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Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte


Jan 30, 2011, 1:06 PM

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Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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Greetings. My name is Robin. My father (Calvin) recently moved from California to a remote location in Baja Norte. I am trying to help him set up an internet connection that he can use inside his house to send emails, surf the internet, and use Skye.

At this point weve had some limited success, although the signal is so weak sometimes that the audio quality in Skype is pretty bad, were not even trying video. Also, since he needs to use the small Nokia USB antenna to get a connection on his laptop, he has to go outside to get a signal.

Wed like to install a system with a roof mounted antenna to improve the signal and allow him to work from inside the house.

From the research Ive conducted so far on this forum and elsewhere, I think the best bet would be a dual band (850 and 1900 MHz) in-building system with a directional antenna. Something like this:

Or this:

Any opinion on Wilson vs. Cellphone-Mate?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Has anyone else set up a system like this?

Here are the specifics:

Location: Ejido Erendira, Baja Norte, south of Ensenada, southwest of San Vicente on the Coast.

Carrier: Telcel, there is only one tower within range. We have line-of-sight to the tower from our house though, the distance is 3.1 miles.

Equipment: Nokia 3G USB antenna, HP laptop running Windows 7, iPhone 3G (which is still under an AT&T plan).

Thanks in advance.

johanson / Moderator

Jan 30, 2011, 3:38 PM

Views: 29883

Re: [RobinT] Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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Boy you're asking something most of us do not have to deal with. Years past, I've heard of others who have had to do as you are trying to do and some of them succeeded. I sure hope someone here can help you, say I just two blocks from a cell tower and living in an area where there are three ISPs, not counting Hughes mentioned below.

The one thing you could do, and I hope you don't have to, is to connect to the internet via satellite. It's expensive and slow and the monthly volume allowed is also not very much.

I wish you the best of luck. I have that feeling that you are going to succeed.


Jan 30, 2011, 6:32 PM

Views: 29872

Re: [RobinT] Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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A few years ago I was thinking of buying a house located in a remote canyon, near town, but isolated, and without cellular service from the phone company. I researched every possible aspect of internet service options, including satellite and cellular. At that time I had uncovered the company, Cellular Solutions, and had communicated extensively with them by phone and email. I remain extremely impressed with this company and their products. With cellular signal amplification the more you spend on equipment the better it gets. As I understand it, the starting price would by about US$750.00 on up for amplification equipment. The speed of the internet increases in direct relation to the strength of the signal, and it could be possible to have a good broadband connection using this equipment, however there is the question of whether VoIP telephone service over cellular will function to satisfaction.

One test I would do first, would be to test the quality of the service of the cellular broadband company you are planning to use, at a location near their antenna, including a VoIP telephone test. If the service is poor there, no amount of amplification at a remote location will improve the situation.

I never did buy the rural house mentioned above, so I never did follow through on the actual purchase and use of the equipment from Cellular Solutions. I would suggest that you phone them for a technical discussion of your needs. They are very open and receptive to this type of inquiry and will spend a lot of time with you.

(This post was edited by johnv on Jan 30, 2011, 6:39 PM)


Jan 31, 2011, 11:40 AM

Views: 29845

Re: [RobinT] Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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I am a little puzzled as to why you are having problems with a cell tower 3 miles from the house, line of sight. It should work fine. If it was not line of sight you might have problems.

I am not sure about the effect of concrete walls on cell phone signals. Generally, I would expect that the walls would reduce signal significantly, while the glass windows would pass signal pretty well. There would be enough "leakage" through the windows for the cell phone to work, most of the time. That probably explains the fact that it works better outside.

A simple test would be to go to a place very near the tower and see if things work better. There could be other things going on than a weak signal. In other words, if it does not work well near the cell tower you have other problems.

You did not say what the phone/modem was reporting in terms of signal strength. Although each phone is different, two bars of signal strength should be more than adequate, and I don't think that the system would work a lot better at four bars than two bars.

A much lower cost alternative would be to buy a high gain Yagi antenna and connect it to the phone/modem. You could then tweak the antenna location and direction to optimize your connection. Note, however, that many phones and modems do not have provision for an antenna jack. Note that at those frequencies, the loss in the coax can be large, so you want to use the highest quality (probably physically large) coax, and keep the coax cable as short as possible.

I am mostly talking theoretically, but I do have some practical experience with radio and cell phones in remote areas. When we are in a remote area with our RV, we use a small whip antenna magnetically mounted to a pie pan for a ground plane, works very well, usually one or two bar increase in signal strength. Even better, you can walk around without affecting the signal strength, as the antenna is not moving.

