@jgskarda - yes!
Here are some steps you can take in order to enhance the signal quality of your device’s cellular connection!
1. Move the device to a better signal.
This is ideal, as it doesn’t incur any additional cost on the user end. However, many users are location-bound and this is not a possible workaround.
2. Use a higher gain antenna.
Our cellular devices come shipped with an antenna-ready u.FL connector. While this connector is one of the smallest antenna connectors (a good thing when it comes to small-footprint MCU builds!), it’s not the standard for higher gain cellular antennas. By purchasing a u.Fl to SMA adapter, a user opens their project up to a much wider world of commercially available antennas.
When looking for a u.Fl to SMA adapter, be careful to avoid RP (Reverse Polarity) cables. Here are a number of adapter suggestions:
Amazon, u.Fl to SMA Pigtail Cable x2, 17cm
Amazon, u.FL to SMA Pigtail Cable, 15 cm
Adafruit, u.FL to SMA Adapter Cable
Sparkfun, u.FL to SMA Adapter Cable, 4”
After acquiring one of the above adapters, you now have a more abundant array of potential antennas from which to choose. The antenna that comes with your device is likely a Taoglas PC104, with ~3dBi gain. The next steps up include the following passive antennas:
5 dBi Taoglas Maximus Antenna, does not need SMA adapter
6.1 dBi 12-inch Magnet-Mount Omnidirectional Antenna
11 dBi Proxicast Yagi Universal Directional Antenna (note: this antenna will also require an SMA to N-type adapter, as well as mounting hardware)
Start cheap (low gain) and increase until you get the backhaul throughput required. Avail yourself of the many free phone apps designed to locate the nearest tower and provide connectivity metrics. Take the maps with a grain of salt as towers change frequently, maps don’t. Use the FAEs of antenna manufacturing companies like Wilson, Surecall and Linx.
3. Use an antenna with a long cable to improve LoS (Line of Sight) with the tower.
If the situation is merely one of line of sight, this Eightwood 3.5dBi antenna may be a cheap and elegant solution with a long cable.
If you’re unable to get signal with a cell phone, for example, attempt to mount the omnidirectional antenna above as high as possible (~20-30’ is enough in most situations depending on land features). Check SIG and QUAL using our devices.
If you’re still not receiving the reception you need, try the Yagi directional antenna. Renting or purchasing a cellular RF Meter will make pointing a Yagi antenna super easy and accurate. If direction is off even a small amount, it has a large impact on connectivity and throughput.
4. Try a signal booster.
If you’re still experiencing insufficient reception try combining a signal booster with the Yagi antenna. Signal boosters can assist with punching out of a remote location, but ultimately height (and consequently Line of Sight) will have the greatest impact at the lowest cost. You can find more information about signal booster usage here.
The following is a trusted signal booster: link. However, be sure to use the manufacturer FAE to be sure to get the correct hardware for your antenna of choice.
5. Seek the help of cellular connectivity professionals.
If you remain blocked from coverage after attempting the above, it’s worth involving a specialist. A company called Streakwave is a great resource for equipment and FAEs.