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Bars Lie for LTE Signal Strength! How to determine your actual LTE signal strength


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#1 S4GRU

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 03:17 PM

OK. I think I have typed this 50 times now in several forums. So I have decided to consolidate this in one thread and direct people here...

Did you know that with many Sprint LTE Android devices, the signal strength indicator at the top does not show your LTE signal strength? Even if 4G is displayed next to it?

That's right!  This signal displayed here is your 1x (voice signal), and it is not your 3G EVDO signal strength, nor your LTE signal strength.  Regardless of whether it says 3G or 4G next to it. This is the cause of a lot of confusion.  Also, third party apps like NetMonitor do not show accurate LTE signal strengths. They also only show the 1x signal strength, even though they may reference being connected to LTE.

The purpose of this thread is to help educate the masses, because many people think they have a strong LTE signal, when in fact they do not. And then they are unhappy, thinking that Sprint LTE is really slow, even with a strong signal. LTE performance is very signal strength dependent. So, when you have a weak signal, you can expect much slower than peak results.

There is only one accurate way to get your LTE signal strength, and that is from your LTE Engineering screen in your Debug menu. And we will discuss the different ways to get that below.

...In HTC, Motorola & LG Sprint LTE devices:

  • Go in to your phone app, and dial ##DEBUG#
  • Select LTE Engineering
  • Go down to RSRP. The number under RSRP shown in dBm is your LTE signal strength.

...In Samsung Sprint LTE devices:

  • Go in to your phone app, and dial ##DEBUG#
  • Enter 777468 for your lock code
  • Select LTE Engineering
  • Go down to RSRP. The number next to RSRP shown in dBm is your LTE signal strength.

...In the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 5:

  • Go in to your phone app, and dial *#*#DEBUG#*#*
  • Enter 777468 for your lock code
  • Select LTE Engineering
  • Go down to RSRP. The number next to RSRP shown in dBm is your LTE signal strength.

The LTE Signal Strength Scale:

Now you have determined your actual LTE signal strength in dBms your device is receiving, you can use the following scale below to determine its strength:

  • Better than -88dBm RSRP is a strong signal
  • Between -89dBm and -96dBm is a very good signal
  • Between -97dBm and -105dBm is good
  • Between -106dBm and -112dBm is fair
  • Worse than -113dBm RSRP is poor

Feel free to link people to this thread for explanation. Hopefully, this will clear up some confusion out there!

NOTE: iPhones, LG Android devices and Triband LTE devices are not affected.  They do show LTE signal accurately.  Also, many Android 4.3 and later devices also show LTE signal strength accurately.  This thread will become obsolete soon as all Sprint devices in 2014 will be Triband and will display LTE signal strength correctly.



#2 Feech

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 03:21 PM

Thanks. I had no idea though that the bars did not apply to 3G either..

#3 Zombiebbq

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 03:49 PM

awesome sauce thanks

#4 rayluis1988

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 07:04 PM

Great Thanks..i tought the bars represented the data connection too

#5 wyattwalter

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 09:36 PM

I'm pretty sure the same goes for iPhones: *3001#12345#*

#6 kg4icg

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:02 PM

On Androids, and instead of going thru all of that, you could just load up Net Monitor and read your signal strength directly off of that. I currently on tower 394 at - 90(dBm).

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#7 S4GRU

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:04 PM

On Androids, and instead of going thru all of that, you could just load up Net Monitor and read your signal strength directly off of that. I currently on tower 394 at - 90(dBm).

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 2


That is the problem. That is not accurate. NetMonitor never gives the LTE signal strength, it only gives the 1x signal strength. This is the exact problem we are trying to avoid. Mistaken signal readings.

All the data in NetMonitor regarding LTE is not valid. The signal strength, tower/site info and map location shown are for your 1x connection, even though LTE is shown as the network connection type. The only place to get an accurate LTE signal strength is in your Debug/LTE Engineering screen.

Robert

#8 kg4icg

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:08 PM

That's odd since I just verified the same reading in my Evdo engineering screen, on my Evo 4G LTE.

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#9 S4GRU

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:11 PM

That's odd since I just verified the same reading in my Evdo engineering screen, on my Evo 4G LTE.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 2


You are much more likely to have a similar 1x and EVDO signal on most devices. However, your LTE signal will never be the same. They aren't even measured on the same scale, one using RSSI and the other RSRP. I repeat, NetMonitor DOES NOT GIVE YOU LTE SIGNAL STRENGTHS.

Android does not provide the information about LTE signal strength and connections to the Android API. So apps cannot even obtain the information from your Android device. So all the data that NetMonitor is showing it is getting from the Android OS, which does not include LTE site info. The site info displayed in NetMonitor is based on the 1x connection your device has. It currently is not capable of getting it from your device.

Robert

#10 kg4icg

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:18 PM

As far as I can tell, LTE signal strength is measured in dBm also on my Evo lte engineering screen rsrp/rsrq.

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#11 S4GRU

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:24 PM

As far as I can tell, LTE signal strength is measured in dBm also on my Evo lte engineering screen rsrp/rsrq.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 2


You are mistaken and causing confusion. Sprint LTE is measured in dBms in the RSRP scale. 1x and EVDO are measured in dBms in RSSI. The numbers you are posting from NetMonitor are clearly in RSSI, and thus cannot be LTE.

