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How to identify your specific cell tower using a cellphone

 
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JerryF
EVDO Heavy User


Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:11 pm    Post subject: How to identify your specific cell tower using a cellphone Reply with quote

November 7, 2011

SO FAR I HAVE ONLY USED THIS TO FIND 4G TOWERS AND IT ONLY WORKS FOR VERIZON TOWERS.

Here is a way to positively identify which VERIZON cell tower serves your location by using ONLY your cellphone and it's much easier that carrying a laptop around.

First, find the location of all the close-by Verizon cell towers near your house or business. Don't be concerned that you may miss one because this method will identify if you did miss the one tower serving your location.

Second, from a close by location to your modem/cellphone or its antenna in your home dial #878# and listen carefully. You will hear a computerized voice say something like, SWITCH 59 CELL TOWER 122 SECTOR Gamma. You may have to listen very carefully but it repeats itself a couple of times. This now means that 59, 122, Gamma is YOUR cell tower, the one sending the signal to you at your home because you called it from your house.

NOTE: As you may have already noticed cell towers have three vertical antennas spaced 120 degrees apart so they face in three different directions. Remember this with regard to the SECTOR because there are Alpha, Beta, and Gamma sector antennas on each tower and one of them will be the one facing closest to your location. Of the three antennas:

Alpha is the North FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower
Beta is the Southeast FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower
Gamma is the Southwest FACING vertical antenna on the cell tower

Third, let's assume that from your location in your home, when you dialed #878#, the computerized voice said SWITCH 59, CELL TOWER 122, and SECTOR Gamma; therefore, a Southwest facing cell tower antenna is the one being used for the signal with regard to your location. Write this down and also write down the signal strength you are receiving at your home location. For this example let's assume it is -84 dBm so you have written down: 59, 122, Gamma and -84 dBm.

Fourth and last, drive to each cell tower that is close to your location and stand BETWEEN the cell tower and where your home is located. Stand 500-1,000 feet away from the tower and dial #878# and write down the info. For example, let's assume it was Switch 59, Cell Tower 194, and Sector Alpha. if as in the third step above the reading at home was 59, 122, Gamma this is NOT the tower you are receiving at home because it's ID is 59, 194, Alpha. Go to another close by tower and redo step four.

When you finally find the cell tower your modem or phone is connecting to at your home the info from dialing #878# Switch 59, Cell Tower 122, Sector Gamma that you received at the tower will match what it was at your home. If your at home signal strength was -84 dBm it may be something like -39 dBm when you are standing next to the tower. At this point you found your Verizon cell tower by matching the 59, 122, gamma and the increased signal strength while you were next to the tower.

This has confirmed which Verizon cell tower serves your location so if you have a directional antenna you know exactly which way to face it.

JerryF
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burkem_10
EVDO Fledgling


Joined: 03 Dec 2008
Posts: 15
Location: colon MI

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:32 pm    Post subject: fghjk Reply with quote

I use the Open Signal Maps widget on my phone to see what tower I am connected to, although I don't think it works with 3G. But it does show where the towers are via Google Maps and tells which one you are connected to.
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JerryF
EVDO Heavy User


Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Burkem_10,

Thanks for mentioning this. I now use OpenSignalMaps too. It is so much easier!

I posted the following detailed explanation, with a photo of the map, on the Verizon forum.

https://community.verizonwireless.com/thread/766309

Thanks again for reminding me to update this post.

Best regards,
JerryF
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thrillhouse
EVDO Junkie


Joined: 05 Oct 2007
Posts: 292
Location: VA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just did i google search for fcc registered towers in my zip and assume the closest one is the one I am on.
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JerryF
EVDO Heavy User


Joined: 28 Dec 2010
Posts: 125

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thrillhouse,

VZW fools us sometimes.

Sometimes you can be "to close" to a tower and you're connected to one that is a little bit further away.

Also, because of obstacles in the way and/or heavy traffic on a tower, you might be connected to a tower that is not the closest one.

One time when I was using OpenSignalMaps in a motorhome park in Tucson, AZ and I was not moving myself and I saw the connection move from one tower to another tower. In other words, the red line on the map that was going between my location and the tower jumped to another tower even thought I was still in the same location.

When I am in our motorhome in a new location I connect my PC using my MBR1000/Pantech UML290 BUT I also set my Charge phone down on the counter and use OpenSignalMaps to see where the tower to which I am connected is located.

JerryF
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thrillhouse
EVDO Junkie


Joined: 05 Oct 2007
Posts: 292
Location: VA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see.

Too bad I don't have an android phone, can't use this tool. It's a great idea and I checked out the map at their site and there are three towers near me.

I am going to do some googling and see if I can find a way to tell with my computer and modem instead of android.

It would be good info because then I could know the most effective way to point my antenna and maybe gain some speed right?
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burkem_10
EVDO Fledgling


Joined: 03 Dec 2008
Posts: 15
Location: colon MI

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:37 am    Post subject: asdf Reply with quote

Yeah, I use OpenSignalMaps at home (a dead zone) and I can watch my phone switch to and from 5 different towers that are in a circle around us. No wonder we have connectivity issues. AT&T said they did something so that we would stay on one tower but I didn't notice anything change...
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vey
EVDO Newbie


Joined: 03 Mar 2012
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I can watch my phone switch to and from 5 different towers that are in a circle around us."

Same here and I am on Verizon. I got a Signalboost DT and a Yagi, which improved the signal indoors, but still it's not very good. The towers where I have the best signals keep kicking me off.
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Shorty
EVDO User


Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 29
Location: KY

PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting comments.

I've been trying to identify the (AT&T) towers near my house (KY), with partial success. I've used all the tower/antenna locating web sites I can find as well as several android apps on my phone (Antennas, cellumap, OpenSignal, RF Signal Tracker), but I haven't nailed them all down yet - each app/site is missing something, especially when it comes to the exact lat/long of the towers.

I'm seeing quite a few (7, if I recall correctly) CellIDs from inside my house. Two groups share the first 4 digits, with the last digit different, e.g. xxxx1, xxxx3, xxxx7 and yyyy2, yyyy5, yyyy8. Am I getting signals from three different sectors on the same tower?

I'm thinking about getting a USB card (SW313U/Momentum), and if I do, I'll probably want an external antenna. I typically get much faster Speedtests when I connected to a particular one of these CellID antennas, so I'm torn between a directional vs an omni - sort of putting all you eggs in one basket vs accepting a lesser average speed in exchange for knowing you'll always connect to SOMETHING.

Any thoughts?

- Shorty
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