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How can I improve the signal/connection on a mobile 3G/4G data dongle?

Go to solution Solved by Alex Atkin UK,

Assuming this is just poor reception, a proper 4G router (everything already built-in) usually performs far better as the antennas in dongles are tiny and they will not necessarily support the same speeds to begin with.

If its just an overloaded network, there's not really anything you can do.

Hi everyone, please bear with me here as I've never had or needed to use a mobile data dongle/adapter until this week.


Reason I'm asking:

I'm starting a new job next week but my WAN connection has started being super slow and very unreliable recently. I emailed my ISP who told me they are doing region-wide upgrades for the next 12-18 months so I should expect frequent outages. Amazing timing!
I immediately looked for another ISP but it's this one or nothing as I'm in a rural area. So, I went to a store and picked up a 3G/4G dongle but I could barely even connect! When I managed to load a speed test I was getting a 10,000-40,000ms ping with a speed so slow it couldn't register, it just showed 0.00Mb/s. Of course, I immediately took it back to cancel it. I want to try with another network that supposedly has the best coverage in this country and some people have recommended.

Question(s):
Is there any possible way I can help or improve the signal on a mobile data dongle? Would the old improve your WIFI hack work by making a dish out of aluminum foil with the dongle placed in the middle? Or what about connecting it by a USB extension cable and putting the dongle outside the house in a waterproof box? Or same idea but in the attic/loft? Anything that could improve it?

Appreciate the help.

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Well take your phone and see how well the speed on 4g is. If it's bad it will be just as bad if you use the same provider.

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Assuming this is just poor reception, a proper 4G router (everything already built-in) usually performs far better as the antennas in dongles are tiny and they will not necessarily support the same speeds to begin with.

If its just an overloaded network, there's not really anything you can do.

Router: i5-7200U appliance running pfSense WiFi: Honor Router 3 (~750Mbit peak throughput)
ISPs: Zen Unlimited Fibre 2 (66Mbit) + Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra. (66Mbit) + Voxi (Vodafone) LTE (~120Mbit)

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33 minutes ago, Euphoria said:

Anything that could improve it?

First find a provider that offers decent signal in your area. Not all providers are created equal. For example my provider TMobile is know to have crappy rural coverage, while Verizon is known to have pretty good rural coverage. 
 

Second look for a 4G gateway with the ability to connect a external 4G antenna to it. There are many outdoor antennas to choose from. It will require some DYI. 

I just want to sit back and watch the world burn. 

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1 hour ago, jaslion said:

Well take your phone and see how well the speed on 4g is. If it's bad it will be just as bad if you use the same provider.

 

It would be with a different provider. My phone provider is crap, I need to change really but I never SMS or call, everything is online now. It was probably over a year ago since I last texted or call someone not over VoIP.

 

1 hour ago, Alex Atkin UK said:

Assuming this is just poor reception, a proper 4G router (everything already built-in) usually performs far better as the antennas in dongles are tiny and they will not necessarily support the same speeds to begin with.

If its just an overloaded network, there's not really anything you can do.

 

This is extremely helpful, thank you. I've never had the need for this before so I wasn't fully aware 4G routers were a thing, I assumed there must be something like that, some sort of advanced dongle so to speak but I wasn't sure.
Great stuff, thank you.

 

1 hour ago, Donut417 said:

First find a provider that offers decent signal in your area. Not all providers are created equal. For example my provider TMobile is know to have crappy rural coverage, while Verizon is known to have pretty good rural coverage. 
 

Second look for a 4G gateway with the ability to connect a external 4G antenna to it. There are many outdoor antennas to choose from. It will require some DYI. 


Sadly, they all say they have great coverage and technically they aren't lying... the issue is this great coverage is only if you're outside and located on the other side of the village which is atop a hill, then the signal is great but on this side I get 2-bars on GPRS/EDGE if I'm lucky. Other providers might be better, however, it won't be by much I bet.

The 4G router/gateway is very helpful, I will look into that.

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On 1/5/2021 at 3:11 PM, Euphoria said:

The 4G router/gateway is very helpful, I will look into that.

Generally it will be the ones that look just like a normal DSL or Cable router such as the Huawei B535-232 which I use.  As many networks have bands, some for long range and some for speed, in my house it was the difference between constantly switching onto the more powerful band with less bandwidth, vs a solid connection to the faster band.

 

It may also be worth looking out for things like the LTE CAT version and carrier aggregation, as if your network supports these things it can make it dramatically faster.  In some cases you "might" need to check what frequencies your network uses vs what the router supports.

Router: i5-7200U appliance running pfSense WiFi: Honor Router 3 (~750Mbit peak throughput)
ISPs: Zen Unlimited Fibre 2 (66Mbit) + Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Extra. (66Mbit) + Voxi (Vodafone) LTE (~120Mbit)

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