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Thread: Weak LTE signal - would phone with additional bands help?

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    Weak LTE signal - would phone with additional bands help?

    I have an old AT&T Samsung Galaxy S III (SGH-I747), and getting just a very weak LTE signal (typically between -114 and -118 db) at home, resulting in only intermittent connection to the AT&T network. My understanding is that the SGH-I747 just supported a single LTE band. If I buy a more-current phone that supports multiple LTE bands, would that (or perhaps better radios in newer phones?) increase the likelihood that I get a stronger and more-reliable signal?

    My thinking is that if the signal strength issue is primarily lack of support for newer LTE bands, I could probably get a better deal with an unbranded phone, such as OnePlus 7 Pro; however if that is not likely to result in a more-reliable connection at home, I'm pretty much stuck buying an AT&T branded phone that AT&T will support for WiFi calling in order to reliably connect from home.

    I did look at the rootmetrics and sensorly maps, but my house seems to be in an area with minimal data on the various networks, so it's not clear that switching to a different carrier would be an alternate solution.

    Thanks, in advance, for any insight you LTE experts might be able to provide.

  2. #2
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    Well, an unbranded phone, at least for now, is unlikely to have VoLTE so probably wouldn't have better coverage for voice than your existing phone.

    Additional bands will help if, where you are at, coverage is better provided by the other bands. You could just be an area that doesn't have good coverage by any ATT band.
    iPhone X is my current primary phone. I have older model iPhones and Moto phones available on other lines. Currently prepaid, though would consider postpaid on right plan.

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    it could also be the construction materials of your home
    could be the factor of a weak LTE signal.
    does the phone do any better when you are outside ??
    you could report the issue to AT&T and see what they say.

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    Your phone supports B4/17. You could look at a used S8/S9 on Swappa. You’ll get 2/4/5/12/29/30/46/66 on the S8 and 2/4/5/12/14/29/30/46/66 on the S9. Your signal might not be appreciably better by numbers, but those phones have more antenna which can improve usability of the signal and CA which can bond many LTE channels together. You’ll also get VoLTE. I would definitely look into upgrading.


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    This S3 supports only band 4 and band 17. But band 17 (well, band 12) is AT&T's main band for range, and band 4 main for capacity. (Band 12 is a superset of band 17, but AT&T's "band 12" is really within band 17 in the vast majority of areas.) More bands could be better, AT&T plans to have their band 2 and band 5 shifted over to LTE ("plans to" here meaning they've probably already done it where you live.)

    BUT, does the S3 support carrier aggregation? I went from (on Verizon Wireless) a Stratosphere II (band 13 only, vzw's 700mhz band) to Blackberry Keyone (a bunch of LTE bands.) My Keyone shows a lower signal in many areas, but not slower service... from what I've gathered, it sits on band 4 right down to -120 dBm, then below that shifts to a band 13 signal at about -85 or -90... but the speedtest is the same if I'm in the band 13 as in the weak band 4. As far as I can tell, when it's "on" band 4 it really is on carrier aggregation band 4 + band 13, and really carrying almost 100% of the traffic over band 13.

    In the case of your phone, if it doesn't have carrier aggregation, it'd be on band 4 with bad service. If it had carrier aggregation (even with the same 2 bands) it could use band 4 + band 17, and the traffic would just shift over to 4 as the signal on 4 improved, and shift over to 17 as that band 4 signal dropped off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwertz View Post
    This S3 supports only band 4 and band 17. But band 17 (well, band 12) is AT&T's main band for range, and band 4 main for capacity. (Band 12 is a superset of band 17, but AT&T's "band 12" is really within band 17 in the vast majority of areas.) More bands could be better, AT&T plans to have their band 2 and band 5 shifted over to LTE ("plans to" here meaning they've probably already done it where you live.)

    BUT, does the S3 support carrier aggregation? I went from (on Verizon Wireless) a Stratosphere II (band 13 only, vzw's 700mhz band) to Blackberry Keyone (a bunch of LTE bands.) My Keyone shows a lower signal in many areas, but not slower service... from what I've gathered, it sits on band 4 right down to -120 dBm, then below that shifts to a band 13 signal at about -85 or -90... but the speedtest is the same if I'm in the band 13 as in the weak band 4. As far as I can tell, when it's "on" band 4 it really is on carrier aggregation band 4 + band 13, and really carrying almost 100% of the traffic over band 13.

    In the case of your phone, if it doesn't have carrier aggregation, it'd be on band 4 with bad service. If it had carrier aggregation (even with the same 2 bands) it could use band 4 + band 17, and the traffic would just shift over to 4 as the signal on 4 improved, and shift over to 17 as that band 4 signal dropped off.
    I’m probably going to get hammered for this but that is exactly why I would have no issues if carriers got rid of the “signal bars” on my phone. With CA it’s irrelevant cause it only shows the strength of the primary band.
    I have had speed tests hit over 80 Mbps with one signal bar of service and I have had speed tests and calls fail with full service. The number of bars does not reflect the quality of my network connection and I would have no problem if my phone just said “ATT-5Ge” instead of the one lit up bar and 3 grayed out ones with 5Ge after it. Here is a test I just ran as an example.

