Sunday, April 11, 2021

Improving the T-Mobile Wireless Home Internet

This is an addendum to the T-Mobile Wireless Home Internet Review. After evaluating the gateway unit in one location of our home for a month, we then tried to make improvements by moving the unit around the house. Of course there are physical limitations, and what do you do if you want to connect an ethernet cable to the unit. For our controlled test we hooked up a laptop to the ethernet connector to read the gateway dashboard and do a reliable speed test. Keep in the mind, the unit can be located on a window and operate with nothing more than its power cable.

We proposed that a stronger cellular signal would yield a better internet connection. Only one window yielded a better signal on the gateway bar graph so that was the one we used for the comparison. We did get a better cellular signal and a better signal to noise ratio (SNR). The primary section connected at 1.7 GHz with the secondary section connected at 2.5 GHz, based on the bands shown in the dashboard. But several speed tests showed a noticeably slower download. It was useable but maxed out at 50 to 60 Mbps.

We then moved the unit to a convenient shelf next to, but not in, the window. We got a gangbusters 5G (secondary) signal, but still the download speeds remained below the 50's. In some tests the upload was faster. In the picture shown here of the gateway with its cover removed, you can see the 5G antennas grouped in a stack of 4 directional antennas, spaced in 4 sides around the unit. Keeping this in mind helps you orient the unit, with no antennas on the side with the connectors. Rotating the gateway a few degrees may give you a better signal (RSSI).

Our conclusions are that while we could get a stronger cellular signal, it may not yield a better download speed. Moving the gateway back to its original window location on the 2nd floor brought us back to 100+Mbps download speeds as well a convenient connection to the household ethernet connections. There's also the issue that some locations may not provide good Wi-Fi coverage in your home.

While in its original window location, we also moved the gateway back and forth and changed its azimuth to maximize signals, and found that 6 inches and 45° made a noticeable difference. We also took a walk around the home and yard to make sure we didn't sacrifice Wi-Fi coverage. Nokia offers a mesh solution with additional units that can be located around your home to cure Wi-Fi dead spots.

This assessment could mean that a stronger, and potentially more reliable, cellular signal may be a tradeoff for a weaker signal but a faster connection. We're contemplating drilling a hole in the floor for a new ethernet cable and giving the new location a 30-day evaluation. If you don't need an ethernet connection you would have more flexibility in locating the unit.

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