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Author Topic: wifi signal strength  (Read 1889 times)

MikeFromMesa

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wifi signal strength
« on: July 03, 2016, 07:37:40 AM »
I have been trying to set up some way to allow me to get a stronger cell signal when traveling in our RV. I have purchased a magnetic external antenna which I plan to mount on the RV roof and attach to a hotspot which we will then use as our signal source. I have also been thinking about getting an amplifier to use to increase the signal strength from the external antenna to the hotspot but was wondering if there was any way to measure the wifi signal strength in dBs using the phone as there is to measure the cell signal strength in dBs using the phone.

I have already placed my phone in test mode and it now displays the cell signal strength in dBs so I am able to see a more accurate measure of the cell signal strength than the number of bars being displayed. Is there some native way on a phone to do the same for the wifi signal strength? For what it is worth I am using an iPhone 6S Plus on a Verizon system with a Verizon 6620L Verizon hotspot. I know of no way to change the display on the hotspot to show decibels as you can with the phone itself.

SargeW

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2016, 07:52:47 AM »
There are many apps in the Play Store for your phone that will measure your WiFi signal. What you are really trying to improve is cellular signal reception to provide a better WiFi signal.  Here is a recent post I made for a mod that I am having great success with.

http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,95425.msg864388.html#msg864388
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Bobtop46

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2016, 09:26:56 AM »
I have an android and use Netgear WiFi analytics app, available on the app store. I believe for free.
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NY_Dutch

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2016, 10:28:53 AM »
On your 6620L, use the arrow keys to move to the "i" About Jetpack screen and press the check key. Then press it again for the "Next"  screen where you'll see the -dBm reading.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2016, 12:08:53 PM by NY_Dutch »
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2016, 11:07:22 AM »
The "wifi" is coming from your hotspot and should be entirely adequate within a dozen feet or so.   More if unobstructed by walls or whatever. It will be strong even when the cellular signal is not, but the hotspot wifi can't provide any better internet service than the cell modem has. Ergo, you need an antenna, and maybe an amp for cellular, not wifi.
Gary
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MikeFromMesa

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2016, 12:17:46 PM »
On your 6620L, use the arrow keys to move to the "i" About Jetpack screen and press the check key. Then press it again for the "Next"  screen where you'll see the -dBm reading.
Yes. Thank you. I see that now.

NY_Dutch

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2016, 12:29:32 PM »
We're using the new MaxAmp RV cell amplifier/repeater from Maximum Signal. So far we've been really impressed with how well it works. We're currently boondocking in the Adirondacks in an area where Verizon's map says there's no signal, yet we're maintaining a solid 4G/LTE connection to the VPN server at our vacation cottage.
Dutch
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MikeFromMesa

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2016, 12:39:30 PM »
The "wifi" is coming from your hotspot and should be entirely adequate within a dozen feet or so.   More if unobstructed by walls or whatever. It will be strong even when the cellular signal is not, but the hotspot wifi can't provide any better internet service than the cell modem has. Ergo, you need an antenna, and maybe an amp for cellular, not wifi.
It is not clear to me what you mean when you say I don't need wifi.

The idea is to get a stronger signal to the phones as well as the computer and the antenna will provide a stronger signal to the hotspot. It, in turn, will provide the stronger signal to the phones and the computer through the wifi connection. The antenna itself, with or without an amplifier, will not help me with the phones. I need the wifi from the hotspot.

My plan is to get something like the WeBoost 4G-S which is basically an antenna and amplifier, but without a cell signal re-transmitter. I could then place the hotspot in the cradle and it should get a stronger cell signal and thus produce a more usable wifi signal. I am not very knowledgeable about how cell phones work or even about how modems and routers work at the macro level. I do know about how the data gets packetized, transmitted and de-packetized, but not about how the cell or wifi signals themselves get physically transmitted and received. What I want is some way to measure the quality and strength of the wifi signal that will be going to the phones so I can see if adding the amplifier is really worth the cost.

To the best of my knowledge there are two measurements as to how effective the system will be - the wifi signal strength and the quality of the signal. Amplifying a poor signal may not result in any better internet connection as amplifying noise will just produce more dropped packets and thus require more transmissions to get the packets reassembled. Thus I am looking for some way to measure the quality of the wifi signal so I can make sure that spending the money for the amp does, in fact, produce a higher quality signal.

MikeFromMesa

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2016, 12:43:50 PM »
We're using the new MaxAmp RV cell amplifier/repeater from Maximum Signal. So far we've been really impressed with how well it works. We're currently boondocking in the Adirondacks in an area where Verizon's map says there's no signal, yet we're maintaining a solid 4G/LTE connection to the VPN server at our vacation cottage.
Thank you for your post. I will take a look at that system to see if it fits my needs.

SargeW

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2016, 12:53:03 PM »
You are thinking correctly Mike.  For good info, call the tech support at 3G Store.com.  Good folks  and they won't recommend anything that you don't need.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2016, 01:03:12 PM »
Quote
It is not clear to me what you mean when you say I don't need wifi.

I didn't say that. I said you don't need to measure, or boost, the wifi signal strength to your hotspot. When you look into the wifi part, all you can see is the data moving back and forth between the hotspot and the computers, but not how, or even if, it gets out onto the internet.

You are confusing the two different radio signals involved. The wifi radio is in the hotspot and broadcasts the same signal strength regardless of how the cellular signal is doing. Communication between your computers and the hot spot are going to be fine as long as the computers are within range.

