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sierra wireless 595u - confused about boosting signal

I've forgotten most of the electronics I learned in High School, and trying to get solid information from browsing has turned into a massive time sink.

I'm hoping this site can help me.

The equipment:

a. laptop connected to the internet via a sprint mobile broadband solution, the sierra 595u usb.

The situation:

a. Internet connection needed at two places of residence. One with very limited cell tower reception. Also, some mobile use.

The confusion:

a. I don't understand what a "top end" signal for this wireless broadband card is supposed to be.
I obviously want to max that out if possible.

b. Using the very simplistic "signal bar", I have only 1 bar at the residence with the reception problem and three at the other.

Card seems to be using the 3g network.


I am at the better area of reception now and I have found a mouse-over that gives me this information:
-93 dBm

I'm not sure if this is a gain to loss signal or not (can anyone tell me?)

I am considering the purchase or creation of an external antenna/booster for the card.

I have found a card to cable connector online that's pretty cheap, so physical connection isn't an issue.

The ready built units claim either 5db gain or 12 db gain (price jumps quite a bit). This doesn't seem like a huge amount.

What I would like to know, aside from any observations anyone might have, is:

a. What exactly is the top end BEST signal for this card?

b. What affect will maxing my signal actually have on this network and my connection speeds?

c.How good is just 5 db gain for this situation?

Specs for the bad residence will be added later if needed, but it is horrible - often dropping altogether, so that I must move the card around the house to find a signal at all.

I have included a report I made at the good residence as well:

Current Device Info

Manufacturer: Sierra Wireless, Inc.
Model: AirCard 595U

All Tests Passed

Communication Port Presence test was Successful. [COM26]

Status Port Presence test was Successful. [COM28]

Communication Port Configuration test was Successful.

Communication Device Presence test was Successful. [Initialized]

Network Device Capabilities test was Successful. [Data]

Network Device Configuration test was Successful. [Configuration set.]

Network Device Battery Status test results are Unavailable. [Status N/A]

Network Device Signal Status test was Successful. [EV-DO Rev A: -86dBm / 1xRTT: -93dBm]

Sprint Mobile Broadband Availability test was Successful. [3G CDMA]

Network Service test was Successful. [EV-DO Rev A / 1xRTT]

Thank you all in advance for the help.