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CDMA Pilot Pollution

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by GLZ, Jun 3, 2007.

  1. GLZ

    GLZ New Member

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    I recently transfered my service from Nextel (IDEN) to Sprint (CDMA). Living in a relatively rural part of Virginia (Shenandoah Valley), I have not experienced the issues with Nextel that some in more urban areas have experienced with regard to the sales of new Nextel accounts exceeding the network capacity. What was happening however, was that Sprint has continued to build out their CDMA system, while the Nextel IDEN system coverage has pretty much remained the same. To expand my coverage, and not being much concerned about losing Nextel's direct connect, I switched to Sprint CDMA.
    I tend to do a good bit of hiking in the Shenandoah National Park. Many of these hiking trails lead to mountaintop locations with elevations exceeding 3000 feet above sea level. It was rare to not have a full Nextel signal from most of these locations. The phone worked in most instances and it was rare not to have a useable Nextel signal. Since my switch to Sprint, I have noticed pretty much the same signal strength from these same locations as Nextel, but my phone will not make a call and is basically, unusable. After researching the issue, I have discovered that the cause of this is probably something known as pilot pollution. Being at a high elevation, the phone is probably seeing signals from many towers (maybe as far away as Richmond or northern Virginia) and it renders the phone unusable. This apparently is a common issue with CDMA carriers.
    This isn't a horrible issue, but a disappoinment in that I actually switched to Sprint hoping for better coverage, and in the SNP, actually have less coverage. Are there any known solutions to this technical issue with CDMA??? I believe this is not an issue for TDMA technology like IDEN of GSM.
     
    #1 GLZ, Jun 3, 2007
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2007
  2. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Compulsive Signal Checker
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    Nope, sorry. Pilot polution is a problem that you really cannot over come when it happens. Have you tired setting your phone to roam in these occasions and see what happens on Verizon?

    Also, this may not be a problem of pilot pollution, but relative distance to the cell site. Since you are so high up, you may only have access to one tower with no pilot pollution, but this tower could be 30 miles away and useless in that regard.
     
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  3. GLZ

    GLZ New Member

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    The "forced roam" switched me to Verizon's 800 Mhz CDMA service. I have the same pilot pollution issue there as well. I'm using a Sony SCP7050. I was able to force the phone to digital roam, but not to analog roam. Switching to analog would probably help me to get a usable signal and avoid the pilot pollution issue. I was not able to find anything in the instruction manual indicating how to force the phone to analog roam. The phone is seeing about 4 bars of signal on both Sprint & Verizon, which is why I suspect pilot pollution.
    Overall, I am pleased with the increased coverage in most areas due to the switch to Sprint from Nextel. The only issue with Sprint CDMA is the inability to use from the higher elevations when hiking. I rarely use the phone while hiking, but I do bring it along in the event of an emergency situation. Knowing it may not be there when I need it is not a comforting thought.
     
  4. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Compulsive Signal Checker
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    Maybe you should keep the nextel phone around, but inactive just for 911 purposes
     
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  5. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    I had the same problem in the mountains in Western NC

    Theres conversation about it in this post: Alltel Native Coverage in Western NC

    I had better results on analog atop Mount Mitchell at 6,600 feet.
    I was picking up SIDs that I know were at least 50 miles away.
    I picked up Carolina West (and called successfully on it), at least a 60 mile range.

    By dialing *22806 (force to cellular PCS band E), I picked up SID 1298 in Louisiana, but did not connect successfully.

    Use Analog

    Another thing you can do is to take the antenna off your phone, to narrow the connection possibilities.
    It'll still likely be full signal is you do this.

    Digital worked at different times, but was harder to connect,
    and the call would last 2-5 minutes before it would drop,
    and i'd have to stay in one place (the parking lot in the car).

    The problem is not pilot pollution,
    its that there are loads of choices of towers for your phone to use
    (kinda like pointing to one particular person in a crowd of people, hard to do).

    And while connected, the phone sees many other towers,
    and it will constantly try to handover the signal using soft handoff, (again, not a good thing).

    I think it's best to use 800 mhz atop mountain peaks above 3500 feet.
    It was easier to use Verizon, Alltel, & US Cellular's analog signals than Sprint.

    Theres a mountain 8 miles NW of Greenville, SC called Paris Mountain. It rises 2,000 feet above the city.
    it was a beautiful sight, looking over the entire city, and my phone connected 100% of the time.
     
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  6. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    You are very correct. CDMA is generally not useable in hills because the EC-IO is likely way too high unless there's an actual cell site that's meant to cover the hills. Is it possible that Nextel had a cell site in the hills and that's why you were able to use it better? Nextel is known for putting up towers in high elevations (at least here in So. Cal).
     
  7. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    GSM is a more robust system, in that users have their own frequencies, rather than codes in the same frequency, like WCDMA or CDMA.

    In GSM, you can have (for example) 10 sites pointing at each other, but if they all have different frequencies, then there will be no problem making a call. If you have 10 CDMA or WCDMA sites pointing directly at each other, it will be a total mess.

