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S4GRU Compares our LTE Coverage Map with Sprint's in St. Joseph, Missouri

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by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, August 3, 2012 - 4:25 PM MDT

 

There has been a lot of discussion around our forums, and certainly in many other places, how Sprint's LTE coverage maps of launched markets have been pretty overly optimistic. To say it nicely.

Today I decided to create some LTE coverage maps for St. Joseph, Missouri for our members usage, and for grins, I pulled up the Sprint LTE coverage map for the same area. The difference is pretty noticeable.

In our map, we used data that we have from Sprint about each of the live sites, including tower height and downtilt. So we can enter in as accurate information as possible. We use the coverage creators that are provided from our friends at CloudRF.com. You can see the differences below.

 

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S4GRU St. Joseph LTE Coverage Map. In the map above, you can see the LTE coverages for Sprint from the live sites in the area. This was produced by S4GRU using CloudRF.com. Green denotes Sprint 4G LTE Coverage area.

 

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Sprint St. Joseph LTE Coverage Map. In this map you can see the LTE coverage as reported from coverage.sprint.com over the same area. Orange denotes Sprint 4G LTE Coverage area.

 

We recognize that this is far from a scientific analysis. The data used to create our map is accurate, however we are dependent on the modeling used by the coverage generator at CloudRF. We feel that CloudRF though has been very accurate in previous analyses we have conducted including our own field verification tests. So we feel pretty confident in our results posted here.

It appears that Sprint has indeed posted very flattering LTE coverage in its maps so far. At least in regards to St. Joe. However, this was already supported by dozens of comments by our members as well. For the time being, I would not consider using Sprint's LTE coverage maps for very defined coverage of a specific neighborhood or street, but rather just to know if they have some live sites in a general area.

 

EDIT 6:30 PM MDT: S4GRU Writer, A.J. Shepherd, was in St. Joe this evening and reported a new live site that was not on our maps. We have added it and changed the coverages to reflect this recent addition.

 

 

FURTHER READING FOR S4GRU SPONSORS: We have an interactive version of our St. Joseph coverage map in our Sponsor section, and have a discussion thread posted there.

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In relation to post Network Vision cell towers transmitting 3G signals, would the LTE signals be stronger then the 3G signal? Or weaker? And by how much?

 

What about pre Network Vision 3G signals in comparison to post Network Vision LTE signals?

 

This is assuming that the device stays in the exact same spot of course. My Evo LTE's 3G signal is very weak at work. But my coworker's Galaxy S3's 3G signal is roughly the same (in terms of bars) but when we did a speedtest to compare the two, her phone got almost triple my phone's speed.

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In relation to post Network Vision cell towers transmitting 3G signals, would the LTE signals be stronger then the 3G signal? Or weaker? And by how much?What about pre Network Vision 3G signals in comparison to post Network Vision LTE signals?This is assuming that the device stays in the exact same spot of course. My Evo LTE's 3G signal is very weak at work. But my coworker's Galaxy S3's 3G signal is roughly the same (in terms of bars) but when we did a speedtest to compare the two, her phone got almost triple my phone's speed.

 

It's hard to quantify, but I will do my best:

 

A LTE signal should be slightly stronger than a legacy 3G signal from the same exact tower.

 

A LTE signal should be very similar to the NV 3G signal from the same exact tower.

 

Here are some caveats. When I say the signal is similar, that is the measured strength in signal in dBm RSSI, not in "bars." LTE is not as usable with a weak signal as 3G EVDO. So even though you may be in a spot with -100dBm LTE and -100dBm EVDO, the LTE will be almost unusable, especially your upload data. Whereas the EVDO will be OK. So the LTE would probably be zero bars at -100dBm, but your EVDO would be at one or two bars at -100dBm.

 

Also, this can vary from device to device. If you had a device that has a stronger LTE radio than EVDO radio (or vice versa), then there could be some variability. It's not a clear cut definite thing, as you can see.

 

Hopefully this info helps.

 

Robert

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Robert,

 

So how does one come across heights and down tilt data? Do you work for Sprint, Ericsson or a vendor or something? I think you might have commented on this in a prior post, but I couldn't recall.

 

Wes

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At what dBm does LTE become usable?

 

After messing around with my phone, some cups, and aluminum foil, I managed to increase (or is it decrease?) the dBm to -85ish.

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At what dBm does LTE become usable?After messing around with my phone, some cups, and aluminum foil, I managed to increase (or is it decrease?) the dBm to -85ish.

