Siretta Cellular Signal Strength Data Logger - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Siretta Cellular Signal Strength Data Logger

Author: colporteur

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Test Equipment

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: no commentary

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The test function Multiple Cycle Survey, ability to conduct a survey over many cycles wasn't working. Survey results were not being saved. Vendor intervention with a new code load resolved issue.

Detailed Review:

The SNYPER-LTE Graphyte (EU) or SNYPER-LTE Graphyte (USA) is a cellular network signal analyzer and data logger. The unit is portable and is designed to be left onsite to conduct sequential surveys (tests) in a fixed location and automatically save them. The unit can also be transported to conduct mobile tests like signal strength if desired. Four types of survey can be performed: a “FULL” survey (4G, 3G and 2G), 4G/LTE only, 3G/UMTS only & 2G/GSM only.

 

No prior knowledge of the operating principles of cellular mobile network supported this RoadTest. The RoadTest review used the SNYPER-LTE Graphyte (USA) to conduct a series of survey in and around the community of  North America, Canada, Manitoba, Morris. The goal was to gather cellphone network data from regional carriers using as many of the functions supported on the equipment. In addition, the test equipment was used to gather data to assist in troubleshooting a chronic intermittent connection issue with a local carrier.

 

The information provided in this RoadTest was divided using the following subheadings.

Technical Issue Updates: status of RoadTest Review due to technical issues

 

Test Environment Review: subheading provides the details of the location and sites that testing was conducted at.

Testing Documented: subheading are the details regarding the specific tests and the results gathered.

RoadTest Application Analysis: subheading provides some of the details that were used to support the reviewers RoadTest application.

 

Technical Issues Updates:

This RoadTest had technical issues that delayed the completion. The unit is designed primarily for the EU and USA market. The configuration to support America was causing issues in Canada. The issues were resolved by the vendor after some extensive troubleshooting sessions and numerous software upgrades.

 

******Making posts to update the review. Will remove test pattern when all content accurate

Update September 16, 2019: The plan was to have this RoadTest completed by September 15. The Graphyte equipment is unreliable at this time due to Software/firmware issues, making it impossible to complete testing. Siretta developers have been making remote connection to the unit via a team viewer connections in order to troubleshoot. The firmware needed to be reinstalled because it was corrupted. According to the developer this is the first time they have seen this issue. After a firmware refresh, the unit completed a single cycle test successfully. Later, it was discovered the unit fails to perform multicycle tests. A software load was introduced to overcome the issue. The results were not acceptable. Log files are currently with the vendor for analysis to narrow down root cause and a fix. The vendor has plans to make changes the week starting September 16 to restore the equipment. I will keep you posted on the results.

Update September 26, 2019: The vendor has been providing software updates to load, conduct specific testing and return the results with the logfiles. One positive indication is the unit is once again actually saving results. Once of the issues was the unit running tests that could takes hours, in the end didn't produce any results. I am continuing to work with the vendor as their boots on the ground using the equipment and uploading code changes. Hopefully I can have a stable unit before the snow flies. I really don't want to ride the 14km of dike to do testing while it is snowing.

Update October 11, 2019: Functioning code for the device was provided the first week of October. Unfortunately the weather has taken a turn for the worse that eliminates my plan to bike rides around the dyke to take readings. I feel obligated to complete the tests I offered for the RoadTest.  Field testing is tough in this weather unless your vehicle is equipped with four wheel drive. I hope to publish some tests, although not ideal shortly.

Conclusion October 17, 2019: Amended RoadTest Review posted.

 

Table of Contents Walk Through

 

What do you do when you have no idea what to do? Start with the user manual table of contents was my thought. During the review I made notations in the vendor User Manual. I then used some of the table of contents heading to form the outline for this section. I have prefixed some of the commentary with either a Plus or Minus emoji. This is to reflect either my positive or negative colouring on the feedback.

 

Introduction

The device provided is a SNYPER-LTE Graphyte (USA) High performance 4G / LTE signal analyser & cell logger. Product chart at link https://www.siretta.com/products/cellular-network-analysers/cellular-analyser-selector-tool/ best describes the differences in the product for US and EU markets.

