Cell Counting Excercise

Obviously the main feature of my first self written Android App is to do some drive testing to see how many cells are out there and how good the network coverage in general is on a particular stretch. So in the past couple of days I took my apps for drive testing to see how many cells cover my way from and to work.

The distance between my home and work is 38 km. To see if there are differences in the number of 2G and 3G cells I did the exercise a couple of times to get the number for each network technology. And to see if there are differences between networks I ran the exercise with SIM cards of two network operators. As a result I could see around 63 cells on my way to work, both in GSM and UMTS.In other words the network density of 2G and 3G seems to be quite similar, at least in the part of the world I live.

Also there hasn't been a significant difference in the number of cells between the two networks so from a capacity and coverage point of view the networks are very similar. Perhaps I should run the exercise again with the other two networks as their marketing and budget approaches might be different.

The 64 cells and 38 km distance can be translated into 38 km/63 cells = 600m/cell. In other words, each cells covers on average 600m of my way to work. On my trip I go through cities and also a few kilometers through the countryside so it's likely the cells in the cities are a bit smaller while the cells outside are a bit larger.

This does not mean, however, that there is a cell tower every 600 meters as a base station usually has three sectorized cells each covering 180 120 degrees. So the average distance from one cell tower to another is somewhere between this value and and its double. It's somewhere in between as I imagine that while the trip covers two sectors of some base stations, it will only touch a single sector of others.

4 thoughts on “Cell Counting Excercise”

  1. shouldn’t it read “a base station usually has three sectorized cells each covering 120 degrees”?

    feature request: include gps position of cell changes. this could give you a better idea of the differences in density.
    train spotting, plane spotting, cell spotting..

  2. Do you have 1 or 2 bands in your GSM network? Because you might even not see it if you remain all the time on the GSM900 layer.

  3. Hi Martin, I wonder if you would make an app that use cell id as alarm. When enter certain location with specific cell id, we can give specific name to it. It would be useful for me and others who uses bus or train, to remind us when we are close to destination. There’s already apps for that purpose, but it uses GPS and/or internet, and it drains battery so much. I really hope you would make one 🙂

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