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But how do you aim your antenna? You need to know exactly where your nearest cell towers are located.
We read other guides online for finding towers, but most of them were misleading. So we tested a dozen different apps and websites against known tower locations to test their accuracy. Then we boiled that down to a short list: the 5 best ways to find and map your nearest 4G or 5G cell towers.
Unlike iPhones, Android gives apps programmatic access to signal information. This makes it possible for apps to identify the cell tower you're connected to.
Don’t have an Android phone? Beg, borrow, or steal. Just make sure that it's on the same carrier as you are. For example, if you want to see where Verizon's towers are, borrow a Verizon phone. Same for AT&T or T-Mobile.
No one app we list below has 100% accurate tower locations – they all use different data sources. You will get the most map of nearby AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile towers if you compare multiple options and extrapolate where the towers might be.
Before you use any of the apps we suggest, it is important to check that your compass is calibrated. On Android devices you can do this by opening Google Maps, tapping the blue dot showing your location, and then selecting “Calibrate Compass.”
Okay, with those tips out of the way, onto the good stuff ...
Difficulty: Easy Accuracy: 70%
Once you open the app, go to the "map" tab. You’ll see nearby towers, and the app will draw a blue line to the tower you’re connected to.
Tapping on the tower will show you the tower’s identifiers. You can find a huge trove of other data, such as eNodeB ID, PCI, signal quality (SINR) and neighboring cell details on the other tabs.
Although Network Cell Info Lite can give you a good indication of the tower direction, in our testing we found it to only be about 70% accurate. Sometimes towers were off by a little, and sometimes by a lot.
Difficulty: Easy Accuracy: 70%
Difficulty: Easy Accuracy: 20%
OpenSignal is a crowdsourced cell tower and coverage map that uses their own proprietary crowdsourced dataset. Tower locations are computed by triangulating from user-contributed signal readings.
Download the app, and select the fourth tab with the "arrow" icon. Once there, you click on the "Cell Towers" button and a page will open showing nearby towers and with a blue line to your connected tower. The app also lists the best networks in an area based on crowdsourced internet speeds data.
Please Note: The OpenSignal iOS app is much less accurate than the Android version. This is because iOS doesn’t give apps access to signal or cell tower data. As a result, the OpenSignal tries to guess that information on iOS devices, and those guesses aren’t generally accurate..
Difficulty: Medium Accuracy: 80%
One of the most accurate sources of cell tower locations is CellMapper.net, which uses a crowdsourced database of 4G and 5G tower locations.
Unfortunately the site can be a little confusing to use. A few tips:
There is also a CellMapper Android App.
Difficulty: Hard Accuracy: 100%
The definitive way to find your nearest cell tower is to sniff it out manually using a process called "wardriving."
To wardrive, you need two things: a tower identifier (PCI or eNodeB ID) and a signal strength reading. It's much easier to get this information on an Android phone. Only some iPhone models with an Intel modem chipset let you access tower identifier and signal strength data.
Check out our Guide to Wardriving to Find Cell Towers to learn more.
No one of the first three app/website based options we've listed is 100% accurate. But trying all three of them, and comparing the results, will give you an idea of where your nearest tower is.
Once you have an idea of the approximate location, jump in your car and follow our Guide to Wardriving.
Wardriving is the only way to be 100% sure of the location of your nearest tower.
Unfortunately, there's no government regulation requiring carriers to publicize their 4G or 5G tower locations.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the body that regulates cell carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile here in the US. Their rules only requires those carriers to register towers that are over 200 feet tall. Most cell sites don't reach that height. In fact, these days many newer towers are attached to light poles or are placed on top of buildings.
Carriers aren't willing to publish maps of their towers unless it's specifically required by law. None of the three main carriers has any kind of tower map published online.
Have more questions that we haven't covered here? Or have a tip on an app we should try? Please leave a comment or reach out to us!