 

Awesome format for the vendors web site downloads page. Datasheet, Manuals and Antenna Tests documents are all available. https://www.siretta.com/products/cellular-network-analysers/4g-lte-analyser-network/snyper-lte-graphyte-na/

 

Antenna Test documentation does not include Oscar 20, Oscar 20A, Delta 24 & Delta 27 antennas referenced in the Antenna Characteristics section of the User Manual.

 

The unit was not found on a product search at Element14 website https://www.element14.com/community/designcenter/?ICID=menubar_designcenter_product-search&#boardType-mcu

 

Price Point

I provided a cut & paste of the unit price in Canadian dollars from the Newark site. I don't feel it is appropriate to provide pricing from other distributors on a site supported by Farnell/Newark.

 

 

What’s in the Box

A QUICK START GUIDE document was found in the case. All other documents were sourced from the website.

 

 

I feel the Kit Contents document should be included in the case. It could be provided on the back side of QUICK START GUIDE.

 

The Kit Contents document available on the website needs more detailed.

 

If anyone has ever borrowed the loaner overhead projector and discovered just before their presentation is to start, the power cord is missing, they will understand why I suggest the parts list be included in the case. If this device is shared among a team, it important all the parts are accounted for. The Kit Content document provides a reference for that to happen. The red notation is just some additional detail I feel are needed.

 

Features

No menu surfing screen shots are provided as part of this RoadTest. I didn't see any value since those type of details are documented very well in the User Manual.

 

A cellphone Industry professional that used the device for short time period, found it to be very light in weight compared to other products.

 

Specifications

The manufacture indicates using the unit outside the operating temperature range degrades battery life. As an observation but not tested, the lower limit operating temperature of -10 Celsius would make the device not suited to Canadian Prairie winters that run -15 Celsius and below. Unless the plan was to do all testing from inside a warm car.

 

First Time Use of the SNYPER-LTE Graphyte

On the first time power up of the unit, it immediately shutdown. I questioned whether the unit had a problem or did it need a charge or did it need an antenna? I opted to put the unit on charge. While waiting, I downloading the User Manual and discovered the device will shutdown if it does not have sufficient charge. Now why wasn’t that "tid bit" of information written in the QUICK START GUIDE provided in the case?

 

Show Results

Recommend reviewing the SNYPER glossary terms https://www.siretta.com/snyper-glossary before analyzing the test results. A short glossary is included in the User Manual but the site download is much more comprehensive.

 

Survey Menu

The SNYPER-LTE Graphyte has 3 operational modes for performing surveys.

 

» » Single Survey: A single, complete survey of the cellular environment as seen by the SNYPER-LTE Graphyte. The survey result is available as a .csv file, with a .htm summary file.

» » Multiple Cycle Survey: In Multiple Cycle Survey, the user can conduct a survey over many cycles (user defined up to 500). These surveys can either run consecutively with each other, or after a user selectable time interval of up to 24 hours. The Graphyte will show the average of all the surveys carried out. Like Single Scan survey, .HTM and .CSV files will be created. In Multiple Cycle Survey there will be two .CSV files created. One with the averaged summary data, and one containing all the data from all the surveys that were conducted. Multiple cycle survey is a significant feature of the SNYPER-LTE Graphyte. Received signal strength of cellular networks is not a constant. They vary in even short spaces of time. Therefore, carrying out a multiple cycle survey in an area gives a much better view of best signal strength for a specific network. It is recommended that users carry out a 5-cycle survey as a minimum to get a good view of signal strength available in any given location.

» » liveSCAN: This is a continuous survey where the SNYPER-LTE Graphyte is locked onto a user specified channel frequency. The SNYPER-LTE Graphyte graphically shows the received signal strength of that channel on a continuously updated rolling display until cancelled. In conjunction with the supplied directional antenna, this allows the user to move the antenna around until the direction with the greatest signal strength is found. In conjunction with an omni-directional antenna, this allows the user to move around a site to identify the location of the best signal strength of the channel locked onto. A .csv file of each survey taken during the liveSCAN is kept for the user to analyse if required.

