Conducting a Site Survey
Probably the question we're most-often asked is: How will I know if any of your equipment (antennas or amplifiers) will work in my particular situation?
The answer to this question will depend on whether a stronger signal is available nearby, and whether improving that signal will result in improved performance.
The only way to answer these questions is to accurately identify your current signal strength by conducting a few simple tests in, and around an area where you use your mobile device. Therefore, before you go ahead and order expensive equipment, check the results of these tests to confirm whether an amplifier kit will improve your device's performance.
A "Site Survey" is the test we recommend to our customers to determine whether our signal boosting products may be appropriate for their particular circumstances, or not. This is a test which involves comparing both signal strength and performance in various locations. Doing this Site Survey is a very easy process - Simply follow the steps below.
Completing a Site Survey: 3G/4G Modems
Respond to the questions listed below, then choose from above, "Interpret the Results" tab: Your Site Survey results will be analyzed so you can then determine which products may be appropriate for your situation, if any!
If you're unsure where to find your RSSI, click "Finding RSSI" tab for instructions and screenshots. If you're unsure how to do the speed test, click above "Speed Test" tab for further information.
- At indoor location where you use your Air-card, what is the RSSI?
- What are your speed-test results at that particular location?
- What was the best RSSI you found immediately outside and around your building?
- What are your speed-test results at that outside location?
- If your outside signal is not significantly better than inside signal, drive or walk in the direction of improved signal until you find a -80 signal for 3G, or -70 for 4G. Note the speed test-results at that location.
- What is it that is located between you and that reading? Is it trees, elevation, terrain? How far away is it?
Conducting a Site Survey: Phones/PDAs
Conducting a site survey with your phone is slightly different than testing with your 3G or 4G modem. Respond to the questions listed below, then select from above, "Interpret the Results" tab to analyze your Site Survey results. This will determine which products will be appropriate for your situation, if any!
- At the location you use your phone, what is the RSSI indoors?
- What is the performance like at that location? You can conduct a Speed Test just like an Air-card-user if you're using an iPhone or other smartphone. However, more subjective techniques will have to be used to analyze performance if you do not have a data-capable phone. This means you will need to see whether your calls get dropped, you hear a lot of static during calls, etcetera.
- What is the best RSSI you can locate immediately outside and around your building?
- What is its performance like at that location?
- If your outside signal is not significantly better than inside, drive or walk in the direction of an improved signal until you find a -80 signal for 3G, or a -70 signal for 4G. At that location, what is its performance like?
- What is between you and that -80 signal or -70 signal? Is it elevation, trees?
What Is RSSI, and Where Do You Find It?
When you're doing a Site Survey, you really should use RSSI instead of "percentages" or the "signal bars" which you're probably more familiar with. RSSI stands for Received Signal Strength Indicator, and it is a numerical representation of your phone's signal strength. It is a lot more accurate than percentages or bars. The reading shows up as a negative number, with closer to 0 being a better reading: -80 is better than -90, etc. A good target signal for 3G is -80: If you have -80 RSSI, you're probably getting the best possible performance your tower can provide. -70 is a good RSSI target for 4G LTE and WiMAX.
Note: Make sure when doing your site survey, that you're looking at the RSSI for the specific network for which you need improved signal. By this we mean, if you use a Verizon 3G/4G device and you're looking to boost your 4G signal, ensure you're looking at the LTE RSSI and not the 3G EVDO RSSI.
Have a look at the list below to find your provider's name and view instructions to assist in locating your RSSI:
VZAccess Manager, Windows
Verizon RSSI Windows
From "Options" menu, select "Diagnostics": To view RSSI, simply scroll down in the "information" section.
VZAccess Manager, Windows - Previous Versions
Verizon RSSI Windows
You can hover the mouse over the signal bars with older versions of VZAM and view RSSI as a "tooltip".
VZAccess Manager, Mac
To view RSSI as a "tooltip", hover your mouse over the signal bars.
VZAccess Manager, Mac - Previous Versions
Verizon RSSI Mac
From the "VZAcess Manager" menu, select "About VZAccess Manager": To view RSSI, you need to scroll down in the "hardware information" section.
