Dropped calls and dead zones have been experienced by everyone. You’re on a call and the connection drops out. Or maybe you’re using a GPS app to find an location, and the phone suddenly quits working because the signal has disappeared. Now what do you do? Drive around in hopes of picking up the signal again?
When things like this happen we all love to blame our cell service providers for the poor coverage. The truth is, most of the time it’s not their fault. The culprit is typically something between us and the cell tower that blocks the signal so we can’t get good reception.
Cellular signals are radio frequency waves and they behave like any other RF signal. If the your cell phone or tablet is too far away from the antenna cell tower, then the signal will be weak or maybe altogether unusable. Sometimes your phone may show that you have 1-4 bars of signal, but you can’t make or receive a call. The phone may ring, but when you try to pick up, no one is on the other end. This happens because the cellular device you’re using does not have enough power to push its transmission signal all the way back to the distant tower or the network is congested with other callers and data users.
Hills, mountains, ridges, bluffs and similar terrain will block cellular signals. Any situation in which there is higher ground between your cell phone and the tower anteanna can cause signal issues.
If you live in or have driven through hilly country you know that you might have a good signal one moment, and then when you go around a corner or into a low spot the signal may vanish only to reappear a short time later. That’s the terrain blocking your cell signal.
Buildings, homes, utility towers, highway overpasses or almost anything else built by humans can interfere with cell phone connectivity. RF signals can’t easily pass through metal or concrete, so anything built with either or both can cause reception problems. In urban settings, building structures can be the main culprit that blocks cell signals. Large buildings, like any natural or man-made obstruction, can deflect or distort RF waves. Driving into a parking garage is a foolproof way to drop a cellular connection if no distributed antenna system (DAS) is present iside. Almost ny materials used in construction – concrete, metal, shingles, masonry, wood, drywall, even glass (especially the metal-oxide-coated low emittance type) – will weaken or block signals as they attempt to pass through. So when you’re at home, in the workplace or inside almost any building you can encounter cell phone reception problems. Reception is almost always better outside a building.
Everyone has experienced a poor cellular connection while driving in a car, and then noticed a marked improvement in voice quality or data transfer speed once we step outside. Cars are metal-and-glass encased cocoons that do an excellent job of blocking cell phone signals. Research shows that on average cell signal strength drops by about 30 percent inside a vehicle.
It may seem hard to believe, but it’s true. Trees, shrubbery, almost any kind of foliage can absorb cell signals. Ask anyone who lives in a heavily wooded area how their cellular reception is. They’ll tell you – trees are wonderful things, but they do NOT enhance signals.
Rain or poor weather can hurt your signal. Even dust particles in the air can weaken RF signals. Water vapor on foggy days can diffuse RF signals as well.