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How to Find Cell Phone Tower Locations

Finding the nearest cell phone tower

Cell phones are the most amazing invention ever. They are the best medium of communication and can keep you connected to information that was never even REMOTELY possible years ago. Cellular phones make life much easier and more convenient. Most people in the world are linked by cellular technology. But, this convenient technology is only possible if you are within range of a cell tower to serve your phone. Luckily, there are some great ways to find the nearest cell phone tower.

Even though we’re living in more connected world than ever, there are still areas with poor cellular signals. There are many different reasons why you might not be getting the signal you think you should be. It could be a result of buildings, mountains or other obstacles blocking your signal. Most commonly, a lack of cell phone service is due to your distance away from the nearest cell phone tower. 

The very first step to improve the quality of your cellular signal in your business or home (or installing a cell phone signal booster) is locating the nearest cell phone tower. 

Ways to Find the Nearest Cell Phone Tower

When you buy service from a cell carrier, you naturally assume that a huge, national carrier will also provide nationwide service. But it’s not true! There are many regions in a provider’s service area that usually remain under-served. The carriers would like to blanket the entire earth with service, but sometimes it’s not equitable to fire up a new cell tower to cover an area filled with jackrabbits and sagebrush. Most jackrabbits I know don’t have phones yet. 

Here are some ways to find the best cell phone tower locations near you.

Check the Coverage Maps

Before signing up for that 2-year contract with that amazing new phone, make sure your carrier has adequate coverage available in the areas you will want to have use your phone.

The simplest way to determine coverage is by checking the carrier coverage maps. While not always COMPLETELY accurate, they will give you a general idea of whether or not you should be able to expect coverage in a given region.

  1. Verizon’s coverage map
  2. AT&T coverage map
  3. Sprint’s coverage map
  4. T-mobile’s coverage map

Use Your Cell Phone

One of the most effective ways to find cell tower locations is to use your cell phone. Every phone displays the signal strength on screen. You can use that feature to find the general direction of your nearest located tower.  

Most phones have a mode that will show you a built-in decibel meter to  help you determine the area with highest signal strength. Whenever your phone indicates a stronger signal it could mean that a cell tower is closer to that location.

Decibels are measured in negative numbers. A negative 110 (-110) or less number is generally a pretty poor signal. A negative 85 (-85) or better signal is generally considered a great signal.

Use Third Party Websites

There are third party websites available that can be helpful in determining the nearest tower locations in your area. You put in your zip code or address and the site will return the location of towers near you. Since the data on most of these sites is user-generated, there may be issues with the accuracy of the information.

Some sites that I recommend:

Provides the best, most updated information for finding the towers in your location.

This website shows towers with latest user reviews in your location.

This service is somewhat old and probably outdated, but once you get a hang of it you can receive a wealth of information.

The “go-to” service for users looking for cell tower locations. It shows the results according to signal strength.

Use Third Party Apps

apps for finding nearest cell phone tower
Many apps are available to help you find the nearest cell phone tower

There are a lot of really good apps available in the app stores for helping you to find the nearest cell phone tower. OpenSignal, RootMetrics, Network Signal Info and LTE Discovery are just a few of those. 

My personal favorite is OpenSignal. It takes a while for the information to populate in the app, but after it does, it will show you the compass direction of the nearest tower. It also overlays coverage maps and has readings that other users have received at nearby locations.

Professional Signal Meter

Most professional signal booster installers use a signal meter to find the best location. The SureCall Signal Meter Kit is my personal favorite. I hook up a Yagi antenna to the antenna port of the signal meter and I can aim the antenna to the nearest cell phone tower and ensure great coverage. Its magical!

You can buy a SureCall Signal Meter Kit here in my shop.

If you’re still having trouble, feel free to drop me an email contact@cellbooster.us.

I’m always interested in hearing about what you’ve got going on!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rob

Force5 Signal Booster Install

Recently, one of our partners was able to do a SureCall Force5 signal booster install in Las Vegas. I asked them if they happened to have any photos of the project that they installed. I was in luck! Not only did they have a ton of great photos, but they also took the time to document a few speed tests of their AT&T LTE service both before and after the installation. The results were pretty telling!

Vegas, Baby!

Force5 signal booster install in fabulous las vegas

From what I understand, Vegas can be quite the experience! I never drink, so my experience with Vegas is basically a “wow look at the pretty lights” kind of deal. But having grown up only 2 hours north of Sin City, I’m pretty familiar with how things work there. What happens in Vegas is supposed to STAY in Vegas. But most people visiting Vegas end up texting, tweeting and facebooking everything they do to people that are OUT of Vegas. It’s pretty frustrating not having good enough cell coverage to share the evidence of your Vegas shenanigans with those back home.

That was the EXACT situation that the good folks at JW Marriott, Rampart Casino were facing. They had this beautiful, amazing location but they had TERRIBLE cell phone coverage inside the building. So they called one of our partners to install a cell phone signal booster.

