1 2 Previous Next 10 Replies Latest reply on Jan 26, 2013 6:26 PM by BeerSampler

    How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting




      Here is a way to positively identify which VERIZON cell tower serves your location by using ONLY your cellphone which is much easier that carrying a laptop around to do a site survey.  I learned this from a cell tower technician who was working on the cell tower.  BTW, if there is only one cell tower near you, you probably already know.


      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 tower serving your location.


      Second:  Stand in your house at a spot close to where you use your cellphone or modem or close by your external antenna.  Then 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, the nice lady speaks softly, but she repeats herself 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 home.


      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 home's location. Of the three antennas:


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


      BTW, the longer ones are the vertical 4G antennas.


      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 (Gamma Southwest facing antenna) 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 at this first tower it was Switch 59, Cell Tower 194, and Sector Alpha. Therefore, in the third step above the reading at your home was 59, 122, Gamma so 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 find the cell tower that your modem or phone is connecting to at your home the info from dialing #878# will be Switch 59, Cell Tower 122, Sector Gamma which matches 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 that tower. At this point you found THE Verizon cell tower you are connecting to by matching the 59, 122, gamma and the increased signal strength adds a little confirmation.


      This has confirmed which Verizon cell tower serves your location so if you have a directional antenna you know exactly which way it should to face.  After doing this I moved my Verizon Pantech UML290 4G modem across the room 10 feet away from were it was and that increased my signal strength significantly!  Also, I noticed that I get a better signal strength on my charge phone in that same area so now when I do a backup of my contacts I set my Charge phone there for 2-3 minutes while the contacts are being backed up.


      In my case it fooled me because the VZ tower that I am always connected to is NOT the one that is closest to my house so it surprise me.  I am being connected to a tower that is about 1/2 mile further away.

        • 1. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting

          Because of how the beams travel, you won't connect to ones really close. That can cause loss of packets. It normally switches you to towers at least 1 mile away for the recieving end, bouncers that are closer for your sending side.


          Keep in mind as well that many cell phone towers are shared. Verizon, Tmobile-ATT, and SPrint are sharing many towers and joint leasing sturctures to combine 4g LTE onto their carrier networks. 4g LTE towers will be shared sub leased and coverage expanded that way. Basically forcing any attempts of other companies 4g (non LTE) out of their markets.

          • 2. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting



            That explains why I get connected to the slightly more distant tower.  I used my Garmin GPS and the street address for each tower to tell me the thru-the-air mileage (not road mileage) to each of the four VZ towers nearest to my house. 


            The closest one is 1.0 mile, the next is 1.3 miles (this is the tower to which I get connected), third is 2.4 miles, and the fourth tower is 2.5 miles.





            • 3. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting

              YEah many towers will come up GTE  FCC leased and won't tell you which carreirs are using them.


              I have one right by my aprtment near johnson space center. WHile I know Verizon uses it. I can clearly see the upward LTE antenae, I am far to close to connect because of my angle to that tower.  beams literally fly over my head.



              I need to correct, these towers are Verizon main leased, ATT sub leased (cuts costs). LTE towers. THey are still be refined. THere is going not be changes to LTE with new features that shoudl improve our receptions and speeds greatly. (not that it is slow in any matter).



              Sprint went orginally with a WIfimax solutio nthat didn't pan out very well and they are goig nto make a jump to LTE as well.








              • 4. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting

                Jerry, I'm assuming this only works for the phone portion of your device and not necessarily the LTE data portion.  I say that for the following reason.  I'm in a solidly 4G area and close to a VZW tower.  However, in my house I only get 4G about half the time while my signal strength is always at 5 bars (shows up about -75db on my signal strength page).  I called tech support about the 4G issue as it didn't make sense to have such a strong signal yet no 4G.  They told me I'm getting my voice (CDMA?) signal from the tower nearest to me, but that tower has not been upgraded to 4G yet.  I'm getting 4G from one about 2 miles away.  So they tell me it is possible that you will get voice from one tower and 4G from another.  My guess is then when you call and the voice gives you the tower location it is for the voice service, not necessarily LTE.  I wonder if there is a way to determine what tower your 4G LTE is coming from????  Maybe your friend can tell you?

                • 5. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting



                  Good info, what you say is probably true, I'm not sure.  To ask the tech I would have to catch him at the tower someday.


                  To help further, look at the attached photo.  Then look at your tower to see if you see the vertically longer antennas for 4G.  As the caption at the bottom of the photo says, these are Verizon 4G antennas. 




                  • 6. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting

                    tried the #878# routine after I had seen your post onthe EVDO forums last week. dialed it on my cheapie VZW phone (LG - VX5500)....didn't work, just got a "call cannot be completed..." message, followed by " announcement 4, switch 222 dash 1" ... guessing maybe the phone needs to be 4G or??  Davidoo's post would seem to make sense. It would be nice to know... guessing there are 2 towers in line of site for me not counting trees


                    The subject is of interest as I am going to try an outside antenna with a MiFi 4510L ...http://3gstore.com/product/3047_3g4g-full-band-outdoor-omni-antenna.html when it arrives next week. VZW 4G has just arrived here in the last couple weeks but seems to be up and running fairly well after a few false starts.

                    • 7. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting



                      Scratch my first method, the one you just used, because I found a MUCH better way.  Go look here...





                      • 8. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting

                        that does look pretty cool... dang, might have to move up into the world of the smartphone!


                        What kind of phone did you use with your original post? and did it all work for you?


                        thanks, Gerry

                        • 9. Re: How to ID the specific VZ cell tower to which you are connecting



                          I  used the VZW Droid Charge phone with my original post and this phone has worked perfectly for me from day one.  If you look at the VZW forums many folks have had some problems with their smart phone. 


                          If you get any smart phone charge the battery for at least 4  hours BEFORE using it much and then charge it overnight.  Also, you can charge a Li Ion battery anytime.  The battery has NO memory.



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