One of the great things about Mobile Broadband is that you can go online anywhere you like – but you can almost guarantee that the place you need it the most is the place where signal is at its weakest.
While 3G coverage is getting stronger with all networks, there will still be blackspots where it drops out, or you can only pick up a 2G signal. Thankfully, a couple of solutions are now available to try and get round these signal issues. If you don’t have a dongle yet and are looking for the network with the strongest 3G signal, then the OFCOM website has just published updated coverage maps (as of 31/12/08) that allow you to view the 3G coverage by network.
There are now two different types of antenna available:
- Clip Antenna: This Antenna is designed to be a portable solution that clips onto the screen on your laptop or sits on your desk. It is omni-directional, which means that it will pick up signals from all directions.
- High Gain 3G Directional Antenna: This is a much more powerful signal booster than the clip antenna and is ideal for people who have real problems with 3G reception. They are directional, which means that you will need to point this towards your network’s transmitter in order for it to improve the signal. The High Gain antenna when positioned correctly will make a significant difference to the signal you receive and can be wall mounted as a permanent fixture.
Both antenna’s can make a big difference to the signal you receive. simply clip on to the top of your laptop screen, and then either plug into, or wrap around your or and depending on the Dongle or Data Card that you’re using, the connection method will vary. Some will have an ariel connection that will plug straight into the dongle, and others will take a Universal “strap on” connection. Antennas are available for Dongles and Data Cards made by all of the main manufacturers for all of the UK networks. To find your dongle on the mobile fun site you can either browse by network or the make of your modem.
To help you find the right antenna for your dongle, you can now check the 3G Antenna Compatibility chart or to view all available antennas head over to the Mobile Broadband section of the site, and then choose your device – either a USB Dongle or a Data Card. You’ll need to know the model number of your dongle, but this should be printed on a label on the underneath of your Dongle or Data Card.
Set up is quick and simple:
Clip the Antenna onto the screen of your laptop or mount it in the desk stand (if included). The High Gain Directional Antenna needs to be mounted on the deskstand, or fixed to the wall (bracket included)
Next you’ll need to connect the antenna to the adapter cable. If your dongle has an antenna connection, carefully connect the end of the cable to your dongle. The Clip Antenna includes a 50cm cable, the High Gain Directional Antenna comes with a 1.2m cable. Longer 3m cables and 5m cables are available for the High Gain antennas only.
If your dongle doesn’t have an antenna connection, wrap the universal adapter round your dongle and make sure that it doesn’t stop it from going in to your pc/laptop.
The High Gain 3G Directional Antenna will need to be positioned so that it is facing your nearest mobile phone transmitter. To help you out, you can use the Ofcom Sitefinder. This will show you where the nearest transmitters are, but it won’t say which networks they belong to, so finding the right one will be a case of trial and error!