To use LiveScan you first perform and single or multiple cycle survey and then view the results acquired to select the the survey results to LiveScan. Since LiveScans selection are done from other surveys, it is possible to skip this step and just use the results of an old survey. A User Manual footnote indicates don’t rely on old surveys to support LiveScan. Things change and LiveScan needs most current information to function correctly.

 

On single and multiple survey selections the Full Survey selection was the menu item of choice. This was ideal because it does all types of networks and without having to know specific network details.

 

Setup Menu

I made a few changes before starting. I eliminated the annoying button push sound. I set the date and time. I selected from the three choices Standard, Advanced, Engineering Mode, I selected Engineering mode. The mode provided more information compared to the other two. I suspect to gather survey results it would take longer. If you don’t know what you don’t know, I figure more is better. Besides I would prefer to discover everything and not have to repeat the tests to get the any result missing because it wasn't asked for. There is a table in the User Manual that provides a checklist of what each mode provides.  For full description of survey parameters, can be found at SNYPER Survey Terminology:

https://www.siretta.com/snyper-survey-terminology

 

I suggest if the unit is purchased, you might want to document the setup for the unit. There is a factory reset button that wipes all survey results and resets some functions. How a unit is set up is important to ensure consistent results, especially if old results are store for future reference.

 

PC Connect

Different file types (CVS & HTML) are created on device that can be downloaded to a PC for viewing. No software is required on PC to view files.

 

This feature enables the user to upload data to the vendor website and with credentials do some cell site location and coverage analysis. I didn't have sufficient time to explore this feature. I understand future RoadTest reviews of this product I scheduled. I hope my colleagues will take up the challenge and explore this feature.

 

I encountered an anomaly while managing survey results. The date/time stamp on the unit indicated some files (not all) were timestamped the year 1979. When the files were moved from the device to a PC, the dates reflected correctly.

Time on files not correct, date is. Time inside the file is correct.

Tech support indicated this anomaly is associated with running Linux on the PC. The cause/effect are a short comings in the units programming. Timestamps on files and directories saved on the unit are not consistently applied. Microsoft operating systems choose to ignore the timestamp omission and leave the data fields blank. Linux on the other hand generates data for what is missing.

 

I was impressed the PC Connect function operation. It operated on both a Microsoft Windows PC and a Linux Ubuntu 18 PC consistently. A few samples on Linux Mint18 worked also.  I was pleasantly surprised Linux immediately opened a device icon in the file manager when the connect function was enabled.

 

Page 25 Save Results, indicates no user intervention required for files to be saved. I have number of use cases where the files were on the unit for view under summary but were not in the download section for PC Connect. LTE Full survey. I did an export of the results since they didn’t appear in the download. The export appeared in another directory. The dates and times inside the file indicate they were created at a different time than the directory they live in.

 

Updating the SNYPER-LTE Graphyte Software

A software load update was required and performed. The device had version 6.08.36-4.01 installed and version 6.08.41-4.01 was available. Ironic the same versions references are what appear in the User Manual documentation.

 

No mention that the file download from the support site needs to be uncompressed from it zip format before being made available to the device. No warning is provided but upgrade doesn’t happen if the file is not uncompressed.

 

No hash or checksum verification provided for file downloads. Best practice would suggest checksum should be provided for security and verification reasons.

 

No mention of power requirements during upgrade. A full charge I feel is necessary at a minimum or recommend the unit be plugged into a power source during the upgrade. I’m not sure if a power loss during the upgrade would brick the device or not. Experience tells me a power loss during upgrades are usually catastrophic.

 

Safety Recommendations

No mention of risk of overloading the input. I have witnessed similar types of equipment (i.e. spectrum analyzers) become unserviceable if the input was over driven. I had the ability to stand adjacent to the cell tower with this unit. I’m not sure if that would have caused a problem or not.

 

Test Environment Review

 

Let us now take a tour of the environment the equipment was used in. Using the cellphone network mapping site link provided  https://www.ertyu.org/steven_nikkel/cancellsites.html  do a Go on Morris Manitoba in the search field to get a map of the location. Morris is 35 minutes drive south from Winnipeg on Hwy 75. Winnipeg is the largest city as well as having the highest population density for the province.