So, the hotspot sends and receives data to/from the computers OK, but may run into difficulty when it tries to transfer that data to/from the internet via cellular radio. Your challenge is to improve the cellular portion of the access path, and that's where antennas and boosters come in.
Gary
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MikeFromMesa

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2016, 01:13:35 PM »
You are thinking correctly Mike.  For good info, call the tech support at 3G Store.com.  Good folks  and they won't recommend anything that you don't need.
I read your post with great interest.

During sone of my conversations with sales people at various online stores I was told to buy a non-magnetic antenna and clamp it to the ladder in a way similar to what you say you did. However my wife and I travel in a small Class B motorhome and we have no ladder to use to clamp a pole onto and, in fact, that is one of my major problems. The top of the RV is fiberglass so there is no metal to use as a grounding plane. I have been reluctant to glue a metal grounding plane on the top of the fiberglass roof and even more reluctant to drill holes to mount an NMO antenna and mount, but I have no good place to put an antenna other than the roof.

I was thinking about taking the magnetic antenna and placing it on the engine hood somewhere near the passenger side so it does not interfere with vision when driving. I could then run the cable into the front of the RV through the passenger door. The disadvantage, of course, is that the antenna will be much lower than on the roof but I think my choices are pretty limited. If I put it on the roof I will have to find some way to bring the cable into the RV. That means drill a hole (which I would rather not do) or bring it in through a window (which I would rather not do). If I get a commercial package with an amplifier I will need some DC power source for the amp and that limits me to the driver's area (which means that I would have to run cable from the back roof to the front and worry about the wind doing bad things to the cable) or install it near the only DC electricity in the back, the TV.

This would probably be a bit easier if there was actually some place near where I live that knew about this sort of thing but there does not seem to be. The RV shops know nothing about installing cell amplifying systems and the cell shops know nothing about RVs.

MikeFromMesa

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2016, 01:30:29 PM »
I didn't say that. I said you don't need to measure, or boost, the wifi signal strength to your hotspot.
Yes. I guess I misunderstood what you were saying. My mistake.

John From Detroit

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2016, 03:52:57 PM »
For Android Smart phones there is an app... Network Signal Info

Does both Cell Tower and Wi-Fi, one, the other, or both at once.

Also can ask the tower "Where are you" and display on a map, reading your location off your GPS (NOTE Where Are You info is not all that accurate)   Gives a ton of other info as well.
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MikeFromMesa

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2016, 06:05:33 PM »
For Android Smart phones there is an app... Network Signal Info

Does both Cell Tower and Wi-Fi, one, the other, or both at once.

Also can ask the tower "Where are you" and display on a map, reading your location off your GPS (NOTE Where Are You info is not all that accurate)   Gives a ton of other info as well.
My current phone is an iPhone but I have a Samsung S5 that I used before I changed carriers. I opened it and installed this app and it really is very nice. It is sensitive enough that it can tell me where the best wifi signal in my house is. I will take it with me on our next trip and use it to find out how if the amplifier is worth the expense.

Thank you for your suggestion.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2016, 10:28:35 AM »
One of the difficulties in this sort of discussion is that "wifi" gets used to mean the internet connection, but technically it is just the short range communication between the computer and the network hub (the cellular hotspot in this case). The wifi itself doesn't provide internet access, but it does provide communication to a modem or other computer that does have an internet connection. You can have great wifi but still no internet service.

I harp on this because the smart phone apps also may use inaccurate labels when they say "wifi". They often are talking about the adequacy of the internet being accessed over the wifi and not the wifi channel  itself. That's probably exactly what Mike wants/needs in this case, as long as it is understood that the things to adjust to alter the readings are the cell modem antenna location and type, and a possible cellular amplifier. However, some apps may be talking about the wifi radio signal strength, i.e. the radio communication between the phone and the hotspot. Need to understand which one it is reporting on to use the numbers correctly (a few do both).
Gary
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SargeW

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2016, 07:55:56 AM »
A very good point Gary. That recently happened to me while checking for cell signal strength at a campground in PA. My Android phone app showed a very strong 95 db cell signal strength. What is was reading though was the campground Wifi extender that I was standing next to. In reality the cell signal coming from the nearest cell tower was quite weak due to the distance it was from the campground.  The campground owner was using a cable modem from his provider to deliver signal throughout the campground. 
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #17 on: July 05, 2016, 08:57:56 AM »
Exactly. Wifi is typically a big funnel into a much smaller pipe, and that pipe may well be clogged too! A bigger funnel doesn't help.
Gary
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Lou Schneider

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2016, 12:32:22 PM »
One place where you have to be concerned about the wifi signal is if you're in a park with a large number of other wifi systems (not users) around you.

I'm in a park where the owner installed a beautiful public wifi system, with numerous access points strategically located around the park and internet access provided to the system via a fat FIOS business class fiberoptic link at a cost of several hundred dollars a month.

Shortly after this was installed, the local cable TV company targeted the 50% or so long term park residents and signed many of them to a combo plan that included a wifi router so each RV has their own private wifi network.

As a result, if you do a wifi scan you'll see 30 or more closed systems alongside the park's public network.  All of these systems are competing for the same spectrum, and inside each RV there's enough signal from their local router that the individual networks work very well.  But there's also enough signal leakage outside the RVs that the park wifi slows to a crawl from packet collisions on the shared spectrum.

Simply put, there's so much local congestion that during periods of heavy usage the public access points can't hear a PC unless it's directly underneath it.  Even being a few spaces away is enough to drown out the signal.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2016, 12:42:23 PM by Lou Schneider »

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: wifi signal strength
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2016, 03:23:11 PM »
Good one, Lou. Further, most people don't know that wifi hubs have "channels" for the radio, and many of them default to the same one, making for unnecessary contention. I don't know if the typical cell modem/hotspot is smart enough to seek out the least used channel or not. Or if it ever changes channels when things start getting congested.
Gary
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