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    I'd rather have a signal strength bar on my phone, but it certainly makes more sense for it to show the strongest signal it's CA'ing with, and not just whatever band it happens to be camping on.

    Or, even better, if it showed some LTE equivalent of the CDMA's EC/I0 -- this is a signal to noise measure where effectively 0 to -1 or so is a perfect signal, poor call quality at about -8 to -10 (or 8 to 10 depending on how the phone displayed it..) and breaking up around -12. That worked both for poor signal, and a strong signal but high noise floor due to congestion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwertz View Post
    I'd rather have a signal strength bar on my phone, but it certainly makes more sense for it to show the strongest signal it's CA'ing with, and not just whatever band it happens to be camping on.

    Or, even better, if it showed some LTE equivalent of the CDMA's EC/I0 -- this is a signal to noise measure where effectively 0 to -1 or so is a perfect signal, poor call quality at about -8 to -10 (or 8 to 10 depending on how the phone displayed it..) and breaking up around -12. That worked both for poor signal, and a strong signal but high noise floor due to congestion.
    I do agree but there are still more factors that impact the quality/speed of the connection. Signal strength of primary and CA bands, channel width, number of bands, technology deployed, and congestion all play into the topic.

    My point is purely from an ease of use. With all the technologies that all carriers are deploying getting good speeds with minimal signal strength is much more common now. Plus we on this board are the 1% who actually care about this stuff. The general public only cares if their device works or not.


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    There's a few issues. For one, the SIII is ancient, and Samsung's RF performance has drastically improved over that time. Even going from the S7 to the S9 series was a 3dB boost. Then you've got bands. You want B14 HPUE, as there are spots where that's the only LTE band that works, but have the core bands of B2/4/5/17 will help, as well as adding other bands like B29/30/66.

    Secondly, old devices don't have CA, so while they could hit 70mbps on a 10x10 back in the day, that's highly unlikely to happen today, as I'll come along with my Note 9 and suck up bandwidth on 3 or 4 or 5 different channels at the same time, and that SIII will be left in the dust. With most phones on the network today supporting at least 3x CA you're at a disadvantage if you don't have at least that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SoxFan76 View Post
    There's a few issues. For one, the SIII is ancient, and Samsung's RF performance has drastically improved over that time. Even going from the S7 to the S9 series was a 3dB boost. Then you've got bands. You want B14 HPUE, as there are spots where that's the only LTE band that works, but have the core bands of B2/4/5/17 will help, as well as adding other bands like B29/30/66.

    Secondly, old devices don't have CA, so while they could hit 70mbps on a 10x10 back in the day, that's highly unlikely to happen today, as I'll come along with my Note 9 and suck up bandwidth on 3 or 4 or 5 different channels at the same time, and that SIII will be left in the dust. With most phones on the network today supporting at least 3x CA you're at a disadvantage if you don't have at least that.
    Unfortunately, HPUE is not available on mobile handsets. Not sure if it'll ever be. The note 9 for example goes as high as 24 dbm on band 5, 12 and 14. HPUE for band 14 I believe allows up 31 dbm. It'll probably be only on certain first responder hardware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeybutts View Post
    Unfortunately, HPUE is not available on mobile handsets. Not sure if it'll ever be. The note 9 for example goes as high as 24 dbm on band 5, 12 and 14. HPUE for band 14 I believe allows up 31 dbm. It'll probably be only on certain first responder hardware.
    That's interesting. Why aren't they putting B14 HPUE into their devices? They already have HPUE on B41 and it's proven to work really well at increasing the effective range.

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    HPUE-High Power User Equipment

    That's interesting about the 5Ge symbol, I've never seen it on my S10+ on AT&T in this area, that goes for here in Mendocino County or in Lake County, or down in Sonoma County. In Mendocino and Lake Counties, AT&T is running Band's 2, 4, 14, 12/17, 30 and 66, and in Sonoma County, all of those plus Band 5. I guess our area hasn't received the LTE upgrades AT&T is calling 5Ge, yet.
    Last edited by ilvla2; 08-04-2019 at 11:28 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SoxFan76 View Post
    That's interesting. Why aren't they putting B14 HPUE into their devices? They already have HPUE on B41 and it's proven to work really well at increasing the effective range.
    Band 41 is approved for 27 or 28 dbm. B14 is approved for 31dbm. It's in a different class of HPUE, and I don't think handheld hardware is compatible. Either way, band 14 has incredible range on it. I'm sure the engineers are tuning it for the best possible range. It's better than b12 without a doubt. I've seen it work upstate NY 20+ miles. Seems better than wcdma on modernized sites.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeybutts View Post
    Band 41 is approved for 27 or 28 dbm. B14 is approved for 31dbm. It's in a different class of HPUE, and I don't think handheld hardware is compatible. Either way, band 14 has incredible range on it. I'm sure the engineers are tuning it for the best possible range. It's better than b12 without a doubt. I've seen it work upstate NY 20+ miles. Seems better than wcdma on modernized sites.
    Ah, interesting. B14 definitely does have great range, I've seen it pop up inside a house where there was lousy AT&T service.

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