Good luck. Hard to diagnose problems by telephone or internet.


(This post was edited by raferguson on Jan 31, 2011, 11:48 AM)


Apr 11, 2011, 9:18 PM

Views: 29345

Re: [RobinT] Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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Robin, I live in Baja Norte (San Felipe). We have an option to the real slow Telnor bandwidth. That is Telcel. We have several towers that Telcel transmits 3G speed (about 75% of the time). If you have line if sight to the tower, do you know if it is Telnor or Telcel?
If it is Telcel, you really should get a Telcel usb plug in 3G antenna/sim card. Here is a link to San Felipe Life site that has many good articles using the Telcel 3G and should give you some good info.

If it is Telnor, that probably a huge problem. Since the tower frequency that Telnor uses for wireless internet is a highly guarded secret, you can try a high gain antenna. Here is a link to a 24 dBi Directional Parabolic Grid WiFi Antenna. This is wireless antenna.

I hope this is helpful.



Apr 12, 2011, 1:33 PM

Views: 29302

Re: [delmaracer] Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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Thanks for the input. It looks like neither of your links showed up in the post, can you re-post with the links?

I'm fairly sure that the tower is Telcel, since it's the only tower around and the word 'Telcel' appears on my iPhone when I'm down there.

We've decided to give this kit a try:

We will be purchasing it sometime in the next month. I'll post results when I have them.

Also, I should note that the frequencey for Telcel is 850/2100MHz, I was incorrect in my previous post.


(This post was edited by RobinT on Apr 12, 2011, 1:36 PM)


Apr 9, 2015, 6:36 PM

Views: 25599

Re: [RobinT] Advice needed for cellular internet in Baja Norte

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These amplified solutions have all the integrity of the guy who drops his $30K bass boat in the neighborhood pond and swamps everyone's canoe. How about being polite instead, saving a ton of money, and getting a better signal all round by dropping the amp and using a quality external antenna with a low loss cable? Setting up a signal amplifier is just like the neighbor ass of the old days who put the amp on his CB radio and blasted his voice over your TV all night. Those amps intefear with many electronics devices, including the poor rube next door who just lost his only faint cell signal when you fired up your new "beauty".

Most people when they buy and test various external antennas from eBay, Amazon, etc., say the signal was stronger when they didn't use the antenna at all. The reason is that manufactures can't afford to sell you the upgraded wire needed and no one really would buy an antenna fed by high-quality low-loss 1/2" thick, stiff coax cable running from their modem to the external antenna would they? Often the junk sold online at best only includes RG58 cable (thin as a very thin pencil). This stuff will eat up enough of the signal over as short a run as 10' and even more for longer runs, leaving the frustrated buyer absolutely correct, the external antenna to them appears worthless and often provides several bars less of signal strength when attached than not.

Implementing a remote antenna setup using a cheaply designed single pole antenna with the RG58U cable sold online is a waste of time and money. Any antenna in the 800MHz - 2200MHz (2.2GHz) range needs a very thick cable in the quality range of LMR400 1/2" thick cable I am speaking of. The next step the average consumer takes to solve the problem of the external antenna not working well is to return the cheap online junk or toss it in the garbage. They then head online to buy some questionable to mostly illegal "super booster amp" for a thousand or two bucks. With that amp they push a bunch of illegal watts down the lossy crappy cable, which spews out intefearance to everyone else in the area who is trying to work with the same weak signal but just lost theirs when you fired up your "power house". So just picture the "short stick" who plugs the 3 ton window unit into a Walmart extension cord and wonders why the cable starts smoking. Same with an external antenna with a thin coax, but this time without the smoke. The higher the frequency, the thicker the cable you need to maintain low loss and end up with not wasting your time and finding you now have a signal weaker than you started with. For the microwave frequencies used by cell signals, that means using cables at least 1/2" thick and of the high quality of the LRM400 I speak of.

Ideally you should connect your modem and router using the LMR400 cable and mounting the equipment as close to the antenna as possible. And the antenna to use is a Yagii or a grid parabolic cut for the frequency range of your cell carrier data network, not mounting a magnet mount piece of junk like sold online. Mount the SIM, modem and router in a second story room right next to the antenna or in a water proof enclosure on the pole, then just run the LAN and thin power cable down the pole or simply use the wireless signal from the router that hosts the USB modem if it is close enough to your living quarters.

If you can't get a workable "free" (free of amp requirement) quality signal then, an amp is not going to help much.

Good luck to you all and happy Telcelling!