LTE, usually marketed as 4G LTE by the broad media, is the newest wireless connectivity system that sets to push mobile speeds to another physical limit, one which will guarantee ideal connection times and great browsing experience. While true-4G speeds are just in theory, LTE has been around for two years or so and mobile carriers have now started to adopt the system more than ever.
For anyone owning a 4G-compatible smartphone, or even a modem capable of transferring data at high speeds, there has always been the question on how to increase the average threshold and push the speed to its full limit. Those who are in-range of a 4G tower may want to listen up, as today we’re going to explore the best common practices to boost 4G download and upload speeds, while increasing the 4G signal strength.
How to Boost LTE Speeds and Signal
Just to keep things technically correct, LTE is not a true 4G standard. Roughly considered as 3.9G, LTE was broadly adopted, because of marketing terms mostly, as 4G. In theory, Long-Term-Evolution is capable of providing 100 Mbit/s speeds in the downlink and 50 Mbit/s in uplink. In plain English, that translates to 12.5 MB/s of “real” speed for downloads, and 6.25 MB/s for uploads.
The theoretical peak occurs only when LTE uses 20 MHz channels to transmit information, meaning that one user should be pretty near the transmitting tower and that the receiving cell should only contain a limited number of users – which, again, happens only in theory. But, fast speeds occur near the limit and through our testing, we’ve seen people reach 10MB/s peaks on US networks.
In order to increase network efficiency and force the 4G-compatible handset/modem to obtain better speeds, a few things can be done. Although the following tricks may boost transfers, keep in mind that they may work only for some of you, depending on the network you are currently, and even though they might work, results might not be exalting.
Use an App: 3G/4G Speed Optimizer
There are several applications which claim to optimize network efficiency, but we only found few that have proven to be trustworthy, including Speed Optimizer. Available for Android devices all around, this little tweak can be used only on rooted terminals and comes in both free and paid flavors.
The Optimizer has a pretty simple algorithm that allows the user to change the maximum download and upload speeds, limiting one in favor of the other. Moreover, it also allows it to change the GPRS Class, enforcing the bearer protocol to opt for haste, instead of stability and vice versa. The Pro version of the app comes also with a regular Wi-Fi scan tweak, a TCP Buffer changer and something to alter RIL sleep policies.
Working with both 3G and 4G connections, the Speed Optimizer has the disadvantage of consuming battery life and forcing the antenna to feed more, like usual.
Common Sense Techniques
- Interference free – place away the cellphone and especially the modem away from any other electronic device, just to make sure that something may not interfere with the signal. Usually, household appliances like TVs, radios and especially microwave ovens can cause slower speeds.
- Maximize modem signal – 4G towers use waves to send traffic towards the modem, so in order to ensure that a high amount of these waves reach the terminal, you should place the modem near a window. Avoid placing the unit behind anything solid, like a concrete wall, metal and especially, trees (water found inside the leaves has high influence over signal loss).
- Change position – orientating the modem position may align its antenna with the one placed on the tower, increasing LTE signal strength. Although it sounds a bit voodoo, tower antennas are usually unidirectional and matching the right degree will boost speeds.
Amplify the signal
Best used for home or office environments, amplifiers can be seen as quite the investment when you want quality wireless internet access. For instance, someone wishing to boost their 4G speed inside the house can acquire a signal amplifier, a pair of compatible antennas and connect them for wonderful results. The concept is as follows:
- One antenna is placed outside the house, on a fair altitude, so that it will capture more signal than the antenna mounted on the handset can. This eliminates the attenuation caused by the house walls and, depending on the antenna quality, it will increase gain dramatically.
- Another antenna needs to be mounted inside the house, to retransmit the signal captured by the outside unit. This method will once more help disregard the attenuation produced by house walls.
- Between the two antennas, an amplifier must be mounted that will increase the signal strength and help remove the feeder / cable loss.
Building such a system is not as complex as it sounds, and we have encountered cases where the whole set-up cost just around $700. Moreover, this scenario can be implemented in zones where 4G cannot reach a regular terminal antenna, but where it’s close enough for a full-sized unit. Also, we recommend resorting to a specialized crew for this kind of job.
For those wishing to get even more insights on the matter, here’s a helpful article.
Bonus: Faster 4G Connect and Rezist
Whenever a 4G link becomes unstable, and the measured signal strength is below a certain threshold, the tower usually reconnects the terminal to a 3G system in order to ensure stability. There is a trick that will allow the smartphone to connect to a 4G network sooner than usual, and stay linked longer.
Note: this procedure works regardless of the carrier and should not harm the device, but problems may appear (blame XDA). Here’s how to do it:
- Dial ##DATA# and choose edit mode. That’s ##3282#, for those rather new.
- Enter your MSL (here’s how to find it).
- Now choose the WiMAX menu and tweak the following settings, as stated:
- WiMAX_ENTRY_RX (RSSI) (dBm) – this value defines the minimum signal to connect to a 4G tower, so lowering the default up to -95 or – 100 should make the phone connect faster. If there are stability issues, raise the value back to -89.
- WiMAX_Exit_CINR(dB) – this value defines the threshold for a phone to drop an active connection. Change the number to 1 and if problems appear, switch it back to 2.
- WiMAX_Exit_Delay(s) – this number defines the time that CINR must stay activated, before the connection is dropped. So, in order to get by random drops, increase this to 5, or whatever you like. Not too high, we recommend.
Sprint users can also opt for this guide, which will make the terminal reconnect faster than ever. Also, T-Mobile users (and any other carriers that work on GSM frequencies) may add these following lines to their rooted terminal, and restart the equipment to bring them in effect (the addition must be done in build.prop):