Have you ever been at a crowded sports event or packed concert and struggled to get mobile phone signal? You’re not alone; each year mobile phone networks receive thousands of complaints about bad phone reception and low 3G signal. But why? And how can you avoid having bad signal?
The science behind phone signal can be quite complicated, and this has led to a majority of users being largely unaware of how or why our mobile phones lose signal from time to time.
Put simply, when making a call or sending a text message, your mobile phone sends out radio frequency signals, which are picked up by the nearest base station to where you are. The voice, or the message, of the person you are communicating with is then transmitted to the base station via radio signals at a different frequency.
Mobile phone networks are divided into overlapping cells which all connect with a particular base station. The size of each cell is completely dependent on the geographic location in which the base station is positioned; the more calls that are made in one area, the smaller the cells are that cover the location.
Certain locations where there is the most demand from mobile phone users, including built-up cities and industrial areas, feature base stations connected to smaller cells. These areas also have more base stations in order to provide even coverage.
On the other hand, in more rural areas, the cells are larger, and are connected to fewer base stations, as there is less demand from mobile users.
Understanding exactly how mobile phone signal works helps us to work out why mobile coverage becomes thin when you’re in large crowds, at a sporting event, gig or theatre.
In over-populated areas, like busy towns and cities, mobile phone operators have tried to erect enough base stations to offer even coverage that spreads across the whole area. However, in areas which are not usually in high demand- for instance at sports venues or rural cricket grounds which only sporadically get a high frequency of visitors- there aren’t always enough base stations to offer sufficient network coverage.
This is, however, a problem that network operators are trying to fix; at this year’s Glastonbury, mobile phone operator EE ensured that revellers could benefit from its super-fast 4G signal which was transmitted using a bespoke signal-packed tractor!
However, until methods to increase signal are rolled out for all major sporting and entertainment events, what can you do to ensure that you always get phone signal?
There are various removable cases available which claim to boost the signal that your phone picks up. They largely work by restricting any obstructions to your phone’s antenna, and can be found for most major phone models.
When you find yourself in a rural location, you often expect to have none, or very little signal. However, when the time comes to send an urgent text message or make a much needed call, it’s worth knowing where your nearest hotspot is located where you can go and get signal- much less embarrassing than patrolling through country lanes with your phone held in the air..!
There are various apps, such as Signal Finder, which pin-points the nearest phone mast where you should be able to pick up a couple of bars of signal.
Searching for mobile phone signal can drain your battery. Therefore, it’s important to check that you never run too low on juice, because the chances are that while your phone might have enough power to connect a call, it won’t be sufficient to search for signal as well, especially if reception is weak to begin with.
Normally, the Vodafone Booster brolly would be the perfect accompaniment to helping boost your phone’s signal due to our nation’s usual promise of rain.
However, with the forecast for this week’s Ashes series looking hopeful, the booster brolly, which essentially works as an extended antenna, could be the perfect solution to hide from the sun and enhance your phone signal. The only downside is that it’s a solution for Vodafone customers only.
When the time comes for you to change or renew your mobile phone contracts, it’s worth taking a look at which mobile phone network you should sign up to according to where you live or work.
Whilst coverage across most large towns and cities is sufficient, there are often ‘black spots’ dotted around- areas which for whatever reason, fail to pick up a mobile signal. The last thing you want to do is to sign up for a new phone contract and find that your house is located within one of these mysterious black spots, so doing your research can really pay off.
The best way to find out which network operator has the best signal in your area is to download an app. The Coverage Map for Android and iPhones is great for displaying call performances within different locations across the UK.
Green dots show good areas where signal strength is strong, whereas orange or red dots signify areas where you may struggle to make a call. Locations covered in black dots demonstrate places where making calls could be nigh on impossible, whereas white dots show areas that are yet to be tested.
You can even test the signal strengths of each network to ensure that you sign up to the one offering the best coverage.
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