Navigate your web browser to 192.168.32.2 and follow the prompts to either access the web app, or install the full version. Once you're in the app, click on the question mark icon in upper-right, then click, "About" in the lower right. Scroll down to view 3G or 4G RSSI.
Navigate to http://my.usb or http://192.168.1.1. Click on "about" and then select the "Diagnostics" tab. Scroll down to the "4G LTE/ 3G Network" sections and find the RSRP/ RSSI (Signal Strength) value.
Novatel MiFi 4620L/LE "Jetpack"
MiFi 4620L RSSI
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your MiFi via WiFi, then log-in with your WiFi/admin password: Unless you have changed it, the default password is printed on the white label on the bottom of your device. Navigate to the "Advanced", and then "Diagnostics" section. Then scroll down to view 3G or 4G RSSI.
Novatel MiFi 6620 "Jetpack"
MiFi 6620 RSSI
Click the right-arrow button to "About Jetpack" on the front screen of your Jetpack, and hit next. You will see the signal strength displayed on the screen below the technology listing.
Novatel MiFi 5510L "Jetpack"
MiFi 5510L RSSI
Navigate to web admin (my.Jetpack) while connected to your MiFi via WiFi; then log-in with your admin password. Your admin password is the same as your WiFi password. On the left, click, "About Jetpack", then select the Diagnostics Tab. Scroll down to view 3G or 4G RSSI.
Novatel MiFi 4510L "Jetpack"
MiFi 4510L RSSI
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your MiFi via WiFi, then log-in with your admin password: Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "admin". Navigate to the, "Advanced" and then, "Diagnostics" section. Then click on the "Modem Status" button in the center of the page.
Pantech MHS700L Ellipsis ‘Jetpack’
Ellipsis MHS700L RSSI
Navigate to the web admin (http://my.jetpack) while connected to your hotspot via WiFi. Then log-in with your WiFi/admin password. Click, "About Jetpack" on the left. Then click "Diagnostics" from options at the top. Scroll down to view 3G or 4G RSSI.
Pantech MiFi MHS291L "Jetpack"
MiFi MHS291L RSSI
Navigate to the web admin (http://my.jetpack) while connected to your MiFi via WiFi. Log-in with your admin password – it is the same as your WiFi password. Click, "About Jetpack" on the left. Then select, "Diagnostics" at the top.
Samsung SCH-LC11 "Jetpack"
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your hotspot via WiFi. Log in with your admin password: The default password is digits 7 through 14 of IMEI number. You will find this number listed on the label underneath the battery cover. Navigate to the "Configuration" and then, "Diagnostics" section. Then click on the "Modem Status" button in the "System Status" section of the page.
ZTE 890L "Jetpack"
Navigate to the web admin (192.168.1.1) while connected to your hotspot via WiFi. Log-in with your admin password. You will find the default password listed on the label on the bottom of your hotspot. Navigate to the WAN settings, then on to the wireless info section to locate your RSSI.
Novatel MiFi 2200
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your MiFi via WiFi, then log-in with your admin password: unless you've changed it, the default password is ‘admin’. Navigate to the Advanced > Diagnostics section then click on the ‘Modem Status’ button in the centre of the page.
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.0.1) while connected to your Fivespot via WiFi. Log-in with your admin password. Navigate to the WAN Settings and then on to Wireless Info section to see your RSSI.
SmartView - Current Version
Select "Mobile Info" from the "Tools" menu. Then select the "Network" tab.
SmartView - Previous Version
RSSI is displayed in older versions of Smartview right beneath the signal bars.
SmartView - Older Version
Hover your mouse over the signal bars in this version to view RSSI as a "tooltip".
Navigate to web admin (http://192.168.1.1). Log-in with your admin password: Unless you have changed, the default password is "password" itself. Navigate to "Settings". Then on to "Network" and then, "Status Details" to view RSSI. Note that if you're connected to 4G, it will display as "RSRP" and not "RSSI".
Netgear Zing (AC771S)
Go to the Zing hotspot display, then select, "Settings". Select, "Network" and click the green arrow next to the word, "Status". Your signal strength on LTE will be "RSRP". "HPRD RSSI" is the signal for CDMA/ 3G; and "RSSI" is the signal for GSM.