    Try taking a GSM phone with you on your next hike and see how it performs. There could still be interefrence from far-off sites with the same frequency, but at least you have a better chance.
     
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  8. Andy

    Andy Diamond Senior Member
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    I've had some problems, too, with CDMA service on high mountains, but that is something I can take since at least I get service once I get back down the mountain, whereas GSM is completely dead. :)
     
  9. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    Yea, at least the range with CDMA is unlimited.
    I guess if your in the Rockies out west, atop a mountain at 10,000 feet, there may be one tower 70 miles away that works with no problem....especially on analog.

    Analog is still better atop very high mountain peaks in Western NC.
    Atop Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi, i had a call last at least 15 minutes at 6600 feet on analog, but only about 5 minutes max on digital.

    Digital 800 MHz was harder, but still possible to connect at the same location.....PCS was impossible to use up there.
     
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  10. Andy

    Andy Diamond Senior Member
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    Don't even have to be on a 10,000 feet mountain to pick up a signal from 70 miles away. A few months ago I picked up a signal from Navajo Mountain, which was over 70 miles from where I was and was able to complete calls successfully...I was not on a mountain either; my view to Navajo Mountain was even blocked from where I was and it still worked (CDMA).
     
  11. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    I bet the best places for CDMA would be in the rural Great Plains.
    The towers there go at least 50 miles with no problem.

    Here around Gaffney (not near I-85), it is about as rural as the Plains.
    It is the most rural area between Greenville & Charlotte.
    But most cell signals will go only up to 5 miles (3 mi along I-85).

    I'm happy with CDMA; not having to worry about the range limits that GSM has. If you were in the middle of nowhere (like in the desert in Nevada), you'd have a better chance at a signal with CDMA. I was atop Yucca Mountain near Beatty, NV on 6-7-05 and i looked at my friends cell phone (Verizon) and i saw like 4/5 signal.
    My mother had a Sprint phone, and i tried using it 20 miles south of Boulder City, in the middle of the desert, and i was able to hold a conversation about 2 minutes along US-95. It was a weak signal, but it worked when i needed it.
     
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    #11 KyleAndMelissa22, Jun 11, 2007
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2007
  12. bobolito

    bobolito Diamond Senior Member
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    GSM has a limit of about 22 miles because the time slots get out of sync with distance and after 22 miles, the timing advance compensation reaches its limit. So if we're talking about signals coming from 50 or 60 miles away, GSM will be useless even if the RF conditions are absolutely clean.

    By what was said in the original post, it looks like iDEN's distance limit is greater, but I'm sure it has a distance limit somewhere because it is another system based on time slots, just like GSM. However, Analog, CDMA and WCDMA shouldn't have that problem since they don't use time slots.

    However, all technologies, including GSM and iDEN can still suffer from "neighboring interference" at high elevations the same way CDMA suffers from pilot pollution. This is why it is very difficult or near impossible to use a cell phone in a flying airplane. You were just lucky that Nextel's RF is free of interference in that area which seems to indicate they just have less towers than other carriers in that area. However, if Sprint had less towers, you'd probably get a better chance at using Sprint atop that mountain just as good as Nextel.

    The problems is basically, carriers design and build their networks concentrating coverage at ground level, not for high elevations. In order to increase capacity and reduce dead spots at ground level they install more sites, but the effect of that is that too many signals start leaking up to higher grounds and phones become useless up there. The same thing happens in cities with tall buildings where you get on a 60th floor and even though you get a full signal, your phone is useless because too many sites are beaming signals in the same channel and your phone just sees all that mess. However, when you get back down to street level, the phone doesn't see all that mess anymore.
     
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  13. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    Wouldnt the solution for this be simply changing your phone from automatic to home only?
     
  14. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    At high elevations, every network, even your home network, with act this way.
    Theres so many signals to choose from, even on your home network.
    I think its best to leave it at automatic and allow every possible (usable) signal to go through your phone.

    At high elevations, it's not impossible to make a call, it's just more difficult.

    Depending on the area, and how many cells are within range of where you are,
    all will affect your performance at high altitude.

    Capacity is also a major factor...

    For example, Even at high altitudes, if there is only one cell within 80 miles (CDMA),
    you can utilize this cell with ease as long as the capacity is not full.
     
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  15. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    ok can you tell me why this is not the case with GSM?
     
  16. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    i would think logically that all radio signals would do the same thing idk though
     
  17. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    All GSM phones will use a different frequency on a tower.
    This makes GSM easier to use than CDMA at very high altitudes.

    CDMA carriers will use just one frequency, with only codes separating each user,
    hence the name "CDMA," code division, multiple access.

    However, GSM could still be difficult to use at high altitudes for other reasons.
    Remember, all cell towers have a finite amount of available bandwidth, so capacity really matters for all technologies.

    And as listed above, GSM does have a maximum range of about 25 miles,
    so its harder to use, especially if your in the middle of nowhere (no towers for dozens of miles),

    So if your GSM carrier doesn't think its worth a tower in the middle of nowhere, than your out of luck.

    Even if there is only one GSM tower, 20 miles away, there should be enough capacity or it won't work either.

    ...

