Mobile Broadband FAQ #5: What is RSSI?

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Monday, 25 October 2010

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The mobile broadband experts at 3Gstore/EVDOinfo answer countless questions from our customers and from the EVDO Forums community every day - from general mobile broadband questions ("what the heck does 3G mean?") to specific questions about products to more advanced inquiries about what one can do with their mobile broadband service. The "mobile broadband FAQ" series addresses these questions in depth one FAQ at a time. To view ALL of the FAQs we've addressed in this series, visit

What is RSSI?

You may not have heard of it before, but as soon as you start looking into signal boosting options for a mobile broadband device or cell phone, you'll likely start seeing this acronym. In fact, 3Gstore urges anyone looking for an antenna or amplifier for a fixed location to do a "site survey", which involves finding your device's RSSI. Don't let the unfamiliar term scare you away from doing testing - RSSI, which stands for "Received Signal Strength Indicator", is simply a numeric representation of your signal strength. It shows up as a negative number, and closer to zero is better: -90 is better than -100, and so on. A -80 RSSI is a good target signal: with a solid -80 RSSI, you are most likely getting the best performance that the tower you're connected to can provide.

The "signal bars" you're likely familiar with are a graphic representation of your signal strength and are far less accurate than the numerical value RSSI provides. For example, your device may display "2 bars", but the actual RSSI range could be anywhere from -86dBm to -96dBm, which is a fairly large range! While -96 is a pretty poor signal, -86dBm is actually very close to a good signal. Without the actual RSSI number, it's impossible to know which side you're on, and making a recommendation on equipment that will work for you becomes harder.

While RSSI isn't typically displayed as prominently as signal bars, most mobile broadband modems and many phones/PDAs do offer a way to view RSSI. We provide instructions and screenshots to help you find your RSSI for a variety of mobile broadband carriers in our Will An Antenna Help Me? article (click on the RSSI tab and scroll down to find your carrier). To find your RSSI on a cell phone/PDA, check out our Finding RSSI On Cell Phones/PDAs chart.

Verizon RSSI Windows
Verizon mobile broadband users can view their RSSI by hovering their mouse over the signal bars in VZAccess Manager. For more instructions and screenshots, see the RSSI tab here: Will an Antenna Help Me?

Once you know how to find your RSSI, you'll be able to do a complete site survey, which will help you determine what type of equipment you need to improve your signal and performance. Knowing your RSSI and doing a site survey before buying signal boosting equipment can save you time and money - instead of "buying it and trying it", you'll be able to buy the right equipment the first time!
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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 October 2010 )
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