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how far does cell signal reach?

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by liamfm, Dec 2, 2002.

  1. liamfm

    liamfm Junior Member Junior Member

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    I was wondering how far a cell tower could broadcast a signal (not barring any mtns or anything, so like in nebraska I guess). What is the range per tower, does it vary with CDMA/TDMA/GSM? I just wondered how often you actually switch towers while driving, and how strong the signal really is. How far one tower could broadcast a signal.

    Also is it different lengths for 800.1900.PCS?

    Thanks
     
  2. 714tmobile

    714tmobile Senior Member Senior Member

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    Hi...

    Lower freq (800) will give you slightly better bldg penetration than 1900; however, the higher freq will give you less interference.

    A cell tower can stretch for ~10mi, but this rarely happens but in very rural areas where capacity isn't as much an issue as is coverage. Towers in...say... LA will go anywhere from 1/2 a mi to 1 mile... the reason for this is 2 things...

    1) Capacity... you can only build capacity to hold a certain # of people simultaneously. I don't know the theoretical limit of an actual tower and how many cells it can hold. you have to build more towers in the area to accomodate the capacity of the area.

    Suppose that Cell tower A can handle 100 calls at one time (this number is just for reference and doesn't represent the actual #) on x-network... If the site is full, caller #101 will get sent to the next nearest tower...which could be 5-10 miles away... however, if the next nearest tower B that is 1-2 mi away...they will notice little-if-any difference as if they were on Tower A.

    I'm sure they could build one big super-tower in the middle of every city, but it's not always the case of the tower reaching the phone, but the phone reaching the tower. These are very small walkie-talkie-type devices that only send data at around 1/2 a watt or so.

    2) This is where cell technology really flexes it's muscles... Analog will only talk to one tower at a time and if it is moving out of range, the system will switch frequencies (which makes it switch towers; each tower works on a different frequency). TDMA and GSM both do this, except they monitor for open space on the next tower and will hold the call until it is "handed off". hence why it is called 'handing off". CDMA will talk to ALL nearby towers in range... it's a pretty fail-safe redundant solution. It also doesn't exactly switch towers, but roams like an RF 8-legged spider across all nearby towers. Think of walking... you move one leg in front of the other to get where you are going...but you'd be more *stable* on your feed and less likely to fall if you had 8 legs... right? so on CDMA, it essentially will always search for nearby towers while talking on already established connections.

    CDMA has it's pros and cons... CDMA requires it's much touted "spectral efficiency" to utilize this type of communication.

    Some say that CDMA is better, GSM is better, etc. Personally, I enjoy the benefits of GSM versus those of CDMA. You can get more in-depth knowlege on the web and in this forum.

    GSM is a world standard and is used all over the world. CDMA is being used in just a few countries and is still very much in its infancy in the US. Both are growing in the states though. No-one can deny that CDMA-type technology will be the wave of the future, but most will argue that GSM is a more robust standard and carries features that people are not willing to give up (SIM card for example).

    I hope I explained this clearly and accurately enough.. [​IMG]
     
  3. foofighter

    foofighter Junior Member Junior Member

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    very well put and explained! [​IMG] also, for a CDMA network it's a lot more difficult to optimize from a network perspective because the coverage area of a CDMA site will "breathe" as more callers are on a certain site the bandwidth shrinks and thus shrinks the coverage area...very hard to optimize i think the RF engineers have gained enough experience through the years to figure this out but in the beginning when Sprint first launched their network in socal you could be within a 1/4 mile of the tower in fact you can see the site and it would drop your call...very frustrating.
     
  4. 714tmobile

    714tmobile Senior Member Senior Member

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    I remember Sprint in '97 and man-oh-man the coverage was spotty. You'd literally have coverage on one city block, none on the next, then coverage again.

    One thing I noticed is how well CDMA blocks out background noise, but it kind of muffles the phone call. I can usually tell if the person I'm talking to is on Sprint or Verizon, but have a hard time knowing if they are on a cell or landline if they are on GSM).

