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Site Survey Guide for Cell Phone Signal Booster Installation

Sep 06, 2017

How do installers perform a cell phone signal booster site survey? Today we're going to talk about site surveys - What a site survey is, how to do one, the benefits of doing one, and the tools you're going to need. Watch video below to proceed:

 

Transcript: A site survey actually is all the prep work that it takes before actually digging into the actual installation. This is a useful resource as follows:

  1. It shows you where the strongest signal is located outside the building. This will be the spot where you want to install the donor antenna.
  2. You will also be aware of the areas inside the building which have the worst signal. Based on this information, you can determine your broadcast antenna placement or design an antenna layout.
  3. You can determine how much cable will be required as well as any accessories like splitters or filters needed.
  4. You can also show the customer an accurate representation of their signal coverage and the problem areas.

Then you can discuss options and solutions. To do a survey, you will need a signal meter. You can use your cell phone in test mode to measure signal in decibels but this brings a number of drawbacks. Cell phones can often take a while to update the signal, sometimes up to a minute. Waiting around for a minute at each reading location can add up and waste a great deal of time. A signal meter updates in real time so you will never have to wait for the accurate signal readings. Signal meters also read the signal level for all frequency ranges and bands so you can test for any carrier and make sure it is going to work for everyone.

Once you know where you will be installing the donor antenna, you can also use your signal meter to find the direction of the nearest cell tower. What will you need when doing a site survey? Well, we recommend using a floor plan. Not only will a floor plan help you map out the signal at the site but it will also help you save time before getting to the location. With a floor plan, you can determine the square footage of the structure. This will allow you to determine which antennas to use, how many you need and where to place them.

Understanding the broadcast pattern and range of the various antennas is essential for proper installation. If you're unclear on this topic or want to know more, see our FAQ's. Using a floor plan, you will know how many amplifiers you will need for the installation as well as cable and other accessories like splitters that you might require. If you're unable to acquire a floor plan, you can sketch out your own on a piece of paper or tablet.

Either way, start outside the building on the roof and walk around to the different sides of the building, noting the signal reading on each side. Record the readings for all channels for each block of frequencies at each location. Once you have found the location of best signal, swivel around 360 degrees using your signal meter as a director to find where the signal is coming from. Mark this direction as well so you will know which way to aim the donor antenna. If you're able to mount the antenna to an existing vent pipe or post, then you're set.

If there's nothing nearby, you may need to create a mounting point. We have optional mounting kits for attaching a donor antenna to the eaves of a home or you may need to get creative and install something similar to a satellite dish mount or a tripod stand. While you're on the roof, take the time to find the location where you will run the cable inside. Is there a nearby vent or conduit into the building or will you need to penetrate the structure?

Next, walk from room to room inside the building and note the signal level in each room. If the rooms are large, mark the signal level throughout the room as it can often vary from one side to the other. Once you're finished, you will have a map showing the weak spots in the building and you can design your antenna layout based on this information. When preparing to install the broadcast antennas, will a wall mount work best in your situation or a ceiling mount? Knowing your antennas, their strengths, limitations and coverage ranges will be key in maximizing the booster’s effectiveness.

Find out what materials the building is constructed of. Certain materials can affect the performance and range that the signal can reach. Drywall blocks very little signal while concrete walls will affect it greatly. Consider these factors when selecting locations for the broadcast antennas as well as the number you will need. Factoring in the customer’s preference, building materials and antenna coverage range, you can decide whether to mount the antenna to make it visible or hidden.

Hidden antennas are usually preferred but may not be ideal or possible based on the building materials used as well as their effect on the signal. Lastly, you will need to locate a spot to install the booster or boosters. These boosters will need power and adequate ventilation. Be sure to locate a spot where both of these requirements are met. You can permanently mount them to a wall, place them on a shelf or mount them inside a server rack based on the booster and the needs of your particular installation.

Now you can calculate the cable length for each run. Wherever possible, minimize the cable length to the various components. Less cable means less cable loss and therefore a stronger signal inside. A signal map also allows you to talk with the customers and gives them a clear understanding of why they are dropping the calls and how you can fix the problem. You can also easily illustrate your plans for the install and discuss options.

For example, why they may need an additional antenna or a specific booster to cover their building. If you come away with detailed information on each of these points, you will be able to have a fairly accurate proposal and plan solution that will minimize any troubleshooting and unforeseen issues that will have to be addressed during the install. Some of the things to look out for are outside signal strength for each block or channel, the total square footage, location for mounting the donor antenna, cable penetration points, interior wall materials, location for installing the amplifier, where you will be running the cable, and the locations where you will be mounting the broadcast antennas.


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3 comments

  • It sounds like it’s important to have some sort of cellular site survey tool when you get a commercial cell phone booster. People who are looking to increase cell signal strength probably know a cell phone booster is the right tool, but they might not know about the importance of doing certain things (such as a site survey) for commercial cell phone boosters.

    Bruno K. on
  • Thanks for posting this. I have a couple friends who work in large offices and they need something to make cell phone signals stronger where they work. Signal strength can be erratic and after reading about cell phone signal boosters, I know they will be helpful for them. However, they have to go through a lot to get things done. I will tell them about site surveys so they start off strong.

    Perry Sullivan on
  • I saw a similar article elsewhere on signalbooster.com (which has a ton of helpful articles). If you’re going to get a cellular booster for your business, don’t cheap out. Get a professional installation that includes assessments, site surveys, and follow-ups. Otherwise, you might as well throw your money into a fireplace.

    Morgan Matthews on

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