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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

How to find GSM towers in your area and the new 4G LTE network in Derby.

The new 4G LTE Network in Derby.

Working in the engineering department of revenue assurance business for mobile phone operators I'm interested in the technology behind GSM radio communications and unless you have been hiding under a rock then you will be well aware of the newest technology soon to launch in Derby. That is 4G LTE technology.

Everything Everywhere, announced last week that it is investing £3.8 million in Derby on new masts, cabinet equipment and software. In case you did not know, Everything Everywhere or EE is the new name for Orange and T-Mobile (formally one-to-one)

Derby is one of 16 cities that is getting the upgrade to its network, part of EE's £1.5 billion investment over the next three years. So we are quite lucky in Derby to have been chosen out of the 66 cities in the UK.
4G in Derby should be up and running on EE for Christmas, are you ready for it?

4G LTE is around five times faster than the fastest 3G network currently available in the UK. This will speed up downloading, browsing and streaming significantly and its definitely a worthwhile upgrade if you are want to get the most of of your smartphone.

A number of 4G LTE smartphones are launching on the Everything Everywhere (EE) network this year including the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE and the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820, the HTC One XL, as well as devices and USB dongles from Huawei and of course the new iPad.
The 4G compaitible iPhone 5 became available in the UK on Friday, September 21st......

Our current mobile networks use 3G/UMTS technology, which has been around since 2003 and which isn't really fast enough for the kinds of things we want to do today.
4G/LTE - it's short for Fourth Generation / Long Term Evolution - is its better, faster replacement, and it's been rolled out in all kinds of places one of which is Derby !

4G's amazing speed comes courtesy of OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), the same transmission technology used by ADSL, Wi-Fi, DVB-T, DVB-H and DAB. OFDM not only reduces latency, but minimises interference and can cram more data into the same slice of radio bandwidth.

It will make 4G smartphones ideal for streaming video and online gaming, not least because 4G is designed as a data network, not a voice one, so it uses the same TCP/IP protocols that underpin the Internet.

Further speed increases are also possible with the addition of MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology. The idea of having multiple antennas on transmitters and receivers is already used to great effect in 802.11n Wi-Fi gear.

Everything Everywhere LTE will be launched with a selection of 16 major cities by the end of this year and expanding to cover up to 70% of the UK by the end of 2013.
Testing of the 4G network started in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and London. Once these initial four pilot cities are up and running, Everything Everywhere aims to switch on LTE networks across an additional 12 major cities by the end of 2012, reaching a total of 20 million people.
The cities to get 4G first are Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton.

3G v 4G tests
Here is a video of various performance tests showing the difference between 3G and 4G in the UK, using O2 3G compared with O2 4G (Be Un Limited) This test was done in the O2 arena in London as this is where the 4G LTE service is already live.

This will show you things such as running speedtest.net to show the ping time, download speed and upload speed. Also streaming 1080p Video, Large file downloads, general web surfing.
As you will see the difference is amazing.

Hopefully the other providers Three, O2 and Vodaphone will follow soon with their 4G LTE service in Derby!

GSM mast Finder.
Have you ever wondered where your local tower is located for your mobile phone operator?
You may have noticed these GSM towers located as you drive around, you will mainly see them on the tall buildings around Derby. In more industrial areas they are on tall antenna masts like this one here :
A typical GSM mast for Orange (EE).

A few years ago I found a website that shows you the location of GSM masts on a map. Recently they updated the website to make better use of modern mapping solutions so its a lot simpler to use now.

Here is a screen grab of what you will find if you search for Derby and zoom in :
The Sitefinder website showing GSM masts in Derby (Click to enlarge)
I imagine that soon this map will be updated to show all of the new masts for the 4G LTE system as it rolls out in Derby.
If you would like to search for masts in your area this is how to use the service.
Visit the sitefinder website -www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk
Then click on the UK map (or click "search at location"), type in your location or even your post code and click the search button. If you have selected a wide area then it will not show any masts until you zoom in.
You can drag the map around to reveal the GSM masts.
Simply click on  a blue marker to reveal which service providers use the mast.

Macrocell - A macrocell is normally a mast or other structure supporting a large antenna designed to give coverage over a large area.
Microcell - A micro cell is a low power station, often using unobtrusive antennas, designed to give coverage over a small localised area. 

As well as O2, Vodaphone and EE (T-Mobile & Orange) masts, this map will also show ones used by Network Rail and Airwave TETRA (Police and Emergency Services).

Its worth noting that not all the masts you see may show on this map yet as they take time to be put onto this map. For example that mast in the upper car park of the DRI on Osmaston Road took several months to show on this map. If you have a look using the service you will see its an O2 mast.

In Derby you can also find out in advance of any installations of new phone masts by using the eplanning service on the Derby City Council website.
visit Derby City eplanning.
Then in the applicant name field type telefonica or Vodafone etc or set the Application Type to "Telecommunication installations" and search. This will list any plans as well as all previous plans (approved and failed).
On any search results simply click on the link in the orange bit where it says "link to more details" and then use the tabs below it such as documents to see all the detailed plans on the installation and even letters of complaint!

Smartphone Apps
There is an app available for free on the iPhone that will allow you to see on a map where they are relative to your current location. goto the App store and search for Find Tower by Giacomo Balli.

If you have a jailbroken iPhone then there is a much better app called Signal iPhone created by iPhone Dev Team member planetbeing. This app shows you all the technical details about each cell site in your area.
Here is a screengrab of what it looks like in action :

Signal running on my jailbroken iPhone.

Hope you found this of interest.



  1. Cheers for this info. Good were getting 4G in Derby before my mate in Ashby, Wind him up about that! Saving up for one of the new HTC phones with LTE Should be wicked. cant wait.


  2. I don’t think I know anyone with a 4G contract, and I know almost as few with a 4G-ready phone. Emerging partnership from Orange and T-Mobile - EE (Everything, Everywhere) have something of a monopoly on the 4G market. I assumed this was the spawn of some lucrative deal they managed to wangle, gleefully parting with millions to sign the bottom of a piece of paper laden with the word ‘exclusivity’.