Signal Meters and/or Spectum Analyzers

Topics Related to Cell Towers, Frequencies and Bands
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alamont
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Signal Meters and/or Spectum Analyzers

Post by alamont » Wed Mar 24, 2021 2:46 pm

Hi Everyone,

I'm couldn't find a dedicate thread on signal meters or spectrum analyzers so hopefully this isn't too redundant. I'm hoping to have a conversation about the available products and get some advice on what meter is best to use for my purposes and hopefully for others. I don't have technical background, so apologies if this is basic.

I'm moving to a fairly rural house in WA state just north of White Salmon. Based on cellmapper it looks like the nearest 4g LTE tower is a U.S Cellular tower .8 miles away with LOS, but unfortunately U.S. Cellular doesn't have great data plans, you can only get up to 150GB for around $150. The next closest tower is around 9 miles away without line of sight. The tower has At&t and T-mobile but it's far away. So assuming I'm going to have to reach the farther tower I'm looking to buy long reaching antennas and point them in the right direction.

Here are the 3 basic categories of tools I'm finding to access the signal strength at a location:

Basic Signal Meters: Surecall RF Signal Meter, Wilson Pro Signal Meters
Radio Frequency (RF) Spectrum Analyzers: RF Explorer (lots of models)
Display-less Meters Requiring Phone/Computer: Cell LinQ Pro Meter
Modem/Routers software:Built-in strength/quality test in Mofi 4500 or on a similar opensource modem/routers

The basic meters seem to focus on LTE bands as they relate to specific carriers (with the exception of T-Mobile Band 71) these seem the easiest to use for a beginner. The RF spectrum analyzers seem to be less specific to LTE and look at a un-stepped spectrum of frequencies. They appear to be more general purpose but some models cover very wide ranges of frequencies. The display-less meter seems the most expensive and pro option, giving you all the carries and bands available at once as well as maps of tower locations, etc. It's something that seems like overkill for someone whose not a professional installer.

For my house I am attempting to use an Orbi (Lbr20) LTE modem/wifi. It appears to have pretty dumbed-down software and I'd like to find a better way to direct the two lpda antennas (or potentially 2 parabolic grids) I'm using while I'm on the roof. Any advice on which signal meter or device to go with?

alamont
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Re: Signal Meters and/or Spectum Analyzers

Post by alamont » Sat Mar 27, 2021 10:51 am

After a bit more research it appears as though RF Explorer spectrum analyzers can essentially do everything that the Wilson Pro and Surecall signal meters can do and more. Other than a simplified interface that steps you through LTE carrier bands, do these meters have any features I’m missing that the RF Explorer can’t do?

One thing I don’t understand about LTE is can AT&T share the exact same frequency as say T-Mobile? For example they both have Band2(700MHz) do they have Carrier specific frequencies within that band? Not sure of the correct terminology, but I ask because the Wilson Pro-type meters let you select a carrier when scanning, whereas the RF Explorer will just see frequencies and I’d need to know what specific freq I’m looking for a specific carrier.

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Didneywhorl
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Re: Signal Meters and/or Spectum Analyzers

Post by Didneywhorl » Mon Mar 29, 2021 9:19 am

I hope someone else chimes in. I'm interested but not super experienced here. I have a spectrum analyzer from Arinst. The SSA R2. http://www.arinst.net/arinst_ssa_r2.php

I'm super noob level at using it.

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Re: Signal Meters and/or Spectum Analyzers

Post by alamont » Mon Mar 29, 2021 3:35 pm

I had to pick one as I'm making the move this week, and got the Wilson Pro. I chickened out and got an simpler tool for the money, but I can't really risk having no internet for a week while I figure out the RF Explorer. Although it looks like a cool device. For anyone interested I'll post my experience using the Wilson Pro here. @Didneywhorl That SSA R2 looks pretty cool, seems similar to the RF Explorer but with a better/color screen.

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