If your M2M site is in a remote area on the edge of the coverage zone, the carrier selection and antenna placement can mean the difference between having good, reliable signal and having none.
A carrier’s coverage map can tell you whether service is available in the area and sometimes how fast the service is, but they are not a reliable indicator of whether signal is available at the site. Most coverage maps do not give specific information about where the towers are located.
Even if you know the location and carrier of the nearest tower, it doesn’t guarantee signal at your site. There are many factors that affect the tower’s coverage radius. The antennas placed on the tower are directional, and the range of the tower varies depending on the cellular technology. Even the number of devices using the tower can affect the service on the edge of the tower’s coverage radius.
The topography of the landscape can also affect signal strength. Physical obstructions such as hills and trees can also block the signal. If the surrounding terrain is hilly, the maximum range of the tower could be as short as a few miles. Towers have a small “dead zone” around them, and the dead zone grows in proportion to the tower’s elevation. Carriers prefer to place towers on high ground to maximize their range, but if the tower is situated on a large hill and your site is located directly at the foot it may fall into the dead zone.
There are also temporary conditions that can affect whether your site has service. Towers have a limited number of available connections, and the more devices that are connected the smaller the maximum coverage radius gets. If a large number of devices are connected at the same time, the tower will start to refuse new connections until an open channel is available. This is a serious issue in rural areas where the carrier only has one tower covering the site. Weather can also affect the signal strength. Rain and strong winds cause interference that can put your site out of communication range.
Once you have determined which carriers in the area provide service, you must measure the available signal at your site and choose the best location to place the antenna. BVS manufactures tools that can help you determine the optimal carrier and location for your M2M installation, minimizing deployment time and helping you avoid costly mistakes. Contact us today for information on our Squid-PRO M2M Installation Tool.
Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS) designs and manufactures innovative, RF analysis and wireless threat detection tools for businesses, and government organizations to manage secure facilities and maintain wireless networks.