|More Resources for Locating Cell Sites
People and equipment that can aid you in
finding cellular sites. The better your people
and technical skills, the better your results.
You'll be surprised how much you can learn
if you just ask. This is a list of places to look for the
right people. Some will question your intentions.
Normally, if you're honest and polite, they'll
share what they know. You may need to be
persistent, but always be nice.
- Your City or County:
These people can normally be reached
and there should be several people
know site locations. The task is
the right person. Virtually all cell
require a building permit so the
Department should know them all.
these are busy people so you may
ask around to find someone willing
Most cell sites need 'special consideration'
so often a "Community Development"
or "Facilities Coordinator"
involved. Don't limit your search
'officials', normally the 'coordinator',
clerk or even a secretary knows more
- Special Facilities and Districts:
These are the semi-public organizations that
have significant real estate, building or
infrastructure holdings. Check your state
department of highways, local housing authority,
school board, park district and the like.
- Building Managers:
You may see or suspect a cell site located
on the rooftop of a nearby building. Call
the building's manager. Some buildings have
a receptionist who may have spoken to the
cellular installers and repair persons and
know which carrier they are working with.
Cell sites can be found on water
power poles and other infrastructure.
organizations are often large and
be difficult to find the right person
help you. Being nice helps your cause.
- Your Homeowners Association:
Cellular carriers normally notify
about nearby cell site installation
actually rent space in your common
If you haven't contacted your HOA
this is a great reason to look them
- Wireless Construction Companies:
They could be as close as your yellow
These could be very small and you
up ringing the owner's cell phone.
friend here, though, and you'll be
A 6-pack (or flowers) might help
- The Nearby Cellular Store:
Knowledge varies widely but some
employees may know nearby cell site
If you visit a corporate-owned cellular
seek out the "geek", maybe
guy who fixes phones, and ask. However,
might need to take some of this information
with a grain of salt as it may be
to sell you a phone.
Equipment is simple: a cellular phone is
all you need to find cell sites. You are
entering the world of "DF", Direction
Finding, where even modest equipment can
pinpoint a cell site's location.
- Your Current Phone
The simplest and roughest way to find a cell
site is to look at your phone's signal meter...the
"bars". If you see "full"
bars everywhere, you need to find a way to
reduce the signal to the phone. You can wrap
the phone will aluminum foil with just the
screen exposed. The idea is to drop the "bars"
on the phone's screen. Another possible method
is to leave the phone on the floor of your
car. Then, walk or drive in any direction.
If the bars rise, you are approaching the
cell site, if they fall, you are traveling
away from it. Average the distance between
where you find the 2nd highest reading and
found your most likely location.
To further refine your search, travel in
a perpendicular line to your previous search
to find another average point of maximum
signal. Where the two lines cross indicates
the most likely location of a cell site.
Radio signals can fool you, though. Your
areas of greatest signal could be locations
where your phone only happens to "see"
a strong signal from a distant site.
- Enter Your Phone's Programming or "Debug"
This site search method is the same as above,
but your phone can give you a more precise
signal measurement. You need to access your
phone's Programming Menu. Unfortunately,
every phone is different in how it accesses
it's menu. A web search with your phone's
model number and "Programming menu",
or "Debug" may yield results. The
most common code for US CDMA phones was "040793".
Smart phones may yield this information with
an App that will show cell site signal strength.
Once your screen shows the appropriate numerical
data, you'll see it is constantly changing...this
is the RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator)
which will vary as you move the phone around,
even slightly. In the image on the right,
that number is "F3". The number
is normally shown as negative ("-"),
and the weaker the signal, the greater the number. However, as in this case, some
screens show a hexadecimal number, such as
that on the right. The RSSI of "F3"
is within a range from "80" as
the lowest, to "7F" as the highest.
As above, finding a way to reduce the signal
at the phone provides more useful results.
Don't drive and watch the screen!
- Try an Old Phone
Some phones are easier than others to access
their digital signal indicator. Older phones
may be easier to "hack," although
information on older models is disappearing
from the web. Old digital phones are available
at cheap prices at source like eBay. Analog
and TDMA phones are not useful for searching.
- Cell Signal App's
There are now some downloadable Apps for
Smart phones that reveal the location ID
information that is broadcast by some cell
sites. The data phone can only "see"
sites that are transmitting compatible technology
(CDMA, GSM). In many cases the cell site
location data is not properly programmed
on to the signal.
- Serious Direction Finding
There are serious "DF'ers" who
track down radio signals as a hobby or as
a life-saving tool. The Wikipedia has more
on radio Direction Finding Devices as does the American Radio Relay League. Don't expect to find someone who will actually
help you look for a site, but they may explain
how to do it and direct you to other resources.
- This is what you will see when you have arrived.
Be safe! Always drive safely when searching
for cell sites. Keep your eyes on the road.