Cellular Antenna Field Testing Results (Spring 2016)

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From January - April 2016, we tested several cellular antennas head-to-head to see how they perform both with one of our top performing boosters from our Winter 2015 Booster Testing and direct connected to mobile hotspot devices. We tested in a variety of locations with varying signal conditions on each of the four major carriers.

Setting up our antennas.

Setting up our antennas.

The antennas in our testing line-up include:

You can learn more about each of these models, compare specifications, and learn more about selecting antennas in our members-only comparative guide:

Selecting a Cellular Antenna

Our testing procedures:

Two flagpoles setup as antenna mounts.

Two flagpoles setup as antenna mounts.

During our testing, we visited a variety of locations and set up our antennas for head-to-head comparison.

We start by taking 3 baseline readings with each of our cellular devices with no booster or antenna.

Each device is tested independently, with all other nearby devices in airplane mode to prevent any potential interference.

Next, for each of our devices we tested each antenna with the weBoost 4G-X cellular booster, and also with the Signal-4G direct-wired booster. For devices with MIMO antenna ports, we also tested each antenna direct connected to the hotspot, bypassing the booster. For non-MIMO antennas, they were plugged into the primary antenna port only.

For the directional antennas in our arsenal, we followed the procedures outlined in our Wilson Wide Band Directional Antenna – Worth The Hassle? article to find the best signal for each carrier.

The devices & carriers we are tested include:

The readings taken are:

  • Coverage maps

    Coverage maps

    Coverage? Map snapshot, showing high level view of anticipated service at each location.

  • Signal strength db reading, on devices that support it using Field Test mode.
  • Signal bars/dots present & service type - HSPA, LTE (and specifically which band, when possible), 3G, 1XRT, Edge, etc.
  • Download speed.
  • Upload speed.
  • Ping Time
  • SNR - Signal to Noise Ratio, if reported by device
  • Calculated Scores
Baseline testing, for one carrier, for one device. We repeat this for each booster.

Baseline testing, for one carrier, for one device. We repeat this for each booster.

Scoring Systems

For each antenna at each location, we are assigning two scores:

Qualitative formula:  (Antenna Average Download Speed / Baseline Average Download Speed)  + (Antenna Average Upload Speed / Baseline Average Upload Speed). Will it capture all of the nuisances like switching bands, ping time and signal strength? No. But it will capture actual performance increase. The higher the score, the better the performance noted. This gives us something to average out over time.

Subjective Grading: On a scale of A, B, C, D & F each antenna and location is given a grade based on relative performance. These scores are then given a  numerical value based on scholastic grade point averages, to give us an overall GPA.

  • A - 4.0 = Solidly created a more usable signal
  • B - 3.0 = Solid performance, but not signifiant gain, nor loss
  • C - 2.0 = Comparable performance with the antenna as without, with potentially mixed results with improved upload speeds and somewhat degraded download speeds.
  • D - 1.0 = Degraded performance with the booster engaged, but still usable. You are better off with the booster off or without the antenna.
  • F - 0 = Signal was useable without a antenna, but unusable with the antenna engaged.

For speed and ping readings, we are using the Ookla Speedtest app. We take the readings directly on device on our smartphones & tablets we are testing on. When testing mobile hotspots, we test on one of our iPads while connected via WiFi to the hotspot.

Each testing location took 8-12 hours to complete, and burnt through a good chunk of data. It was a very time intensive process to collect the raw data displayed below.

All of the individual field testing results and observations are shared below to our members. Not only will the results shown the performance of each of the antennas, but also what to expect in different types of signal situations.

Number of field locations tested: 5

Our testing locations.

Our testing locations.

Testing is now complete, and we are working on our analysis article (due out in early May). We've also scheduled a special member only live video chat session on May 19, 2016 to overview our results.

 


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