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Need help choosing and antenna?
jungleexplorer

The more I research this subject the more confused I get.  I just moved out in the country and I am trying to find a way to get internet at my new house.  It appears there only two options for me, satellite or mobile broadband ( or dial up, Shudder to think!).  Since they both run about $60 a month I decided to try mobile broadband first.  I chose Verizon because their coverage map showed my house to be in a full 3G coverage area.  Since I just wanted to test Verizon without committing to a 2 year contact I bought a USB727 modem off of eBay and signed up for a month to month contract.  But now I am worried that I made the wrong choice.  My problems started when I tried to activate my usb modem from my house.  I kept getting a message saying that the modem could not activated while roaming.  I finally had to call in to customer support for help and after about an hour talking with tech support and going outside my house and placing my laptop on top of my car I was able to get enough signal to activate my modem.  The tech support rep I talked to said that I was located in area where I had two towers about 10 miles away from me on either side.  Based what I have heard, 10 miles is right on the edge of a towers broadcast power.  So now I don't know what to do.  The tech support guy recommended I use an external antenna to boost my signal.  But before I invest even more money, I need to know if it is even going to be worth it. I have been looking around and there are so many antenna options and opinions, it is mind boggling. So I am hoping to find some people with experience in this area to help me.  So let me lay out my situation for you.

 

Okay, you already know that I have two towers on either side of my about 10 miles away. Here is a little more information about my situation. I am located about 20 miles Northwest of Abilene Texas.  My house sits right on a the north edge of the the big country valley.  I can see over 30 miles to the south of me (it's sort of like looking over a very shallow Grand Canyon).  I think this information might be important because one of the towers is located in the valley near Merkel, TX and with and external antenna located on the roof of my house I should have "Line of Sight" with it. The other tower is located to my north.  The terrain to my north is flat all the way from my house to the tower with nothing but mesquite forest that is under 20 feet tall, so an antenna on the peak of my house might also have Line of Sight with it as well.  The problem here is that in order for me to run an antenna line from my office computer to the peak of my house will require 25 feet or more of cable and I have read that to much cable hurts the signal because of resistance in the cable (or something like that).

 

Based on the above information, I have a some questions I hope I can get some clear answers for. 

 

My first question is about whether adding antenna will really do much for me?  I know I will never get speeds like cable, dsl or fios, but since satellite service is the same price as mobile broadband, my speeds need to be at least as good to justify me staying with Verizon.  There is a farm house about 1/4 mile away from house that has satellite service through WildBlue. They let me use their computer to run some speed test.  I don't really understand all that technical garbage that you get when you run speed test on those speed websites.  The way I test is by going to a few sites I know and downloading files and I watch the kilobyte per second transfer while the file is downloading.  I have used this system for years and I gives me a good real world idea of what I can expect from a service.  When I tested the WildBlue Satellite service, I saw that the average download speed was around 34 KB per second.  That's about seven times faster then a good dial up connection.  Now that's a lot slower then even the basic DSL connection I had for years that gave me about a 160 KB per second download speed.  I know this seems like a lot of unneeded information, but I want you to understand my way of thinking and what I am comparing my Verizon service with.

 

Okay, assuming that the answer to my first question is, "Yes! You will get speeds as fast or faster then Satellite service with Wildblue (34KB per second or better)" if you add the proper antenna setup.  My next question is, what is the proper antenna setup I need (Considering my situation) to achieve those speeds?  I guess I should add that I am not rich and I don't want to have take out a second mortgage on my house to get better internet signal.  I would not mind spending around $100 on this but since I know I can get satellite service at a certain price, it does not make since for me to speeds hundreds of dollars just to make Mobile Broadband work.

 

Sorry for going on and on, but I don't think there is such a thing as to much information when asking for help.  I thank all of you in advance for your help.

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Re: Need help choosing and antenna?
Perkqlater10
Member

I am in a similar location/situation as you are in. I have a USB760 modem and am connected with an external antenna. Outside the house without an antenna, I get 1 or 2 bars. With the antenna connected and in the house I get 4 to 5 bars. There are several types of antenna that will work depending on line of site and distance from tower. I am in a wooded area about 5 or 6 miles from nearest tower and I am using a yagi type antenna. Though it is made for line of site, it is working very well for me. It has to be pointed at the antenna to work properly. They make omni-direction which do not need to be pointed to tower but pick up in all directions. They are not as strong as a yagi though. There are also panel type antennas. These are also directional but stronger than omni. You can also purchase a repeater/booster with an antenna. These are fairly expensive but they do work. You will need to find out what frequency your tower is using before you purchase anything. A call to Verizon tech support should do the trick. The frequency will either be 1900 or 800 mhz. The antennas and the repeaters/boosters need to match the frequency. Some antennas and some boosters are dual frequency and can use either that is available.  I have several links to some forums and sites which explain this much better but not sure I can post them here. I will check to see if I can and repost if you need them. But you can search for "external cell antenna" or "cell boosters" and find some help. But beware there is a lot out there and it can be confusing.  But in short...YES an antenna will help!

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