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Mobile Calls in Not-Spot

Category: Techie
14 Dec 2015
Written by Andy Hits: 5055

I'm in the process of moving house, and unfortunately the village it is in is on the edge of a number of different phone companies coverage.

  • O2 has coverage for most of the house, but call quality can vary
  • Vodafone shows it as on the edge of outdoors only
  • EE has nearly no signal downstairs, but some parts upstairs have 3G and sometimes 4G
  • 3 shows as outdoor signal only

I think any other operators are piggybacking on the networks of these 3 so not worth investigating too much

So the solution could be a femtocell.  I've used the Vodafone SureSignal before, and it worked very nicely with its vpn over the ADSL to Vodafone HQ and giving nice solid 3G while in the building
However, we are over 4KM as the crow flies from the exchange, never mind how the copper goes, and the number of junctions degrading the link.  ADSL sync speed is under 500Kb/s, so likely to be far to low for that solution
Fibre to Cabinet is in the village, but because standard broadband is so poor, its fully subscribed most of the time.  It filled up the day that I was trying to organise utilities for the house, so I got stuck with "band" rather than broadband.


So time for plan B!

I was at the end of my EE contract, so I thought it was worth trying to do some bargaining in the hopes they would want to keep me.  According to forums, EE do have a few "signal box" femto cell or (ofcom approved) smart signal amplifiers available, if you talk to the right person.  I also was aware of some of their handsets supporting Wi-Fi calling, where the handset registers via Wi-Fi rather than the cellular network with them.  I don't think handover works, in the same way no MNOs have Voice over LTE (4G) live either.

So no decent broadband and limited mobile signal... well, as I said, 4G was available if you pick the correct window of the upstairs.  EE have 2 or 3 4G routers, including the Osprey 2 and Osprey 2 - mini.
So with a good 4G signal being converted to wireless, my phone handset should in theory be able to register with EE via wifi and keep working as expected

It didn't look to promising on Friday night.  First I had a 1GB firmware download, and the internet seemed slow, and installing took even longer.  Then I got a red phone icon saying "unable to connect over wifi", and still no signal.
But by 7am on saturday morning I had a text confirming it was all ready to work via wifi.  I gave it a little test ringing the land line, and I could talk to myself!  Not a very good test, as even after a few miliseconds of network latency, I can still remember what I had said

But my brother called in the evening, so I gave it a real test with him, warning him of the slightly ad-hoc system was in place.  On the whole, voice worked flawlessly, no obvious crackles or too much packet loss.  And also not being scared of moving from where I was because I'd loose that 1 bar of signal

And the other good thing, it gives "real" broadband. Ping is still relatively high, but the bandwidth is still really good, and for web browsing and such like, the latency is much less important than the throughput

So here is the device, in position:

Osprey Mini 2 4G mobile access point
Osprey Mini 2 4G mobile access point




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