Morris, Manitoba is a rural community of approximately 1500 people. The town of Morris is surrounded by a rink dike designed for flood protection when the Red River swells it banks in the spring. The cellphone provider tower was located approximately two kilometres from the dike east of the town as the crow flies.

 

 

Cell phone tower google map for following coordinates:

N49.3617 W97.3144

49°21'42.1"N 97°18'51.8"W

49.361700, -97.314400

 

Testing Documented

 

In order to facilitate testing with the equipment two platforms were mocked up. One a stable platform that enabled fix position readings and another mobile platform.

 

The units directional antenna, secured to the units cradle, mounted to a camera tripod became an idea fix platform. The unit could be rotated around its axis to perform directional signal tests. A 5ft length of wood secured to the mountain bike frame became an ideal mobile platform for testing. The bike seen around town did cause some questions to be posted on the local facebook page. The "Ultimate Selfie-Stick" was the first label applied.

 

Technical Issue Review:

I confess this RoadTest has gone on much longer than I anticipated. I was unable to deliver on the testing promised in the application. Getting a reliable working unit pushed the schedule so late into the fall that a freak snow storm made the testing sites unaccessible to all but balloon tired farm vehicles.

 

I have tried to compensate for coming up short on the application tests by offering other tests. I take pride in making a commitment and then delivering on the commitment. I would accept responsibility for failing to meet the requirements if the circumstances were in my control. Without a working unit, I was unable to perform tests. When the unit was considered reliable, weather conditions made the tests sites unavailable. I trust the RoadTest committee doesn’t hold my inability to deliver the testing outlined in my application against me in future RoadTest applications.

 

The unit worked out of the box for a few tests and then wouldn’t save test results. After some analysis by the vendors developer it was determined there was a conflict in the standards used to analyze data. Canada uses a mix of both European and United States standards. This was causing the unit grief.

 

The vendor had intended the unit for a USA RoadTest and not Canada. The unit has never been tested in Canada. After a quick beta code release that provide a setup option to disable USA, the unit started working. A roadtrip gave me an opportunity to test the unit in a mountainous area verses the prairie landscape I live it. The unit performed a number of tests. On return from the trip after five weeks, the unit once again failed to record results.

 

The troubleshooting this time required a connection to the unit. Using team viewer the developer had access to the device and I was boots on the ground to push button. After enabling the debug mode with the secret key sequence the developer discovered the firmware was corrupted. The vendor confessed to never seeing this happen before. They were extremely interested in tracking down the cause and a fix.

 

My limited understanding is there are two software modules in the unit. One module is for gathering the cell data (I call it the RF section) and the other for processing the data (I call this the analysis section). The user has access to the Analysis Section through new software loads. The RF Section is protected behind the secret handshake button sequence. The RF section was corrupted. This required a boots on the ground pressing buttons and the developer setting code loads to recover from.

 

Unit fixed, right? It worked on a test the vendor had me complete and then failed to work again. Another day for the developer to have a go. A few weeks for the vendor and the module developers to have a look and then another code load.

 

Fixed now, right? No! Multiple surveys were failing. The RF Module completes a test for one cycle and hands the results to the analysis section (again my understanding). The RF Section was failing three consecutive tests then erroring out. The analysis unit was waiting for results. The two modules eventually timed out. In the end no results.

 

Another analysis section code load was provided. The code now ignores RF Section failures and continues to wait for the cycle count to be concluded before processing. The vendor is investigating the RF Module section for failure causes and corrections.

 

What was done for testing?

 

Coverage Test.

A Multicycle test from three locations in my home to investigate a poor performance issue with cell phone depending on the location. Test results were recorded using both the Omni-directional and directional antennas.

 

Test levels in dBm for the cell site were recorded on the unit. Base Close:room in basement closet to cell tower. Base Far: basement room farthest from the cell tower. Outside: measurement taken in back yard. Gaz: measurement taken ten feet off the ground.

A walk around the locations while conducting a LiveScan was recorded. The meter doesn't provide a scan for signal level only the averages as it is displayed.

