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25.7K Messages

Tue, Nov 11, 2014 9:00 PM

MicroCell in a "daylight" basement - limited GPS lock

We work out of a basement office and have had bad service for years. Finally installing a MicroCell for use in the basement, but can't get it to keep GPS lock. Is this just not a solution for us?

 

Microcell is brand new - model DPH-154 - made initial GPS lock sitting by the window that faces east (110°E). We have slightly obstructed view of the sky, but mostly by trees that are about 10-20' away from the house.

 

If we move the microcell to the top floor and place it on a west facing window (290° W) we tend to make better GPS lock. The only problem there is the signal from the microcell doesn't make it back down two floors to where the phones are sitting. We usually get 1 "bar"/dot in the iPhone indicator and still have some calls go straight to voice mail. 

 

The house is in a very populated area and I expect the closest tower is less than 2 miles (as the crow flies). We just happen to hit line of sight bad when inside. If we walk about 10-20' away from the house the phones can pick up LTE fairly good (although we are about -100 signal strength).

 

Do we have any options to keep the microcell in the basement to give us the benefit of the boosted signal where it's most needed? The new model doesn't have an antenna input option so we can't do like some that used the old model. 

 

Particulars:

ISP: Comcast (plenty of speed)

wall -> modem -> router -> microcell

location: basement window facing east 

Lights: Power/Green, Network/Green, GPS/green (sometimes), 3G/blinking red

 

Any help/suggestion is appreciated! And I know...trying to troubleshoot something that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't is difficult, but if the device can make GPS lock it should be able to keep it, or else not rely on that lock so much to work simply to boost a signal that's actually going through internet. 

 

Hopefully AT&T will offer wi-fi calling sooner rather than later...and it be available to iPhone 5 users!

 

 

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OttoPylot

ACE - Expert

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16.4K Messages

7 y ago

Basements are very problematic as you have seen. GPS lock is essential, not only for Initial Activation but for periodic location verification when AT&T does their maintenance, usually late at night.

 

AT&T's WiFi calling is still a ways away. The iPhone 5 is not capable of WiFi calling as far as I know. That is a feature on the new iPhone 6.

 

The blinking red 3G light is more than likely an update that has failed (and not a hardware failure) so you might want to try a hard reset to see if that clears it up. However, if it is an update that didn't reset properly, and you are having GPS lock issues, that might not work.

 

An unobstructed view of the sky is really important. Even the satellites change positions slightly and just a 1/2 degree or so may be all that is needed to lose GPS. Your situation is a tough one especially without the ability to use an external antenna.

 

You may have to consider a signal booster instead of the MicroCell (see the Tech Guide, link in my sig) for links to two good signal boosters. Keep in mind that they can be very pricey though.

 

 

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Avedis53

Professor

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2.2K Messages

7 y ago

First, a clarification about GPS satellites.  Keep in mind that GPS satellites are not in geo-stationary orbits like some other telecommunication satellites (Dish, Directv, etc.) so your Mcell's GPS receiver is constantly acquiring and losing GPS satellite connections.  There are 24 GPS satellites orbiting the Earth and your Mcell needs a minimum of 4 GPS satellite locks at any given time in order to detemine its location.  If your Mcell has limited access to the sky, then there may be times where it does not acquire the necessary number of GPS satellite signals to acquire a lock and could drop it's connection.

 

As for WiFi calling, your iPhone 5 will not be compatible as Apple decided after their beta releases of iOS 8 that the final release of iOS 8 would not support WiFi calling on the iPhone 5.  WiFi calling is supported in the 5S, 5C, 6 and 6 Plus.

 

Your options could be to find one of the white Mcells that has the external GPS antenna input and run an external antenna head to a spot where you get good GPS reception.

 

A centrally-located signal booster like the Cel-Fi might provide you with good cellphone coverage depending on your placement of the window unit and the coverage unit.  They are about $600 (ouch!), but have a 30-day return policy if they don't work to your satisfaction.

OttoPylot

ACE - Expert

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16.4K Messages

7 y ago

Thanks Chief!

Anonymous

New Member

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25.7K Messages

7 y ago

Thanks OttoPylot and Avedis53 for your replies. I was able to get the microcell to make a GPS connection in an upstairs room and have a strong enough signal to get the MicroCell connection in the basement. Things have been working well since getting the device.

 

Sucks that Apple says the iPhone 5 won't handle Internet calling. Was hoping to hold on to this phone for a while as I don't really have a reason to upgrade yet.

 

 

Avedis53

Professor

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2.2K Messages

7 y ago

AT&T hasn't said when Wi-Fi calling will be available but the word is it will be sometime this year.

 

I most likely will switch from my Mcell to that service depending on the cost, reliability and eventually acquiring a Wi-Fi calling enabled iPhone. 

 

We're happy to hear you were able to get your Mcell to work.  Post here if you have any future issues.

OttoPylot

ACE - Expert

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16.4K Messages

7 y ago

By the time AT&T rolls out WiFi calling everywhere it will be time to upgrade your phone Smiley Wink It will be interesting to see how they handle the pricing structure for cellular vs WiFi calling.

Avedis53

Professor

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2.2K Messages

7 y ago

Since T-Mobile's WiFi Calling Plan is free and only requires a WiFi Calling capable phone and an existing account, I doubt AT&T is going to be able to impose a fee for the same service.

Contributor

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1 Message

7 y ago

In Texas, my microcell also has a partially obstructed view of the sky.  I thought that AT&T might just be able to use an address (GPS coordinates) for E911 calls but I suppose too many people in Califorina are having problems with their houses moving around so the coordinates are constantly changing.  Boy am I ever glad I moved form the Bay Area!!!

 

Not having a option to force a location for 911 calls on a CLOSED system that ONLY allows access by a restricted set of persons is a brain dead concept, but that is AT&T..  

OttoPylot

ACE - Expert

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16.4K Messages

7 y ago

Personally, I'd rather deal with earthquakes than tornados but that's me.

 

AT&T can do what's called a GPS Bypass by using GeoLink to get the longitude and latitude of where the MicroCell is physically located and then uploading those numbers so that the MicroCell can activate. The bypass part is only adding the address in rather than having the MicroCell determine the address. This is usually done for folks who can't activate their MicroCell because of poor satellite coverage, rural address, etc.

 

Not only is the GPS needed for E911 calls, it is also used for periodic maintenance to ensure that the registered MicroCell is still within in MicroCell Service Area. Maintenance will either determine the location of the MicroCell using the nearest macrocell (tower coordinates) or, if they are not available, the coordinates as determined by the MicroCell via its GPS antenna.

 

The setup  instructions clearly state that the MicroCell must be placed within 18" of a window with an unobstructed view of the sky.

Avedis53

Professor

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2.2K Messages

7 y ago

You may blame AT&T for what you consider onerous location requirements for operating a Mcell but it is a regulatory requirement in most countries (and the U.S.) that an ISP must be able to show exactly where each femtocell is located as they are RF transmitters and subject to government regulation.  In addition, E911 services locations are a regulatory requirement for any device that carries voice calls.

 

If a Mcell owner could access GPS location data and modify it on their own, then that would allow owners to use the Mcell where it is not licensed, like outside MicroCell Service Areas or in other countries. The FCC takes a dim view of that.  Likewise, improperly entered location information could result in emergency services being delayed when responding to an E911 call from a Mcell.

 

AT&T is simply following the regulations and while you may consider that a brain-dead concept, you are directing your statement at the wrong entity.  

OttoPylot

ACE - Expert

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16.4K Messages

7 y ago

Agreed!

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