    I think when you get down to it, CDMA and GSM are kind of the Ford vs. Chevy concept. Both have their advantages/disadvantages strengths and weaknesses. I think that whatever you go with should be based on coverage/price vs. technological advantages.
     
  5. xtoddler2

    xtoddler2 Junior Member Junior Member

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    I think its funny how we all are pretty biased with our opinions about what system is better, but its with good reason. Some of us are trying to inform others not to make a bad decission, others are trying to not feel stupid for picking one or the other. Personally, I just go by experience on what delivered best service, price, and quality of phone. Im the kind of boy who has to have the new technology, even if its not completely reliable or successful (exception is GSM), and always have to have a carrier whos providing to me more then I to it.

    To answer the ORIGINAL question...I have asked many tech's and representatives with 3 of the top companies, and they all tell me, that depends on terrain how far a signal can travel. The general HOPE is 5-15 miles, however, in some areas, like the Bay Area, and San Francisco, and Portland Oregon, you are pushing it, and lucky if ANY provider can get a signal more then 2 miles outside, and as for downtown areas, or heavily electrified areas, MAYBE 1/4-3/4 a mile. Its really all on the power, the tower, the location, the surroundings, and yes, even your phone. Sadly to say, I learned that even if you are close to a tower, it may not be the same tower as your provider. However, most share towers now a days, or build on buildings. I know Sprint has many built on sides of buildings, billboards, power poles, and by gosh, even on the mall. I get coverage 3 floors UNDERGROUND, surrounded by cinderblock walls, and cement, steel, and tons of electricity. Im DARN lucky, too bad my Verizon didnt do that.

    My first mobile phone was on Cellular ONE San Francisco (now AT&T Wireless), at the time, there was 2 systems, and 2 major companies for cellular service in my area. Cellular ONE, and GTE (now Verizon Wireless). Both had a sucessful analog signal, but both were implementing digital cellular. I went with analog on Cellular ONE, because it was more reliable, and had better plans then GTE. They used TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and for being analog, it was exceptionally clear, however, I was happy to find my phone was stolen, so I could get a better rate on digital.
    I changed to digital Cellular ONE, again on TDMA, unfortunately, most of my calls, sounded like I was in a fishbowl, and echoed. If calls were handed off, you could hear it, and sometimes, more often then not, it would drop the call. Im not sure if its the new technology, or if its the area I was in, but it was horrible. Eventually, as Digital PCS came out, I was upgraded to a new phone, and plan, however, it wasnt as cracked up to be. The only difference was I had Caller ID, Call Waiting, 3 Way Calling, and Alpha-Numeric paging on my phone. Voicemail was always offered on my mobiles before. With this new feature slew, came the slew of problems. Dropped calls, busy connections, and even late messages, and a voicemail light that never seemed to go on when I recieved messages. Again, I never bothered to figure out why it did this, I just enjoyed I had a new phone, and could use it almost anywhere....

    SprintPCS, who was my second provider, came to my rescue. With exceptional service, and multitude of features, that I KNEW worked I had to change providers. SprintPCS uses the CDMA aspect (Code Division Multiple Access). I found this to be more friendly, as it recieved signal from more then one tower at a time. For the first time, ALL my calls went through, and all my messages arrived, flawlessly. This time I assumed, it was the area I was living in, a more rural suburbia near the ocean. Not many people used SprintPCS out there, it was generally excellent GTE/Verizon, or sketchy ATT/Cellular ONE. Great phones, great plans, FOR THE TIME....

    I had Qwest for a month, and left them high and dry, they covered only 1 mile off ANY freeway I was near, and never had coverage in ANY building I was in, however, if I was on a hill, 10 miles from the freeway, I was able to get a signal, even when I KNEW I was out of the coverage area graphed out by normal radio frequency. Cities they say were covered, never HAD a Qwest signal to begin with, so they also lie, and charge excess roaming, when its supposed to be covered by cell sites. Bad customer service to boot!