  • JW Marriott Rampart Casino Force5 signal booster install
    JW Marriott Rampart Casino Force5 Signal Booster Install

Our partner decided this location was a prime candidate for a Force5 signal booster install. Why a Force5 signal booster? Why not a different, cheaper one? In this situation, with the building size and the number of connected users, a Force5 signal booster install made more sense. It’s the better choice because it can handle a much higher call capacity and it can cover a lot more square footage with its increased gain and output power.

Before the Install

Speed test reults before the Force5 signal booster install.
Speed test results BEFORE the Force5 signal booster install.

When the installers arrived on site, they asked a few casino workers to run some speed tests from their mobile phones. This photo is an actual screenshot of one of those speed tests before the installation had started. The speed test result in this photo was pretty on-par with speed tests from other carriers as well. Some of the employees had Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc. and the results of their speed tests were very similar.

The Install

Outside antenna mounting of a Force5 signal booster install
Outside antenna mounting of a Force5 signal booster install

With flat roofs, like this one, it can be particularly difficult to find a spot to mount the outside “donor” antenna. In this situation, our partner chose a non-penetrating roof mount for mounting the outside antenna. A non-penetrating roof mount (pictured above) is a rectangular bracket with an attached pole. Cinder blocks placed in the rectangular base of the mount keep the pole steady. Then the outside donor antenna mounts to the pole with the included mounting hardware.

Another extremely difficult part of a flat-roof installation is finding a way to get the cable to the outside antenna. In this situation, our partner chose to “blaze his own path” to the roof. They cut a hole, ran a conduit through it and installed a flashing to make it all waterproof. Then they installed a conduit service entrance cap at the top of the conduit to keep rainfall out.

Underside of roof penetration Force5 signal booster install
Underside of roof penetration Force5 signal booster install

Our partner securely mounted the underside of the conduit to a wall using unistrut and some conduit clamps. This supports the conduit from below and prevents it from falling into the building or moving around. When conduits move around, they tend to allow leaks to happen. And leaking roofs are bad for business!

If It’s Worth Doing…

I remember when I was in 10th grade. My dad was an ironworker. Steel structural. I spent all summer working for him. My job consisted of 10 hours a day in the hot southern Utah desert sun- puddle welding steel decking to joists in my welding hood and long sleeve shirt. It was HOT! So, after a few hours of this repetitive welding, my dad came to “inspect” my work. He claims it was an inspection, but I think he was just trying to teach me this life long lesson.

He told me that my welds looked like garbage, (he didn’t really use the word garbage though) and that I’d have to break all my welds out and start over.

I said, “Who cares? There is roofing going on over all this decking anyway. No one will ever see these welds!”

He said, “I care! I’ll drive past this place every day and know that those $#@%-ty welds are in there. If the job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right! These welds look like a metal bird took a $#@% on them.”

I learned a lesson that day.

Taking Pride in Your Work

Our partner did a great job of making this Force5 signal booster install look as amazing as the interior of that casino. They mounted the SureCall Force5 signal booster to the wall with the power adapter neatly mounted next to it. Then they mounted the Sentry remote monitoring system neatly below the amplifier. The splitter was neatly mounted to the wall with the cables cleanly running along the wall. It all looks great!

They installed four antennas, evenly distributed throughout the interior of the casino. The antennas in the interior of the casino were virtually invisible.

Force5 signal booster install wall mounted amplifier
Amplifier neatly mounted to the wall.
Force5 signal booster install - Splitter mounted to wall
Splitter neatly mounted on the wall.

Results

At this point, you might be wondering: Did the install improve the signal inside the casino? The answer is yes, yes it did. If you recall, before the install the speed test app that they used to measure the upload and download speed of AT&T’s LTE service rated the service with a big, fat “F” for failure. After the installation, they were able to pull down the following speed test results from the same phone at the same location.

Speed test results AFTER Force5 signal booster install
Speed test results AFTER Force5 signal booster install

So, with those tangible results, I think it’s safe to say that this SureCall Force5 signal booster install was a complete success. So, If you have any questions about this install or about anything else related to cell phone signal boosters, I’m always happy to help. Just send me an email to: contact@cellbooster.us and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Also, if you have any installation tips, tricks or suggestions, I’d love to hear about those as well.

You can get your hands on the SureCall Force5 Signal Booster that was used in this installation right here in my online shop.

If you have any questions about how cell phone signal boosters work , or how to choose the best cell phone signal booster for your application, there’s a lot of really great information here in my blog.

As always, Thanks for stopping by!

-Rob

Cellular Signal Booster Installation

best practice for cellular signal booster installation
Sample Cell Phone Signal Booster Installation Diagram

Properly installing a cellular signal booster can make or break the system’s functionality. So, a properly installed cell phone booster can give you amazing results. And a poorly installed cellular booster can have some negative effects.  With this in mind, let’s outline a few of the most important points that will lead you to positive results.