Novatel MiFi 4082
MiFi 4082 RSSI
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your MiFi 4082 via WiFi. Log-in with your admin password. Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "admin". To view RSSI, hover your mouse over the signal bars.
Sierra Tri-Fi Hotspot
Navigate to the web admin (http://sprinthotspot/home.html) while connected to your Tri-Fi via WiFi. Then click on the signal listing on the left-hand side to view detailed signal information.
Sierra Overdrive/Overdrive Pro Hotspot
Navigate to the web admin (192.168.0.1) while connected to your Overdrive via WiFi. Log in. Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "password" itself. Click on the WAN tab. Select the network for which you want to view the RSSI.
Novatel MiFi 2200
Unfortunately, the Sprint web admin does not show RSSI by default. However, we have let the Sprint MiFi community in on a "secret":
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your MiFi via WiFi. Simply log-in with your admin password. Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "admin". Once you're logged in to Sprint MiFi web admin, navigate to this URL: http://192.168.1.1/modemstatus.html and here you will be presented with your MiFi's RSSI info.
AT&T Connection Manager, new version
Select "diagnostics" from the "Tools" menu. Then navigate to, "Mobile Info". Click the "Network" tab.
AT&T Connection Manager, old version
RSSI is displayed right beneath the signal bars.
AT&T Beam RSSI
Click on the "Settings" icon in AT&T All Access program. Then select, "About" on the left.
Sierra Elevate 4G Hotspot
Navigate to the web admin (http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your Elevate via WiFi. Log-in with your admin password. Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "attadmin". Once you're logged in to web admin, navigate to the "Advanced" section. Click on the "WAN" tab. The negative number under "RSRP" is your RSSI.
Sierra Unite 4G Hotspot
Navigate to the web admin (http://attunite) while connected to your Unite via WiFi. Then log-in with your admin password. Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "attadmin". Once you're logged in to web admin, navigate to the "About" section and check the "Network Status" section. The negative number under "RSRP" is your RSSI.
Novatel Liberate (MiFi 5792) 4G Hotspot
On the Liberate's touchscreen, tap the "About" icon. Then tap, "Current Status". Your RSSI will be displayed as, "signal strength".
ZTE Z915 Hotspot
Navigate to the web admin (http://mobile.hotspot) while connected to your hotspot via WiFi. Then log-in. Unless you have changed it, the default password is, "admin". Go to "Information" tab and you will see "Signal Strength" - Your RSSI is the negative number next to that.
Select "Mobile Info" from the "Tools" menu. Then select "Network" tab. That is all!
To view RSSI as a "tooltip", hover your mouse over the signal bars.
Broadband2Go Connection Manager, Windows or OS X
Virgin Mobile RSSI
To view RSSI as a "tooltip", simply hover your mouse over the signal bars.
Virgin Mobile Mingle Hotspot (aka Netgear 778s)
Navigate to the web admin (http://minglehotspot OR http://192.168.1.1) while connected to your unit via WiFi. When prompted, sign in with the Mingle Manager administrator password. The default password is, "password" itself. Navigate to the "Settings" on the left and select, "Network" tab. Then select, "Status Details". Reference the RSRP value for 4G LTE signals. For 2G/3G, reference the RSSI value.
Novatel MiFi 2200
There does not seem to be any way to view RSSI for the Virgin Mobile MiFi, unfortunately. We suggest that Virgin MiFi users complete the Site Survey using signal bars instead of RSSI. Of course, the signal bars are not as precise as RSSI, but it is better than nothing!
Select "About" from the "Help" menu.
Select "About" from the "Help" menu.
Cricket Connection Manager
Open the connection manager and hold "Control + D" on your keyboard. For the password, enter ##ftm* and hit GO. This will bring up "Field Test Mode" and RSSI will be displayed.
Apple WWAN RSSI
While in the WWAN drop-down menu, hold down the Option key.
It can be a bit tricky finding your RSSI on a phone, because different manufacturers display it in different ways.