    I heard about cell coverage at Mount Charleston, 45 miles west of Las Vegas, NV
    and that only Verizon has (only one) tower at the village/ski resort which is at 9,000 feet.

    The 12,000 ft summit could be seen from much of the LV Valley, but only Verizon (CDMA) works,
    (as of 2005, not sure whats been done since).

    In order to get there, you still have to travel through 60 miles of desert & mountain terrain.

    Other carriers don't think it's worth a tower for only 1,000 residents and a ski resort,
    which is only open about October through April.
     
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  18. ace41690

    ace41690 Junior Member
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    This all finally explains why my phone does not work on top of the empire state building...
     
  19. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    I was just at the Empire State Building on April 6th (Good Friday),
    and I didn't go up because of the 3 hour line around the building.

    I did goto the Apple Café inside though.....The phone worked fine everywhere at the bottom floor.

    I wonder if you connect at ground level, and then make your way up, it may still work.
    But then again, it may just fade out the higher you go, because it doesn't know where to handover your signal...

    ...

    I travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way to Mount Mitchell in Western NC, and could connect around 3,000 feet, and hold a conversation in the open for about 5 miles, climbing over 5,000 feet.
     
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  20. bobolito

    bobolito Diamond Senior Member
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    A GSM connection gets disturbed at high altitudes not because it doesn't "know" which tower to choose. It's because of interference. This was explained already in my previous post.

    When you are at ground level, buildings and other obstacles block the signals from sites that are far away. Therefore, engineers can reuse that same channel to install a site close to you. However, when you go to higher grounds, those signals from far away become "visible" to the phone and cause interference with the closer signal because they are both on the same channel.

    CDMA has inherent tolerance to these conditions. However, there is a limit to the amount of tolerance. So, if a CDMA phone at ground level can see one channel carrying over 14 conversations, that's ok. But if that CDMA phone moves to high altitude, then it can see 3 or 4 channels on the same frequency, and when added that can amount to over 30 or 40 conversations, which can be too much pollution in the channel. Remember they are all in the same channel/frequency.

    The other problem with GSM is distance (also explained in my previous post) which can be no more than approx. 22 miles. CDMA doesn't have this limit. With GSM, every time you move 500 meters away from the cell site, the connection has to be adjusted for timing, because even at near the speed of light, a small fraction of a second of the signal travel and arrival between the time slots is noticeable and can cause the connection to lose sync. Every adjustment made for every 500 meters is called a Timing Advance. Every Timing Advance sends the packets slightly earlier than usual so that they arrive when expected by the time they reach the phone. There is a maximum of 69 Timing Advances that can be made to compensate for the delay of signal arrival caused by the distance. The higher the Timing Advance, the earlier the signal is sent. So naturally, there's a limit to how early it can be sent, otherwise you start overlapping with the previous slot time space. So 69 x 500 = 34,500 meters which is roughly 22 miles. After that, the network can no longer continue to compensate for Timing Advance and you lose timing sync with the network and your call drops.
     
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  21. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    True about the 35km (22 miles) range on GSM. However most equipment vendors have some kind of "extended range" features that let them get up to 120 km (75 miles) range, by "borrowing" the Timing Advance from other time slots. This reduces capacity of the site, but does provide a wider area of coverage.

    Most operators won't use this feature in dense areas (obviously), but if they want to cover a large open area (ie: a popular hiking area, or a long open road) then they may impliment this feature, if they choose to.
     
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  22. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Compulsive Signal Checker
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    Back in the summer of 2001, I visited the top of the WTC with my Voicestream (T-Mobile) phone. I was actually able to place a call in a specific spot on the roof of the building, but no where else. When I was actually on my way down in the elevator, my phone rang at the 90th floor, I picked it up and it dropped at about the 75th floor. The elevator operator then remarked that no ones phone works on the way down past the 75th floor. lol
     
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  23. KyleAndMelissa22

    KyleAndMelissa22 Woot Woot, Splat !!!
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    they should be putting very low power (picocells) inside these buildings where lots of people will be. It's not like the power will make it to the ground from the tall building.

    When i was in Manhattan, I never saw less than a full signal on the phone.
    I even took a ferry from Weehawken, and had a full signal on the Hudson River (and made 3 calls).

    I stayed mostly between 33rd & 40th streets west of 5th Ave.
     
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  24. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Just curious: where did you get 69 from? Shouldn't it be 64 x 550 = 35,200 meters? :confused:

    It's been a while since I looked at TA figures, but 3GPP Specs state:
     
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  25. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    so GSM uses different radio waves for each user but CDMA just divides one radio wave for each user or something like that?
     
  26. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    or is it that the GSM towers dont switch off the signal as long as you have one working?
     
  27. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Something like that.

    Actually 8 users share 1 freq in GSM.

    In CDMA all users are all on the same freq, but get assigned a code inside the freq in order to communicate.
     
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  28. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    oh alright thanks im always looking to extend my knowledge lol
     
  29. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    ...so am I. There's alot to know ;)
     
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  30. rytard

    rytard Junior Member
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    i thought i knew alot but since i joined this site i dont know near as much comparitivly
     

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