About Cell Signals

How Are Cell Signals Measured?

The strength of cell phone signals is measured in decibels (dBm). The signals are sent by the cellular network that cell phones pick up. The general range of signal strength fall between -30 dBm to -110 dBm. Zero is the point of reference. The number of decibels closer to zero is a stronger signal. In general, a signal that is -85 dBm or better is fairly strong.

Mobile devices indicate the strength of the cell signal by displaying a number of bars at the upper corner of your device. However, the bars are not an accurate indicator of the true signal strength. What a bar represents is not standardised across the industry. You don’t know if it is measuring data or voice. Three bars displayed by one network carrier might equal to two bars on another carrier’s network. Also, the number of bars displayed on your device can be affected by other things like the position of your phone, the brand of the phone, and what you might have been doing on your phone.

Lack of signal in an area can drive locals mad. Shops can have a shortfall in signal and should consider a mobile phone signal booster to keep happy customers.

The Field Test Mode

If you really want to find out what kind of cell signal your phone is picking up, a more accurate measure is to find out the dBm on your phone. You can do this in a number of ways depending on the brand of device you have. The Apple iOS and Android devices have something called the Field Test Mode.

On the iPhone, the Field Test Mode will give you details on the provider, the connection, and the signal. The results are displayed as a number instead of as bars.

If you have trouble using this method to determine signal strength on your Android device, refer to the operations guide of your device. The Play Store also may have helpful apps that can let you see the signal strength.

Just remember that in decibels, a number closer to zero is stronger. For instance, -50 would be a much stronger signal than -100, which is weak signal.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the closer you are to a cell tower, the stronger your cell signal becomes. Nowadays, cell towers can be found in almost every region. However, there are some environmental factors that can interrupt or prevent the cell signal from getting to your device.

What Can Impede a Cell Signal?

Dropped calls are not uncommon. You probably remember the times when your phone call suddenly got disconnected or when an email failed to send. This could happen when you are driving through a tunnel, going in and out of a garage, commuting on the subway, going into a building, and more. When we hit these dead zones, we quickly try to get away from it to get the signal back. According to Pew Research, 72% of device users in the U.S. reported that dropped calls are a problem for them. 6% reported they have this problem a few times each day.

So, even when there are numerous cell towers around, something still get in the way of these signals. Most of the time, it is the natural layout of the landscape. When the environment has hills, tall trees, and thick vegetation, these natural elements can impede cell coverage. When you are inside a building, wall materials like steel, brick, concrete, and tempered glass windows can affect a strong signal too.

In addition, as devices are becoming a major part of everyone’s daily life, networks will continue to experience heavier traffic. Every user will be competing for a part of that signal, and no doubt people will continue to experience lags and delays when they are in places where there are a lot of people using their phones.