Antenna Selection Guide
This easy-to-understand guide is an introduction to improving signal on Australian networks.
First up - you will need three pieces of equipment to improve your mobile signal: - an antenna - a cable and - a connector.
Similar to your TV, mobile phones and wireless broadband modems connect to antennas.
1 - For increased signal, the best position for your antenna is as high as possible outside your car or house - this means you'll need cable to cover the distance from where you want to put the antenna, to where you want to use your phone or modem.
2 - You'll need something to connect your cable into your phone or modem - all good quality modems have an external antenna port, meaning all you need is a small adaptor cable called a patch lead to go from the big connector on the cable to the tiny connector on your modem.
Many phones have an external antenna port, most notably Telstra, Samsung, and Motorola brand phones. You'll just need to use a phone cradle if your phone does not have an external antenna port.
If you don't like the idea of having to constantly tether your phone to a patch lead or cradle, you can connect your antenna to a smart repeater which will amplify and broadcast your antenna's signal throughout your house at full strength - this will give your mobile phone a full five bars.
Let's Get Started
There are four main factors that reduce mobile coverage:
Distance from the cell tower
Dense vegetation & buildings
You're probably not too surrised to learn that mobile signal is reduced by distance (due to the Inverse-Square Law) from the cell tower, causing a gradual weakening of signal.
On flat terrain, most cell towers have a usable range of about 40km before you'll need to use an external antenna. With a good quality external antenna it's possible to receive signal as far as 120km.
Radio waves diffract by nature - this means they can bend over hills and around structures/objects, so being able to see a cell tower is not the ‘be all and end all’ of obtaining signal.
If you've travelled through a hilly area, you'll no doubt have noticed you still have mobile reception despite being in a small dip or behind a rise in terrain. It's large or sudden changes in terrain that will significantly impact phone coverage – in this type of scenario, height is the key success factor.
Dense sections of trees are notorious for diffusing signal - one or two trees will not impact signal strength too much - add more and more trees, and it's a little like 'death by a thousand cuts, with each tree absorbing and deflecting a small amount of signal.
The best way to mitigate this phenomenon is by increasing height to minimise the path length that signal must pass through the offending vegetation.
Mobile signal is reduced when passing through buildings, trees, water, and even the air we breathe. The worst offenders are thick and conductive materials such as concrete, metals and foil-based insulation – this is often why signal can be weak indoors despite a strong signal outside.
For a comprehensive look at all the factors involved, have a read through our Poor Coverage Explained guide.