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Why do I have such poor cell phone reception?

Nicholas Jones | May 18, 2015

Who hasn’t had this happen: you’re on the phone with a client, friend or family member and then you realize you’ve been talking to yourself for the last 45 seconds because the connection was lost in mid-call.

And I love this one: My phone’s voicemail notification goes off and I think, “Wait. What?! How can I have a voicemail? The &*^#$ phone didn’t even ring.” When I check my voicemail and find out the VM was actually left a couple of hours ago but just now showed up in my inbox.

Another good one: your assistant emails you a report you need for a presentation that got scheduled suddenly at the last minute. But you’re trying to download the report to your phone and it’s taking forever. So you end up walking into the meeting without the report and just wing it.

Those are 3 of the biggest frustrations we have with our mobile phones

  • connections that drop out
  • delayed arrival of text messages/voicemails
  • sloowwww downloads

Why can’t we just get a reliable cell signal?

The answer is not that complicated. As we’ve mentioned before in this space, our mobile phones are essentially radio transceivers operating behind a convenient user interface. They use radio frequency (RF) signals to communicate back and forth with a cell tower.

So all the stuff that might interfere with RF signals can mess with your mobile phone service, causing any of the problems described above.

There are really only 2 culprits causing these problems: distance and obstructions. Distance everyone understands. If your phone is too far from the cell tower it’s trying to communicate with, then the signal will be weak or maybe undetectable. Read our guide on how to increase cell phone signal.

Below is a list of the most common causes of weak cell signal

  • Terrain – RF signal operates in line-of-sight fashion. Any terrain features between you and the cell tower – hills, mountains, ridges, bluffs, etc. – will block cell signals.
  • Man-made obstructions – In urban settings, buildings are the main blockers of cell signals. RF signals can’t easily pass through metal, concrete or oxide-coated glass. So when you are inside almost any building, you can have reception problems.
  • Vehicles – Metal and safety glass, the materials making up the outer shell of most vehicles, do an excellent job of blocking RF signals. When you’re inside a vehicle, it may be hard to get a good signal.
  • Vegetation – I know, right? It’s hard to believe, but trees, shrubbery, or almost any kind of foliage absorbs cell signals. Here’s the kicker – even dust particles in the atmosphere can weaken RF signals. Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

With all these elements stacked against us getting a reliable cell signal, what can any of us do? Here are some simple tips and tricks we posted earlier to help you find a solid cell connection.

And if those don’t work for you, here are the tech solutions we discussed in a previous post. Remember people, in most situations you don’t have to put up with unreliable cell signal.

Did you like this post? Find it helpful? Do you have questions about this topic? Please let us know how we’re doing by commenting below.