there yet. I may be wrong with this though, so don’t count it as gospel. What time of the afternoon is it most prevalent?

I currently use a B535-232 on EE and with a third party application on Windows, it gives you all of those signal readings that you’re looking for and graphs them too. I haven’t used it in a while and can’t remember the name, but will dig it out. I was using an Alcatel device before, but the signal quality and speeds out of it was worse than anything else I’ve ever tried, so it might be worth your while trying the Huawei.
Hi Linton88 - did you manage to remember what the 3rd party application was? i have access to a B535-232 for a limited time...
 

jawilson59

Casual Member
ok, the Device Info page in the WebUI gives RSRP etc actually getting half decent numbers, given that the current alignment is generally obly showing 3bars out of 4 for EE, when my first position had all 4 bars

RSRP -90
RSRQ -5
SNR 19
RSSI-65

It lists cell ID of 4009472.... not quite sure of what cell that is as cellmapper show eND ID 26072 for the Slieve Croob tower near me (i think).

Would you leave antenna as is, or try and get it better? Huawei router showing 5 bars (when the EE / Alcatel showed 3/4)
 
Hi there

Did you get this working? I’m currently badly in need of fast internet and don’t get have fibre available. I’m exploring options for 4g with high gain antenna.

I live between Castlewellan and Clough and there are a few antennas in Newcastle / Slieve croon direction.

Grateful if you could let me know if you made a breakthrough.
 
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