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Comparing network signal strengths


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Hi All, 1st time post.

 

I'm a verizon person, switched from sprint to verizon about 9 years ago... and I'm thinking about coming back to sprint.

 

I've been pouring over sites like rootmetrics and sensorly to compare the coverage in my area ( haverhill, ma , and southern NH ) and the one thing I keep coming back to is that it would be great if I could go out and see for myself what the signal strength of various networks was where I lived/worked/etc.

 

For example...the iphone regardless of carrier seems to have the same build, so that means sprints iphone should have GSM/HSPA+ antennas in it... is there a way to check on a sprint iphone what AT&T's signal strength in a particular area was? or verizon's signal strength? or T-mobile's?

 

I know zilch about cell signal encryption or if its even possible to tell from the signal which network the originator is from without one of their SIM cards, but I'm wondering if there is any information here that could be teased out without having multiple phones on you. I'm wondering if even a simple app could be written that just gives you a decibel measurement of what each antenna is receiving....

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I know zilch about cell signal encryption or if its even possible to tell from the signal which network the originator is from without one of their SIM cards, but I'm wondering if there is any information here that could be teased out without having multiple phones on you. I'm wondering if even a simple app could be written that just gives you a decibel measurement of what each antenna is receiving....

 

No, you would need the iPhone to be SIM unlocked, and you would need SIM cards from the carriers that you wish to test out.

 

Also, phones do not have separate CDMA1X and GSM "antennas," per se. Rather, they have separate modes of operation. And the modes of operation that you are interested in are not available simultaneously.

 

AJ

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And that gets expensive rather quickly... would be cheaper to pick up a prepaid from a different carrier and try it out...

 

while understanding why the carriers wouldn't necessarily want to do this... from an end user perspective being able to do this I'd think would be a fairly powerful tool.

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And that gets expensive rather quickly... would be cheaper to pick up a prepaid from a different carrier and try it out...

 

I am not sure why you jumped to the conclusion that such an endeavor would be expensive. Both postpaid and prepaid require SIM cards. So, sure, get a couple of prepaid SIMs for a month. Might cost you $30 each for that month. But the education gained would probably be worth the cost.

 

while understanding why the carriers wouldn't necessarily want to do this... from an end user perspective being able to do this I'd think would be a fairly powerful tool.

 

This really has nothing to do with what the carriers want or do not want. What you want is for the phone to function essentially as a spectrum analyzer. But that is not how phones operate. I paid $1700 for a spectrum analyzer. The truly professional spectrum analyzers that the carriers use run upwards of $20,000.

 

So, getting a few prepaid SIMs, paying for a month of service on each, and observing performance in the desired service area is relatively cheap and easy by comparison.

 

AJ

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Sim cards = cheap; unlocked phone that can connect using the latest technologies off contract would be ~$500 probably on the low end, I honestly haven't checked. Thats where my "expensive" assumptions came from.

 

 

I'm an engineer, but when it comes to cell service I'm not even going to pretend I can talk intelligently on this subject. Basically its as you said.. I knew the hardware for the most part was there in some phones to act as a spectrum analyzer that would be functional in the ranges that I'd need, I was wondering what was missing or what the significant hurdle was to pulling that information out of the phones... which is the SIM card. I had suspected this was likely the case.

 

Thanks for the information.

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Additionally, signal strength does not tell the whole story.

 

For example, look at AT&T's coverage map in almost any metro area where AT&T holds Cellular 850 MHz spectrum. Signal strength is so strong and consistent that it is nearly impossible to glean the locations of individual cell sites on the coverage maps. But that signal strength does not guarantee quality of service. If anything, AT&T has a reputation for poor voice quality because of half rate vocoders and slow data speeds due to congestion. So, raw signal strength might lead someone to believe that AT&T provides excellent coverage in a given market. But the actual experience of using that service might not live up to the expectations set by signal strength.

 

This skewed perception affects Sprint, too. Many people new to Sprint or new to CDMA2000 perceive that their service is poor because they see only one or two bars of signal strength. But they jump to conclusions and fail to realize that CDMA1X typically functions perfectly well right down to the limits of usable signal strength.

 

AJ

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