Tip of the Week #58: Determining Which Antenna Frequency You Need for Verizon 3G

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Monday, 26 July 2010

tip_of_the_week.png has long been your source for tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for getting the most out of your EVDO service, and each week we will be highlighting a particularly interesting or popular topic in the "Tip of the Week" feature. To suggest future Tips of the Week, post your suggestions in the EVDO Forums.

Determining Which Antenna Frequency You Need for Verizon 3G offers a wide array of antennas to meet the needs of our customers, whether you need something for traveling, permanent setup, directional or omnidirectional, single band or dual-band. Those last two options - single band or dual band - are the most confusing for many customers. All of the omnidirectional antennas sold by 3Gstore will work with the frequencies used by any of the North American 3G mobile broadband carriers, but directional antennas (including the ones sold by 3Gstore and models available elsewhere) often come in three options: 1800-1900Mhz, 800Mhz, and dual-band. If you're considering a directional antenna, it's very important that you select one that operates on the frequency your carrier uses! If you buy the incorrect frequency antenna, you can actually make the signal worse!

Dual-band antennas are the most common. If any of the below apply to you or your situation, a dual-band antenna is likely to be your best bet:

  • You're not sure what frequency your carrier uses in your area, and don't know how to find out
  • You will be traveling with your antenna or plan to use it in a different location in the future (just because Verizon uses one frequency in your current location does NOT mean they use the same frequency in ALL locations!)
  • You may switch to a different carrier in the future and want to be able to use the same antenna.

That said, there are some situations where a single band antenna is appropriate. If you need a high-gain antenna for a stationary location and you have clear line of sight to the tower, a single band antenna can provide higher gains than a dual band model.

For Sprint users looking for a single band antenna, no special determinations are needed - Sprint ONLY uses the 1900Mhz frequency band for their 3G mobile broadband network. Things are a bit trickier for Verizon users, as Verizon uses both the 800Mhz and 1900Mhz frequency bands for their EVDO networks. Verizon often uses the 1900Mhz band in more populated areas, because it offers more available spectrum and can support more users, but the downside of the 1900Mhz band is that with a shorter wavelength it requires more towers. You'll typically see the 800Mhz spectrum in areas that are more rural and require a longer wavelength to penetrate through trees and mountains. Despite these generalizations, you should NOT assume that Verizon is using the 1900Mhz frequency just because you live in the city, or that they're using the 800Mhz frequency because you're in a rural area - in order to confirm the frequency they're using in your area, you need to check using VZAccess Manager.

In order to determine which frequency Verizon is using at your location, you can use the VZAccess Manager software to determine exactly which channel you're operating on and then matching that to the proper frequency band. Entering "field test mode" is a straightforward process and will provide you with all the details you need to purchase the proper single band antenna for your area.

To access field test menu:

  • Connect your aircard to your computer
  • Open VZAccess Manager (but do not connect to the network)
  • Hit CTRL + D on your keyboard
  • At the password screen, enter "diagvzw"
  • Select the "field test" option
  • Scroll down to "channel information" to find your primary channel:

If multiple channels are listed, refer to the "Primary A" channel (the other channels are available, but your card will default to the primary one). In the above example, the channel number is "283".

Now find your channel number on one of the below charts to determine which frequency you're using:

800Mhz Frequency Channel Chart:

1900Mhz Frequency Channel Chart:

For our above example, you can see that Channel 283 falls under CDMA 850 under 'A' between 1-311, indicating that this card is currently running between 870.03-879.33Mhz.

Once you've determined which frequency Verizon is using in your area, you can select the appropriate single band antenna. Keep in mind that if you ever switch carriers, your single band antenna might not be on the correct frequency for that carrier; also remember that if you move to a different location Verizon may be using a different frequency there and your single band antenna may not work.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 24 June 2013 )
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