 

It varies with hardware sensitivity (get what you pay for) but as a rule of thumb, anything lower than -105dBm (1 bar) is very weak and you will experience degraded service. -85dBm is pretty good. A very strong signal would be -70dBm or higher.

 

Alex

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Thanks for the info Robert. As far as a usable LTE signal, I'd say -105dbm to -110dbm is about the cut off point so far in my usage. I'm in a fringe 4g area (my house, outside) and I've been able to get speed tests up to 11mb/s. I've also seen 600kbp/s at the same spot on different days, and sometimes it'll error out and switch back to 3g. LTE signal ranges from -106dbm to -114dbm when I'm doing my speedtests. (signal measured in RSRP)

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Robert,So how does one come across heights and down tilt data? Do you work for Sprint, Ericsson or a vendor or something? I think you might have commented on this in a prior post, but I couldn't recall.Wes

 

Nope. I do not work for Sprint. The data we use is not public, though. It has come directly from RF Engineers who work in the Sprint Network Vision program.

 

 

Thanks for the info Robert. As far as a usable LTE signal, I'd say -105dbm to -110dbm is about the cut off point so far in my usage. I'm in a fringe 4g area (my house, outside) and I've been able to get speed tests up to 11mb/s. I've also seen 600kbp/s at the same spot on different days, and sometimes it'll error out and switch back to 3g. LTE signal ranges from -106dbm to -114dbm when I'm doing my speedtests. (signal measured in RSRP)

 

We used -100dBm RSSI as our threshold for our coverage maps. This seemed to be pretty accurate in AJ's review of our map in real world conditions while driving around St. Joe yesterday.

 

 

When citing LTE signal strength, be sure to clarify whether you are referencing RSSI or RSRP. See our article:http://s4gru.com/ind...trength-primer/AJ

 

This is always a good reminder. Thanks for posting the link for everyone to refer back to.

 

 

It varies with hardware sensitivity (get what you pay for) but as a rule of thumb, anything lower than -105dBm (1 bar) is very weak and you will experience degraded service. -85dBm is pretty good. A very strong signal would be -70dBm or higher. Alex

 

Alex...welcome to S4GRU. And thanks for all your work at CloudRF.com!

 

Robert

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When citing LTE signal strength, be sure to clarify whether you are referencing RSSI or RSRP. See our article:http://s4gru.com/ind...trength-primer/AJ

 

My bad - I meant RSSI. Must have been distracted by having to stand for our national anthem every 5 minutes ;)

 

Good article BTW.

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My bad - I meant RSSI. Must have been distracted by having to stand for our national anthem every 5 minutes ;)Good article BTW.

 

No problem, Alex. My comment was not directed at anyone in particular. Rather, it was just a reminder that LTE signal strength measurements oft follow a different paradigm.

 

AJ

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I went thru Houston on last night and I found EXCELLENT LTE

 

Test Date: Aug 3, 2012 10:13:23 pm

Connection Type: Lte

Server: Houston, TX

Download: 25891 kbps

Upload: 12759 kbps

Ping: 56 ms

External IP: 66.87.121.140

Internal IP: 30.131.5.140

Latitude: 29.77653

Longitude: -95.38563

A detailed image for this result can be found here:

http://www.speedtest.net/android/222967824.png

 

Just thought I would post where it is. With those speeds, I really can't wait until I get LTE in Austin.

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I just drove through St. Joesph returning to Overland Park from Omaha. I connected LTE for just about a minute at mile marker 57, which is 7 miles north of St. Joe and I was EVDO Rev A for the rest of the way through St. Joe. No other LTE connection on I-29.

 

Before you ask, yes my EVO LTE was set to LTE/CDMA.

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I just drove through St. Joesph returning to Overland Park from Omaha. I connected LTE for just about a minute at mile marker 57, which is 7 miles north of St. Joe and I was EVDO Rev A for the rest of the way through St. Joe. No other LTE connection on I-29. Before you ask, yes my EVO LTE was set to LTE/CDMA.

 

AJ was just in St. Joe and confirmed all the sites are operating and the accuracy of our coverage map. Sounds like typical EVO LTE connection issues.

 

Robert

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I had better luck when roaming was Sprint Only instead of Automatic. I'm heading North this coming Friday night - going Waco, etc. on the way to OK. Now that I know what my Evo LTE can do, I'll be able to compare what I had in Houston to what I get in Waco. Any word on if Austin, TX will be August or September yet?

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