 

Density Test:

A Multicycle tests while moving from low density cell phone tower area to a high density cell phone tower area. Data was recorded on a car drive from Morris in rural Manitoba, to the city of Winnipeg. Omni-directional antenna was used.

 

I have a data zip file available if you are interested in viewing the data. I don't see a mechanism to make the files available through the site. Please send me an email message and I can provide the data files.

 

Directional Testing:

Provide signal strength results by rotating a directional antenna through a 360 degrees of the compass in relationship to the cell phone tower. Directional antennas are designed to provide best performance when pointed directly at the cell phone tower.

 

I have a data zip file available if you are interested in viewing the data. I don't see a mechanism to make the files available through the site. Please send me an email message and I can provide the data files.

 

RoadTest Application Analysis

 

I feel privileged to have been selected for this opportunity. I pondered the thought before submitting an application that there were other RoadTest candidates with credentials that far exceeded mine. After I was notified that I was selected I questioned why me? I was faced with the task of producing results for something I knew little about. I have added this subheading with the goal of improving the RoadTest process. It provides the application details provided to the selection committee. My application played on my strengths, high lighted my weaknesses but still promised a result that was constructive. I trust this information will not be used to criticise the selection committee. I do hope by reading the details you can gain some insight that might help you improve your application and giving you the confidence to keep submitting applications for future RoadTests.

 

(c) How much do you know about Cellular Networks?

17 years of my career was working in an RF environment primarily under the VHF and UHF bands. I am familiar with RF transmission theory and have some knowledge of cell phone communication through a career with a regional telecommunication provider.

 

(d) Have you ever used a Cell Signal Strength Data Logger? Please explain.

I have participated in RF signal strength testing but not as it relates to Cell phones. Phase modulation evaluation of VHF omni-direction range (VOR) using signal strength arrays and flight check aircraft have given some foundation knowledge on testing.  My understanding of RF transmission theory makes me an ideal candidate.

 

(e) Why did you apply for this particular roadtest?

I have poor cell phone coverage in my area! Performance improves if I walk from one side of my house to the other. Leaving the basement to stand in my backyard to garner a cell phone signal that won't drop out is a norm. This device would enable me to monitor the network and log data. I'm curious about the results.

 

(f) What is your testing-plan procedure (Be as specific as you can and use diagrams, schematics and any other media to describe.)

I suggest two tests. First a full assessment of my cell phone carrier signal. The second a comparison of two carriers. My provider and the next closest competitor.

 

In addition determine the prime location for optimal signal strength within the community. My community is surrounded by a ring dike designed for flood protection. I suspect it is one barrier to cell phone coverage. Divide the dike into four quadrants, N, S, E, & W. Evaluate signal strength inside, on and outside the dike at those location. Perform this test for two carriers.

 

Conclusion

The unit, when working, was easy to use. The data collected is extensive. I gathered some insight into cell phones infrastructure I didn't have before having the equipment.

 

I was impressed with Siretta technical team focus on resolving the issues to get a working unit.

 

The unit does run on a battery. Even when not used the battery will drain. A few times I went to use the unit and discovered the battery was dead. I started keeping it plugged into the power supply when not in use. The vendor indicated this will be corrected in later models.

Anonymous
  • Thank you for the response.

    I wasn't confident the content I provided would be of use.

    The delay in getting the unit stable put the test site I indicated in the application under snow. I was unable to access the location. I came up with an alternate but it leaves the nagging feeling of making a commitment and not delivering on it.

     

    Sean

  • I read your review. Thanks. Here's what came to my mind while reading it:

     

    I liked the detailed review section. You provided new information to me. Helpful.

     

    Tech issue updates: Interesting. I didn't realize  that there would be issues in Canada. Thanks for putting the effort and collaborating with the sponsor to resolve them.

     

    Table of contents walk through: thorough and has the detail that helps someone. Documentation issues are a common problem with many, many products. Good to point out; I'm sure it will help the manufacturer.

     

    Interesting points on updating the software. I'm not sure every roadtester would have documented this points.

     

    Results section was quite involved. Images were helpful.

  • great review. I could see many uses for this device. Thanks for the coverage of some of them.