- Cellular Coverage
Extending Your Cellular Phone Range
Each year we help hundreds of New Zealanders improve their cellular coverage in office buildings, homes, remote locations, or while on the move.
We have options and antennas for all the voice networks in New Zealand and can increase coverage and speed for data connections too.
The exact specification will depend on the sort of phone you are running and what level of increase you are looking for as well as your location. We have many different solutions that we can tailor to your individual situation.
Where to from here?
For Homes and office buildings we suggest you contact us to discuss your requirements.
For mobile solutions we suggest you swing by our workshop.
How Cellular Works
Wireless (Cellular) Communication is a complex and very technically advanced science with many rules, standards and regulations that are continually evolving and changing. The following is a condensed and simplified explanation and overview of how cellular works.
A Cellular Base Station (tower) transmits a constant signal commonly known as a "pilot" signal or "control channel signal" and this signal is received by the cellular handset (phone). One can think of this signal as a constant sound or voice that is transmitted by the tower and is heard by the phone. When the phone receives this signal the user sees signal bars on the phone's display. If the phone receives a strong signal, many bars are displayed and when the signal is weak few bars appear. The phone measures all the pilot signals it receives from all the cell towers that it hears, and transmits these measurements to the tower. These measurements report receive signal level (loudness) and signal quality (clarity) of all the towers' signals received (heard) by the phone. This information is transmitted by the phone to the tower hundreds of times per second, virtually constantly. The information is received by the tower and sent by the tower to a land-based device known as the "switch". The switch uses the information received from the phone to create commands based on preset parameters that are programmed in the data banks of the switch. These commands are sent back to the tower and the phone. These commands include the frequency and channel to communicate on, the tower that the phone is to connect to, and the power level at which the phone should transmit (essentially, how loud the phone should be). One can think of the switch as the conductor of a symphony that is made up of cellular towers and cellular phones.
The switch/tower combination controls the phone's output power and generally commands the phone to reduce power as it approaches the tower and increase power as the phone leaves the tower. (One could think of this as the phone whispering when it is close to the tower and yelling when it is far away). This exchange of information is what keeps a phone connected to a network and allows the phone to travel from place to place successfully. For a cellular conversation to connect and stay connected two things must occur: the phone must receive signal from the tower and the phone must transmit with enough power to reach the tower, in other words, the phone must hear the tower and the tower must hear the phone, as long as this condition occurs, cellular communication is successful.
The Urban Environment
Cellular communications in cities are usually very reliable because cellular providers deploy numerous towers and transmitter/receiver stations in close proximity to each other. Urban towers are spaced close together and their range is usually quite short, sometimes only a few city blocks or less. This condition exists because a cellular provider has a limited number of channels and each channel has a maximum number of users that it can support at the same time, therefore, when the provider reduces the range of the tower the provider can use the same channels at numerous locations and accommodate more users. The provider controls the range of a tower by increasing or decreasing the pilot signal and pilot signal in cities is typically quite low.
The Rural Environment
Cellular communication in rural environments is usually less reliable than cities because there are fewer towers covering larger geographic areas. Cellular providers try to maximize the range of a rural tower because towers are expensive and users are few. To maximize the range of the tower, the provider will increase the power of the pilot signal. This allows phones to receive signal from a given tower at a greater distance; essentially, the phone can hear the tower from further away. Under these conditions a phone can be far enough away from a tower to display "signal bars" maybe one, two or three, but despite this a call cannot be completed. The reason that this occurs is simple: the phone can hear the tower because the tower has a powerful transmitter that is turned up to be quite loud, however, the phone has a less powerful transmitter than the tower and even at its maximum transmit output power, the phone's signal will not reach the tower. Basically, the phone can hear the tower but it is not loud enough to be heard by the tower, hence, no connection or dropped call. A combination of a 3 watt booster and/or specalist antenna can usually help in these circumstances.
Geographic terrain: Flat terrain (ocean, lake, desert, plains) with the tower on the horizon will allow communication from greater distances than terrain with obstructions. The high frequency Cellular signals are semi-directional and while they do not require an absolute "line of Sight" to the cellular tower if you are located in a deep ravine you will be unlikely to receive cellular signal.
Antenna: The Type of antenna and choice of location are significant factors in extending the range of your coverage for both mobile and fixed applications. A fixed location in a valley or ravine can usually receive cellular signal with a large antenna or Booster and Antenna combination. For a bespoke solution for your fixed location coverage issues contact your local Installer Services technician.
Pilot signal level: The signal strength being transmitted by the tower is directly related to the distance that a phone can communicate with the tower. Remember, the phone is listening to the tower and even if the tower signal is amplified by a booster or large antenna, a distance will be reached where the pilot signal is low enough where amplification is of no help. Pilot signal strength is set by the cellular provider and is not always the same strength from one tower to another, therefore it is possible to get greater or shorter range depending on the strength of the pilot. For example, it is reasonably common for a tower on the coast to be set to transmit stronger signal towards the ocean than the signal from the same tower pointing towards land.
Solutions for Significantly Extending Range
The Antenna you choose will have a considerable impact on the range you get from your cellular phone or cellular car kit. Some Antennas will mount invisibly inside the vehicle while others can send a signal though the glass of your window but by far the best performing antennas are those that mount outside the vehicle. Remember, your car is really a steel box with small holes (windows) and cellular signals do not travel through steel so having the antenna outside the vehicle gives the best possible performance.
Other considerations are whether the antenna is directly connected to you phone or if there an inductive coupler is used either to get the signal from the phone or to go through the glass on your vehicle as it the case with many antennas. Inductive couplers may degrade the signal strength although much of this is ameliorated with a powered signal booster.
Some new vehicles have glass which contains compounds that significantly degrade cellular signal and "on Glass" inductive coupling antennas cannot be used. Another common consideration is the aesthetics of an antenna. A 26 inch whip antenna may give the best signal however it may not suit your vehicle or you may not want to drill a hole in the roof.
A Smoothtalker booster can increase the range of a cellular phone to 100km or greater and combined with the correct antenna they provide the best possible cellular reception.
Smoothtalker boosters are bi-directional radio frequency amplifiers. They amplify the receive signal and the transmit signal of the phone. The "receive side" amplifier uses electrical energy to increase the amplitude of the signal that is in the air, thus giving the signal more energy, essentially making it louder. The "transmit side" amplifier does the same thing to the signal that is generated by the phone and sent out to the air. If the phone was a person, adding a booster, would be the equivalent of a hearing aid being put in its ear and a megaphone to its mouth… the phone will hear better and it will gain the ability to be heard from greater distances.
Using a booster increases range substantially, however, there are limitations. The signal coming from the tower must be at a high enough level (louder than other signals like interference and electromagnetic and thermal noise) in the air, that when it is amplified by the booster, the phone can process it (understand it). If the desired signal is not greater than the noise, then amplification does not help.
For the best solution for your vehicle, usage and/or location you should consult our sales team.Price: