Femtocells / Signal Boosters and Zevvle

Hi all,

So I’ve just moved house and discovered that my Zevvle coverage at the new property is pretty poor, bordering non-existent. I don’t think the issue is unique to EE’s coverage since I have other network SIMs and they seem equally bad - I’m just in a coverage blackspot.

I do need coverage at home for traditional voice calls, so I think there’s two options here:

  1. Switch to a network that supports WiFi Calling
  2. Look into buying a signal booster / femtocell of some description

Since #1 would mean I definitely have to switch to a major network, as a first step I though about exploring option #2. Again, it’s only the big networks that offer signal boosting hardware, and most seem to be pushing people towards the WiFi Calling option these days. However, I’m wondering what my chances are of being able to connect with Zevvle to an EE Signal Booster, if I were to pick up a used one on Ebay? I’ve read mixed things online about the success of using these kinds of devices with MVNOs.

I know we have a few knowledgeable folks on this forum when it comes to mobile network technology - any experiences or recommendations?

Thanks

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Repeaters are legal now, so maybe look at a cheap one from Ali express or something, but they do need wiring up.

I don’t know about other providers but 3 require the number be whitelisted to use their femtocells and only the account holder can do this , so if you buy off eBay you need to fight with them for the booster to be moved over to your account.

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Hi Sam! I’ll look into this and get back to you, hopefully we can make #2 work :slight_smile:

Nick

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I believe femtocells have to be registered, so even if you get your hands on the hardware it’s very unlikely they’d work out of the box, and registering them typically requires an account with the issuing carrier. It’s more of a bureaucracy problem, technically there’s nothing preventing them from registering your femtocell even as a non-customer, it’s just that you’re unlikely to get through to anyone with the permissions to actually do so and front-line customer support is unlikely to help.

As a workaround I can suggest forwarding your Zevvle number to a VoIP number (Twilio, Nexmo, A&A, etc) and then using a SIP client (which will use any network connection available regardless of official Wi-Fi calling support). You should be able to configure your SIP account on the provider side to set your Zevvle number as outgoing caller ID. Keep in mind that call forwarding is charged by Zevvle so you’d be paying for incoming calls too unless you are on the unlimited calls plan.

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I have an old EE femtocell in my loft, from a few years ago when I didn’t have great signal at my old address. I’ll get it out tomorrow and see if it works on my current internet connection and with Zevvle!

Could even ship you it for the price of postage if it looks like it will work!

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Something to bear in mind the cell is registered at your old address for emergency calls, should you call 999 and couldn’t speak , EE would give your old address to the emergency services.

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Thanks all, appreciate the suggestions. A repeater isn’t an option I was aware existed (legally), so that’s another avenue, although I’m not too sure whether my outdoor coverage is much better for that to work.

I’m not surprised about the bureaucracy around registering numbers, although I wonder why the networks would do this? What’s the harm to them if unregistered numbers on their network use it as an access point? Anyone making calls through it is still using minutes from their tariff.

Thanks for this! Although it looks like there might be some admin issues based on others’ experiences, I’d still be really interested in whether this works!

That’s another good one I hadn’t thought of… could be a solution for me although I’d need to evaluate how user-friendly the overall experience is once set up… since my wife is also on Zevvle and has a lower tolerance for “faffing around” with things like this :slightly_smiling_face:

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I am not only talking about number/IMEI registration, I am talking about location registration. Femtocells are configured with certain frequency bands & transmit power levels so that they don’t interfere with anything else, and this configuration will depend on the location, so they typically embed a GPS (or some other way to determine their own location) and will not enable the mobile interface if they’re not in the right location.

Regarding number registration, I guess one reason why they don’t want anyone to be able to connect to them automatically is to prevent a malicious user from starting one up in a crowded area, having everyone from there connect to it and then mess with the network connection to degrade service or even capture traffic (mobile traffic is only encrypted up to the base station, so if you have root access on the femtocell you can capture/tamper with their traffic).

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The second major reason I know of femtocells wanting to know their own location is people taking them abroad to have free calls/sms back to mainland.

This is all sorts of messy for the carrier and also could get them in trouble for using frequencies which may be reserved in the destination country… :see_no_evil:

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Out of curiosity, what does EE’s coverage checker tell you about your location?

It tell me “You’ll get great coverage outdoors and good coverage indoors on 4G”. In reality, I get a big fat nothing inside and out.

Exactly the same. How do you manage with calls at home then, or are you purely talking about not getting 4G coverage, and managing with 2G /3G?

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I was just talking about data - I get no data connection of any kind. I can usually receives texts and calls, but it’s not reliable. I’ve walked up to the top of the road a couple of times if I really need to send a text.

Edit: I have a landline, so not being able to rely on my phone for calls isn’t a massive deal.

Dug it out, plugged it in, unfortunately the light just flashes green, which it says means “Initialisation or temporarily out of service”. Initially, I presumed it had either been de-registered at EE’s end due to not being used for a few years or it detected it’s in a different location/internet connection.

But, I found the original leaflet in the box (T-Mobile branded!) and it had an 0800 number on it for activating the box, so I called it and immediately got connected to someone at EE who knew all about signal boxes! He said they’ve been having an issue with signal boxes over the last 5 days and this is probably the reason it’s not working, didn’t know when it would be resolved, but suggested I try it again in a few days.

So semi-promising! If it did start working, I don’t see why it wouldn’t continue to work for someone else. I don’t know if things have changed since I got this box, but it definitely wasn’t associated with a particular number, any EE SIM would automatically connect to it if in range.

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In that case there shouldn’t be a problem though and it’s just the user bypassing an arbitrary predatory business model. If the user is bringing their femtocell abroad and connecting their phone to it then it doesn’t cost the carrier any more than if it was operating locally as all the traffic is relayed to them over the internet with no need to pay roaming fees to a local carrier.

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I mean, true, and I have done quite a bit of research in what ways I could abuse femtocells for that purpose. I agree the current pricing structures of many providers is fuelled by corporate greed and often way more expensive for the consumer than it should be! :cry:

I think the only real issue would still be the regulatory problems, and the potential for it to be interfering with other’s cell-phone usage if the providers abroad happen to be on the same frequencies as the femtocell. But I guess this is a little bit off from the original poster’s topic. :sweat_smile:

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Good news and bad news!

Good news: I got the signal box working! The green light is now solid. Think EE’s issues are over and also pressed the reset button.

Bad news: My iPhone with a Zevvle SIM in it doesn’t connect to the signal box :frowning_face:
@nick If Zevvle was allowed to use EE’s signal boxes, do you know if this is something that could be enabled remotely? Or would it require new SIMs?

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We just heard back this afternoon:

“Unfortunately the femtocells/signal boosters would need to be supplied by EE and registered in order for them to work correctly, the device may work but is unsupported.”

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Update: it’s working! Must have still been sorting itself out. Got full signal (which I can’t normally get), I hear the beeps at the start of a call confirming it’s using the signal box, and the light on the signal box flashes when in a call as it should. :smiley:

That just sounds to me like you can’t obtain, setup and get support for a signal box without being a EE customer. But nothing saying Zevvle SIMs won’t work with one. :grin:

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Huh, that’s excellent! Thank you so much for testing it :pray:

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