    I eventually went to Verizon Wireless, as they had offered more coverage in the area of Oregon I moved to. I got just ANYTHING to hold me by. Its a simple digital PCS phone. Same thing as Cellular ONE, but Verizon is on CDMA, same as Sprint, except their frequency I believe is 800, not 1900mhz. Sounds like good analog, or bad digital, and sometimes sketchy in areas, but generally wonderful, only bad part is when you change from one area, to another, roaming or not (which was free) you had to dial the number TWICE to get the call through. I have no idea why it does that, but its a pain in the bum.

    I used my friends Voicestream (now T-Mobile) and Cingular phones (both TDMA, and GSM), and didnt like Cingular TDMA, it was always choppy, like instead of static, it was bleeping words out to cover static fade. n GSM it was worse, no signal in buildings, hard hand off outside driving, and over all, poor reception outdoors. Its a great concept, but seriously too late for the USA. All other countries have it, but we implemented our own systems, and I dont think GSM will catch on till we offer more companies, like T-Mobile, ones from Europe to come over, build systems, and offer new services. ATT and Cingular both are implementing GSM, however, its slow to catch on, and its not people who WANT it, its the providers who are using false hope in selling the new phones. How many people in the USA go to the EU, and worry about phone calls...not many...and those who do, know that most systems here block phones, so you CANT use another sim card, or another provider overseas for calls. Its best to buy a new UNLOCKED phone overseas when you arrive.

    Back to SprintPCS I am, and Im pretty happy. The phone itself, had problems, I changed it 3 times, however, they do have the best progress of all phone companies. When most companies were selling unlimited time, Sprint was selling wireless web. When other companies were bought out, Sprint was holding its own. Granted, I DONT think Sprint is the best service of all, but I give to them clairity, and cost for plans. Their coverage isnt the best, but surprisingly, they managed to compete and cover areas where T-Mobile didnt in Oregon, California, and Washington. SprintPCS I have got (without roaming) in Vancouver BC Canada, and Tijuana Mexico...supposedly, you can use the phones now in not only Puerto Rico, and the USVI, but Guam, Hong Kong, as well as most of South America, Mexico, Canada, and most of the US Pacific Islands. World phone, without chips...however, I believe its the TRI-MODE DUAL-BAND that does that....

    AT&T Wireless - TDMA/GSM - Mostly decent service, not wonderful plans, and boring phones
    Cingular Wireless TDMA/GSM - Limited coverage, roaming via ATT GSM (if available), Nokias are out!
    Verizon Wireless - CDMA - Wonderful service, too many prices, confusing home/national plan outline area
    T-Mobile - GSM - SWEET phones, limited area unless you roam (if available), not user friendly plans
    SprintPCS - CDMA - Bad customer service, friendly plans, no roaming, excellent phones, excellent sound.

    Im not biased to any, just state it like it is..

    In essence, Ill stick with CDMA because its more widely friendly for sound and quality

    Enjoy[​IMG]
     
  6. northform

    northform Bronze Senior Member Senior Member

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    Funny, I always think of Sprint as the great customer service, crappy phones, OK sound quality, plans with OK minutes company.

    CDMA doesn't work like an RF spider. It does that for a VERY brief time when the hand-off occurs. In theory, this would lead to less dropped calls, but in practice, the confusion between the two antennas usually makes it worse. Practically, GSM drops less calls.

    Really, choosing a mobile plan comes down to coverage and minutes. GSM gives the most minutes. Verizon has the best coverage. If you are mainly in a city and suburbs, I would suggest a GSM phone. Need rural coverage, go Verizon. There's really no reason to go with Sprint; they give the same minute/price combo as Verizon without the coverage.

    It all depends on what you need.
     
  7. TMobileRocksSprintSucks

    TMobileRocksSprintSucks New Member

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  8. bobolito

    bobolito Diamond Senior Member Senior Member

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    Just one minor thing xtoddler2, Cingular does not roam via AT&T GSM. Cingular roams on T-Mobile for GSM. Cingular roams on AT&T for TDMA only. AT&T roams on Cingular for both TDMA and GSM. I am just speaking from a national point of view, not just your area.

    By the way, nice copy and paste job, TMobileRocksSprintScks. Next time just post the link please, not the whole page. Some of us still use modems.
     

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