I still can't find my RSSI or my carrier is not listed:
Obviously we know that RSSI is a more accurate representation of your signal strength than bars or percentages, and that is why we encourage users to refer to RSSI.
However, if your carrier's connection manager software does not show how to view RSSI, or you don't know how to display RSSI on your phone, doing the Site Survey with bars is better than nothing!
Speed Tests: How to Do a Speed Test, and Why You Should Do Them
The other part of a site survey is a Speed Test. Remember that you're not only looking at signal strength. You're trying to determine if your speed increases when the signal increases.
The speed test is really important, because simply improving the signal doesn't always result in a better performance. An amplifier or antenna will not improve your performance if the problem you're experiencing is not caused by weak signals; meaning network problems or issues with the tower itself. Maybe you're already getting the best speed your tower can provide!
Go to www.speedtest.net to do a speed test, and click on the "Begin Test" button on the map. The Scan Now button above the map is actually an advertisement, not the test itself, so do not click on that button. The test will commence and within approximately a minute, you will receive both your upload and download speeds. With the test completed, your download and upload speeds will be shown in an easy-to-read box.
Interpreting the Results of "Site Surveys"
Once your Site Survey has been completed, the results need to be analyzed to determine whether an amplifier or antenna will be helpful in your particular situation. The following rules generally apply in most situations:
- An indoor or outdoor antenna will most likely help if a significantly improved signal is available immediately outside, and the Speed Test results outside were also significantly improved.
- If the signal and performance are just slightly better immediately outside, but a significantly better signal and performance is available close by, within approximately a quarter mile, having an antenna mounted on the exterior of your office or home will probably help. You may also need an amplifier if the improved signal is more than a quarter mile away.
- An antenna or amplifier is unlikely to help your situation if an improved signal is not available within approximately a mile.
- If an improved signal is available outside or nearby, but your Speed Test results are the same as your indoor results, an amplifier or antenna is unlikely to help your situation. This means that the problem is not signal-related, indicating that the speeds you're seeing are the best available from the tower.
- It is unlikely that an antenna or amplifier will be able to assist if your starting signal is better than -80 dBm for 3G or -70 dBm for 4G. You may be able to improve your signal; However, you are probably already achieving the best possible performance the tower can offer.
Site Survey Results, and What They Tell You:
Below we have listed some hypothetical Site Survey results, with our recommendations. To obtain a general idea of what equipment (if any) you may wish to consider, select the result that is most similar to yours.
Site Survey Results: -85 to -95dBm for 3G, or -75 to -85dBm for 4G inside; -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G immediately outside - speeds greatly improved outside.
Recommendation: Indoor or outdoor antenna
Site Survey Results: -95 to -100dBm inside for 3G or -85 to -95dBm for 4G; -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G or better immediately outside - speeds greatly improved outside.
Recommendation: Outdoor/external antenna
Site Survey Results: -95 to -100dBm for 3G or -85 to -95dBm for 4G inside, very little change outside; but -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G within 1/4 mile, speeds improved at the -80/-70 site.
Recommendation: Outdoor/external antenna, amplifier may be required.
Site Survey Results: -100 or worse for 3G or -90 or worse for 4G inside; -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G within one mile, speeds improved at the -80/-70 site.
Recommendation: Outdoor/external antenna and amplifier
Site Survey Results: -110 for 3G or -100 for 4G or worse inside; -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G is over 1 mile away, speeds improved at the -80/-70 site.
Recommendation: Amplifier and outdoor/external antenna (directional antenna if you know exactly where the tower is, or you're willing to conduct testing when installing the antenna)
Site Survey Results: -110 or worse inside, must travel at least a quarter mile to notice ANY signal improvement; -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G signal is several miles away, speeds improved significantly at the -80 site.
Recommendation: If you know exactly where the tower is, and have a clear line of sight,an amplifier and Yagi/directional antenna offers the best chance of improving your situation: However, it still might not be enough to make a dramatic difference
Site Survey Results: -80 for 3G or -70 for 4G or better inside.
