Cellular devices provide boundless utility, entertainment, and connection for our society. However, we often take them for granted. They’re small objects that sit in our pockets, and we can’t observe the cellular signals that make them function. When our devices work properly, we don’t even need to think about them. But when calls start to drop or texts fail to send, the average user typically doesn’t know why.
A building’s distance from a cell tower, positioning in relation to the cell tower, construction materials, nearby geography, and more can all affect the quality of cellular service. Fortunately, a range of cellular repeater solutions exist to bridge gaps in cellular coverage and provide reliable, strong cell signals.
Here’s a closer look at how cellular networks are built and how to resolve common connection issues with WilsonPro.
Basics of Cellular Network Infrastructure
As the name implies, cellular networks are made of cells, hexagonal areas of land served by at least one fixed-location transceiver. Cell towers, known as transceivers for their ability to both transmit and receive signals, generate the signals needed for users to utilize the network within their cell.
When these cells are joined together, they offer radio coverage over a large geographic area, and the towers connect to each other to transmit packets of signals in the form of data, voice, and text across the world. Eventually, the information transmits from the closest tower to the mobile device of the end user.
The layout of a network’s cells can depend on geography, carrier networks, types of transceivers, and more. Some transceivers feature omnidirectional antennas that transmit and receive signal in an equal radius around them. Others utilize directional antennas to target a specific high-traffic or dense area with signal. Omnidirectional antennas generally rest at the center of their cell, while multiple directional antennas are built on the outer corners of the hex to ensure coverage over the entire area.
As end users move throughout their cellular network, their device seamlessly switches from the cell frequency of one tower to the frequency of the next. Mobile units and cellular networks are designed to ensure coverage over wide geographic areas and smooth, automatic attunement to frequencies in that area.
Unfortunately, the distance from a cell tower, type of signal frequency, and nearby construction materials all affects the quality of a cell network. Even users near a tower can experience dropped calls, missed texts, and slow data speeds.
Common Problems With Cellular Signal
Perhaps the most obvious factor in the quality of cellular signal is the distance of the end user from the cell tower. An average cell tower can reach up to 45 miles away, but that coverage is heavily dependent on geography, nearby buildings, tree cover, weather, and more. Even in ideal conditions, cell signal rapidly degrades over distance, and at the edge of a cell tower’s coverage, users often experience poor call quality and slow data speeds.
Mother Nature also takes a toll on cell signal quality. Humidity, heavy cloud cover, lightning, rain, and snow can all directly affect the electromagnetic waves that cell phones use to operate. Tree coverage and mountains or hills further obstruct cell signal, and even unique events like solar flares can disrupt cellular communication.
While distance and nature can play a large factor in affecting cellular quality, cell signal can still be bad close to the tower on a perfect day. Heavy cellular traffic can quickly overload towers in busy locations, and building materials drastically cut into a cell signal’s strength. Everything from fiberglass and drywall to concrete and metal blocks cellular signals to some extent. Modern structures made from concrete, steel, and low-E glass often suffer the worst cellular reception, despite desirable locations near multiple cell towers.
Additionally, as carrier networks develop and deploy new advancements in 5G, such as millimeter waves or C-band frequencies, they require additional transceivers to ensure coverage. While these frequencies offer incredible advantages in terms of speed and data capacity, they cannot reach nearly as far as traditional cellular networks.
Some millimeter wave frequencies have a range of only 300 to 500 feet, and the coverage drastically decreases in the presence of buildings or trees.
Solutions to Cellular Connectivity Issues
While several issues interfere with cellular coverage, a variety of solutions can bridge gaps in coverage, amplifying weak cell signals far from the tower or bringing a strong signal inside a modern building. Distributed Antenna Systems, commonly known as DAS, can address cellular coverage problems for both large and small organizations, with a range of customizable options and solutions.
Active DAS operates by generating a cellular signal. Essentially serving as a cell tower, the active DAS creates its own signal at a centralized source, before distributing it around remote nodes throughout the building. By generating cell signal, active DAS provides strong, reliable coverage over a large area.
Unfortunately, active DAS is extremely expensive and requires significant time and infrastructure to install. Active DAS also requires carrier approval and coordination with carrier engineers, and each active DAS only supports an individual carrier. While active DAS systems may be worth the expense for enormous structures with thousands of end users such as airports and stadiums, the cost and extensive installation requirements are simply unfeasible for many organizations.
Fortunately, passive DAS amplifies existing signals with less overhead and expense. Unlike active DAS, passive DAS requires an existing signal to operate. Passive DAS takes that existing signal and amplifies it up to 32 times before distributing and broadcasting the amplified signal. Far less expensive than an active system, passive DAS conforms to FCC regulations, and generally does not require carrier approval or extensive overhauls of existing systems.
Passive DAS generally operates through a series of antennas and repeaters. Donor antennas on the exterior of a building capture outside signal and transmit the signal to a repeater via coaxial cable. The repeater amplifies the weak signal, boosting and strengthening it, before sending it to interior antennas. The inside antennas broadcast the amplified signal to phones and other cellular devices, ensuring strong, reliable coverage.
Scalable to any organization, passive DAS solutions support everything from ATMs to hospitals. Many passive DAS systems are also carrier agnostic, operating seamlessly with major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile and regional carriers, like UScellular.
Connect to Your Network with WilsonPro
The industry leader in passive DAS cellular repeater solutions, WilsonPro offers a variety of scalable repeater systems for any industry or organization.
From our Enterprise 4300, an commercial-grade repeater system that can broadcast reliable signal across an entire building, to our Pro IoT 5-Band, designed to amplify signal for a specific device, our expertly designed systems connect everyone, everywhere to 5G.
If you’re ready to enjoy strong, reliable cellular service, reach out today to speak with an expert or request a quote.