Outside Signal Level

The available signal at the outside antenna limits a cell phone signal booster’s ability. It’s important to remember, the cellular signal booster can only amplify an existing signal, it cannot create signal from nothing.

Therefore, you must place the outside antenna where it will provide the best signal from the cell phone tower. Also, keep in mind that you can have “too good” of a signal. For example, using a directional antenna too close to the cell tower could cause the booster to become “overloaded”. This “overloaded” state will keep the signal booster from performing. Because finding the right outside coverage is so crucial, there are a few tricks you can use to ensure a good outside signal.

  • Use a signal meter.

SureCall makes an amazing signal meter that works really great to help you locate the best outside signal. Just plug the outside antenna into the meter, and then aim the antenna to find the best signal level.

SureCall SC-METER-01 cell phone signal meter
SureCall Signal Meter
  • Use your cellphone.

If you are using a non-directional antenna, you can sometimes use your cell phone to locate the best coverage. Note that it sometimes take a while for the display to update on your phone. You’ll notice that you will need to allow several seconds before the phone will update.

  • Use online tools.

There are several websites that can help you to figure out where the nearest cell tower is. CellReception.com is one of my favorites. You just enter your city and state and a google map will quickly show you where the nearest towers are.

Antenna Separation

One of the biggest challenges for engineers developing cellular signal boosters is the issue of feedback. This feedback, also called oscillation, can create serious issues. Luckily, a few years ago, a brilliant engineering team patented the “oscillation detection algorithm” to help out. By the way, I used to work on that brilliant engineering team.

While we will save for another post the in-depth discussion of oscillation, the “Reader’s Digest” version is as follows. Oscillation is when an amplifier (or cellular signal booster) amplifies a signal, receives the amplified signal, then amplifies it again.

In the past, undetected oscillations could shut down a cell phone provider’s tower. Now, all new cellular signal boosters provide oscillation detection due to FCC and cellular carrier requirements. So, the booster will shut itself down if it oscillates, but if it is shut-down, it can’t amplify anything, right?

  • Keep the inside and outside antennas away from each other.

The inside and outside antennas need plenty of physical separation. Separate the antennas both vertically and horizontally. In fact, the more separation that you can get between them, the better off you are going to be. So, try to get the outside antenna as high up as possible, and the inside antenna as low as possible. Also, you could place the outside antenna on one end of the house and the inside antenna at the other, pointing away from each other.

  • Point them the opposite direction.

If you are using directional antennas, make sure that the antennas are aiming away from each other. Notice the “Sample Cell Phone Signal Booster Installation Diagram” above. It show a very ideal installation scenario. Install your antennas in a similar manner, with them pointing away from each other and as much separation as possible.

The Right Antenna

Cellular signal boosters have many different antenna options. I will quickly highlight the simple differences.

Outdoor Directional

SureCall SC-231W outdoor Yagi directional antenna
Outdoor Directional Yagi Antenna

Directional antennas are great for locations where you need a little more help reaching out to the cell tower. They have higher gain than non-directional antennas, but only have the higher gain in the direction they are aimed.

Outdoor Non-directional

SureCall SC-100-S Dual Band Outdoor Omni Short Antenna
Dual Band Outdoor Omni Short Antenna
SureCall SC-100-L Dual Band Outdoor Omni Long Antenna
Dual Band Outdoor Omni Long Antenna
SureCall SC-288W Outdoor Omnidirectional Antenna
Wide Band Outdoor Omnidirectional Antenna

Omnidirectional (or non-directional) antennas are great for when you are close to a cell tower, but may have poor coverage indoors.

Indoor Non-directional

SureCall SC-121W Wide Band Right Angle Whip Antenna
Wide Band Right Angle Whip Antenna
SureCall SC-302W Wide Band Desktop Antenna
Wide Band Desktop Antenna

Non-directional indoor antennas are usually attached directly to the cellular signal booster and radiate an even signal away from the antenna. They have lower gain than directional antennas, but they evenly dispense signal. They are usually placed in the the middle of the area where the users will be located.

Indoor Directional

SureCall SC-222W Wide Band Dome Antenna
Wide Band Dome Antenna
SureCall SC-248W Wide Band Panel Antenna
Wide Band Panel Antenna

Directional indoor antennas are usually attached to a cable that runs from the cellular signal booster. They are either placed on a wall or attached to the ceiling to radiate signal toward the area where users will be located.

 

Need Help?

If you need help figuring out what might be best for your exact situation, we are more than happy to help! Since we understand that not everyone can be an electronics engineer (like me), email us at: contact@cellbooster.us describe your situation, and we would LOVE to help you design your cellular signal booster system!

When you’re ready to buy your cellular signal booster, we would LOVE to sell you what you need! Buy a cellular signal booster here in my shop.