Recommendation: You are most likely already getting the best speeds the tower serving you is capable of providing. This means that an antenna or amplifier will probably not improve your performance. To confirm this, find a location where you get even better signal and do another Speed Test. If your speeds improve significantly, an indoor or outdoor antenna should be helpful.
Site Survey Results: Signal improves outside or nearby, but the Speed Test results are almost the same everywhere you tested.
Recommendation: An antenna will not help because the speeds do not increase along with the signal. The problem may be on the carrier's side (overloaded or poorly-equipped tower, etc.) or you may already be achieving the maximum performance the tower is capable of providing.
Please Note: It is very important that consumers understand that these guidelines and hypothetical recommendations will not apply to every situation, and that results can, and do, vary. We are not able to guarantee that signal boosting equipment will help in your specific situation because there are so many different factors that affect cellular signal strength and performance.
If you need assistance in determining which equipment may be right for your situation, please do not hesitate to contact us with your Site Survey results. We're more than happy to discuss your situation and help where possible.
FAQ's: RSSI and Site Surveys
Please see below for our response to some commonly-asked Site Survey questions:
Why Have You Asked Me to Do a Site Survey?
Completing a site survey will help you determine whether an amplifier or antenna will assist in drawing in better signal, and whether your performance will improve as a consequence.
A Site Survey is designed for your benefit, to ensure that you purchase the right products; that you understand the results you should expect, and you do not waste your time and money on something that will not work in your situation.
Can the Site Survey Be Completed with "Percentages" or "Signal-Bars" - Do I Need to Find My RSSI?
RSSI is the best representation you will get of your actual signal strength. It is much more accurate than bars or percentages. However, should your carrier's connection manager software not have a way to view RSSI, or you're unable to find out how to display RSSI on your PDA or phone, completing the site survey with percentages or bars will still be better than doing nothing.
Are the Speed Tests Necessary?
It is very important that you perform the Speed Tests at every location you're testing because it allows you to accurately compare the way your performance changes when signal changes. Generally, a better signal result in better speeds, but this is not always the case. For example, if the problem lies with the tower itself, or you're already achieving the best speeds your tower is capable of providing, improving the signal strength won't help with your speeds. Therefore, doing the Speed Tests means you will be able to determine whether improving your signal will ultimately result in better speeds.
If I Use an Air Card on My Desktop Computer, How Do I Do the Site Survey?
Doing a full Site Survey is not going to be practical if you're using an air card in your desktop computer; unless of course you want to carry your computer outside! Considering this is not possible, please obtain as much information as possible and we will help you to make a "best guess" about whether an antenna will help in your situation. Of course, if you have a phone from the same carrier as your air card, you can always use your phone to determine if there's a better signal outside or nearby.
Do I Need to Complete a Site Survey If I'm Looking for an Antenna for Travelling?
No, you don't. A site survey is only helpful if you're trying to boost signal in one location and the testing can be done to confirm whether an antenna will assist with signal at that particular location. Travelers have the advantage of simply selecting an antenna to achieve improved signal wherever they travel.
How Much Can an Antenna Improve Signal?
The answer depends on how weak your signal is to begin with, and if there's a better signal nearby. There's no set number of dBm or percentage that an antenna can be guaranteed to boost signal. Once you have completed your Site Survey, please contact us to discuss what you might expect from an antenna.
Can You Help Me Locate My Device's Antenna Port?
Search online to see where your device's antenna port is located. If your device is not listed, please contact us and we will help you determine where it is located, or if there is one.
I'm Not Sure the Device I Want to Boost Signal Has an Antenna Port
You can use either an antenna with a passive antenna adapter or a wireless repeater if your device does not have an antenna port to boost your signal. Typically, you will also need a direct-connect amplifier with a passive adapter. A site survey should still be completed to determine if one of these options might help you.
Can I Boost the Signal to More Than One Device?
If you use a wireless repeater you can boost the signal to more than one device, simultaneously. We still recommend that you complete the Site Survey to determine if a repeater will assist in your situation. You should do the Site Survey for each device if you're wanting to boost the signal to devices on different carriers, like for example, a Verizon cell phone and a Sprint Air-Card.
If you have any further questions, or you need help or advice, please do not hesitate to contact us. We're more than happy to assist!