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I have a tiny house between two hills, in a mountain area. For few weeks I've been searching how to get phone signal there.

There are two problems:

  • there is no electricity
  • the hills are blocking the signal from the antenna tower

I think the electricity problem is not a concern for now—I can use a generator or build something that will produce enough power for the things I need.

I'm wondering how to get phone signal, including a good 3G connection which will allow me browse the internet, eventually.

What would be the most reliable way to get phone signal at my house?

I imagine the scenario is like this:

             /\                   __🗼_
  /\        /  \   ______________/      \
 /  \      /    \_/
/    \_🏡_/      

My idea: build a high enough tower near me house and put on top of it an gsm antenna which will bring the signal down in my house. However I don't know:

  • What would be the best way to build such a tower (I want to build it on my land, not affecting my neighbours' lands—e.g. by adding long wires to sustain my tower)?
  • How can I find what's the minimal height where I can get strong enough signal? I've been thinking to use a drone which will take my phone in the sky and using an app to screenshot the phone screen from time to time, but I'm not sure how that will work. Maybe there are better ways?
  • Probably an antenna would need electricity. What is the best way to get electricity from in this case?
  • Ultimately, what's the name of this job? How can I find experts in my area who are good in such measurements and eventually guide me on the implementation?

Satellite phone is not a solution in my case since there are no companies around providing that.

  • I believe what you are looking for is a link budget calculator. That is what one would use to determine point to point signal retention or signal loss. I think you could search for radio signal propagation. Here is one article I found that could lead you on a path to more research. – Octopus Mar 1 '17 at 17:47
  • I'm tempted to suggest a 3G-WiFi device attached to a tethered weather balloon. Winch down to recharge or before a storm. – Chris H Mar 1 '17 at 18:02
  • No possibility of putting in a land line w/ DSL? That would be a ton easier and cheaper than going after big antenna towers. – Carl Witthoft Mar 1 '17 at 18:35
  • @ChrisH I'm not sure how that will work tho... Can you detail? – Ionică Bizău Mar 1 '17 at 18:48
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    @DarthCaniac Both, actually.. I'll be happy with a 3G connection because the carrier provides it as a pretty good speed. So, as long I would get a good cell signal, 3G will probably be available too. It is already on the hill—that's why I think that by building a tower I would get it, but I have no idea how I can know the height of the tower, before building it. – Ionică Bizău Mar 1 '17 at 20:01
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Google Earth is actually quite helpful without fussing with drones at getting a pretty good idea of the profile along a path. You have to look for it, but it's there in the detailed information about the path. Bring up GE, find you, find the tower, draw a path. There are probably other programs, but that's the one I happen to know and use. Radio signals do not propagate through dirt (or very poorly) so you need the antenna high enough that it can see the antenna at the other end.

Antenna towers of any significant height are expensive and can be hazardous if not built correctly (thus, expensive - cheaper to construct a properly engineered expensive at the outset tower than to have a large cheap home-made antenna tower fall on people, houses, vehicles...)

Solar panels, a charge controller and batteries are often the best source of power for an off-grid antenna system. Fueled generators are expensive to run, long-term. Solar systems are expensive at first, but inexpensive to run if properly constructed.

Generically, you are looking at (normally antenna) tower construction. Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) might be another path to investigate.

Coming to an arrangement with landowners of the top of one of the hills, and along the path from your house to the top of the hill may be considerably cheaper than building a large antenna tower.

For smallish antenna towers, sometimes a large flagpole will work. Many of those are arranged so that the pole can be easily lowered to the ground, making it comparatively easy/safe to install and maintain the device on the top of them. Other towers need to be climbed, and that is a hazardous occupation in and of itself.

  • Better than that, you can load topographical data into Google Sketchup, then slice sections, e.g. giving you contour lines, or just cross-section. Also, a great source for a strong antenna tower is a windmill. Fiberglass is radio-transparent, hence its use to cover radar and microwave antennas. – Harper Mar 1 '17 at 18:14
  • The problem is that the hill is public property, so I cannot really use it to mount any devices on it... How can I find the antenna on the Google Earth? Thanks for nice answer! – Ionică Bizău Mar 1 '17 at 18:39
  • @harper - no need for sketchup - the cross section along a path is available directly in Earth. – Ecnerwal Mar 1 '17 at 20:12
  • @IonicăBizău I don't know your local rules & regulations, and I know here it depends exactly what SORT of "public land" it is, but it may be possible to lease (from the "government" acting in the role of "the public") a small area for a radio repeater on the hill, if you can figure out who to ask about such things. Alternatively, if there is any hill that you can see (need not be in a direct line to the antenna - just needs to be able to see it, and you need to be able to see the hill) that is not public, you might be able to set up a repeater there. – Ecnerwal Mar 1 '17 at 20:30
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Amazon sells some nifty looking cell phone booster/repeaters. You may want to try one of those first.

enter image description here

Amazon: 50MHz-Signal-Repeater-Amplifier-Antenna

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    Exactly, but they do require phone signal, otherwise, they don't have anything to boost. – Ionică Bizău Mar 1 '17 at 18:40
  • Nope.. just aim the antenna in the direction of the closest tower... May still not be enough for you though. But you can always return it if it doesn't work out. – Trevor_G Mar 1 '17 at 18:42
  • We have these in Romania too, but two different guys from two different shops told me the same: I do need at least a little bit of phone signal to boost it. In my case, the phone signal doesn't exist but on the hill. – Ionică Bizău Mar 1 '17 at 18:45
  • That is correct, right you need a little cell phone signal. You are probably getting some, just not enough for the tiny antenna in your cell phone to pick up. – Trevor_G Mar 1 '17 at 18:50
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    @Trevor It's not fair to manufacturers to treat the generous Amazon return policy like a tool lending library. There's no substitute for doing the proper engineering to figure out what will work. That said, the linked item is encouraging; it only takes 10 watts max so good chance it can be made to be solar powered. – Harper Mar 1 '17 at 21:35

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