We already know unequivocally that NetMonitor does not and cannot provide LTE signal strengths in their readings and they have admitted to it in the past in postings and comments with our members. This is not something debatable.

If you believe that you are getting LTE signal strength in NetMonitor, you are mistakenly getting incorrect readings. We are trying to prevent this problem. If you keep reading NetMonitor signal strengths, when you are connected to LTE, you are almost always going to think you have a great signal, and wonder why you are getting weak speeds and dropped from LTE. Whereas if you check your actual LTE signal strength in the LTE Engineering screen, as we have outlined in this thread, you will know when you actually have a weak LTE signal.

Currently, the EVO LTE is the only Sprint LTE device that shows a LTE RSRP signal reading in the Settings>About menu. And we noticed some variation at times between LTE Engineering and the reading in Settings>About during our LTE performance testing we did in the Sprint LTE FIT earlier this month.

The GS-III, Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper all show their 1x connection strength in RSSI in the Settings>About, even though they reference the LTE data connection. It is all confusing. That is why the only place that is guaranteed accurate and provides the signal in RSRP is in the LTE Engineering screen.

Robert

#12 kg4icg

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:29 PM

Thing is, I'm not in a LTE area currently, won't be until Friday when I pass thru Baltimore on my way to Newark. There are 2 different receive measurements in my engineering screen. 1 is receive signal strength and the other is received power in dbm. Being a ham. I know the difference in the 2.

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#13 S4GRU

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:37 PM

Thing is, I'm not in a LTE area currently, won't be until Friday when I pass thru Baltimore on my way to Newark. There are 2 different receive measurements in my engineering screen. 1 is receive signal strength and the other is received power in dbm. Being a ham. I know the difference in the 2.

Sent from my EVO using Tapatalk 2


When you get into a LTE signal area and have a place where you can check while not moving, open up NetMonitor, your LTE Engineering and Settings>About and compare the three. In the EVO LTE, your LTE Engineering and Settings>About should be the same or similar. However, your NetMonitor will be different and will likely be the same as your 1x Engineering signal.

Robert

#14 mirlyn

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:39 PM

Just for confirmation (and for others to read/learn from), the reason NetMonitor and other apps cannot tell signal strength of LTE is the same reason Sensorly cannot give 4G signal ratings. Signal "quality" (however your handset measures it) is available to the native test screens (perhaps in different units of measurement), but not via applications including the "bars" meter. Is that correct?

#15 S4GRU

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:55 PM

Just for confirmation (and for others to read/learn from), the reason NetMonitor and other apps cannot tell signal strength of LTE is the same reason Sensorly cannot give 4G signal ratings. Signal "quality" (however your handset measures it) is available to the native test screens (perhaps in different units of measurement), but not via applications including the "bars" meter. Is that correct?


Yes. Sensorly suffers the same affliction. It can only be told from the Android API that it is connected to LTE or not. But it cannot receive information about signal strength like it can from 1x and EVDO.

Robert via CM9 Kindle Fire using Forum Runner

#16 koiulpoi

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 08:05 AM

Just for confirmation: Photon Q's instructions are the same as the LG Viper.
Call me Koi, everyone else does.

If you're responding to my post, please quote me. I might miss it otherwise!

My posts are in no way the views of my employer nor Sprint. I express my own opinions, no one elses.

#17 irev210

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 08:28 AM

Yes. Sensorly suffers the same affliction. It can only be told from the Android API that it is connected to LTE or not. But it cannot receive information about signal strength like it can from 1x and EVDO.

Robert via CM9 Kindle Fire using Forum Runner


Maybe it would be helpful to add how not only bars lie but Netmonitor (and others) also lie to your original post. I feel that this is going to become a rather large issue as time goes on and more areas get peppered with Sprint's LTE Shotgun.

#18 ks-man

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 09:27 AM

Is there any general rule in terms of distances when looking at these numbers:

  • Less than -96dBm is a great signal
  • Between -97dBm and -107dBm is good
  • Between -108dBm and -114dBm is fair
  • More than -115dBm is poor

Up to how far from the tower would you expect to see -96dBm and under? You see a lot of people currently saying "I was standing next to the tower and I got..." In reality few of us are going to head to a tower just to use the internet but up to how far from a tower should we continue to see strong LTE performance?

#19 WiWavelength

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 09:32 AM

Is there any general rule in terms of distances when looking at these numbers:


No, there is no general rule because factors such as ERP and downtilt vary from site to site, even sector to sector. To use two extremes as examples, some sites are configured to cover only a few city blocks; others are designed to cover hundreds of square miles. Obviously, the great/good/fair/poor signal strength levels will be at vastly different distances in those two examples.

AJ

#20 MacinJosh

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 09:34 AM

Is there any general rule in terms of distances when looking at these numbers:

  • Less than -96dBm is a great signal
  • Between -97dBm and -107dBm is good
  • Between -108dBm and -114dBm is fair
  • More than -115dBm is poor
Up to how far from the tower would you expect to see -96dBm and under? You see a lot of people currently saying "I was standing next to the tower and I got..." In reality few of us are going to head to a tower just to use the internet but up to how far from a tower should we continue to see strong LTE performance?


Plus, obstructions, like trees, between you and the tower can effectively weaken that signal before it gets to you.
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