What Causes Dropped Calls and How Can They Be Prevented?
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
Moving from the margins of the telecom and entertainment markets, cell phones and smartphones have become ubiquitous tools of the modern age. The vast majority of Americans (some 96%) own a cell phone of some kind. By the middle of the coming decade, it is projected that almost 86% of Americans will own a smartphone, and we're close to that figure even now.
The mobile phone has gone far beyond its initial use as a simple communications tool. Phones are a means of staying up-to-date on current events, streaming various kinds of media content, and carrying out transactions and research. For much of America, the smartphone made the transition from a luxury to a necessity.
This makes consistent mobile service more crucial than ever. Dropped calls and interrupted connections do more than just inconvenience us during a conversation. They interrupt crucial transactions, interfere with work opportunities and conferences, and generally put a dent in our day.
From downtown parking garages to rural hinterlands, inconsistent service can happen anywhere. Given the increasing importance of the mobile service infrastructure (and bearing in mind the ongoing rise of 5G technology), it's understandable to wonder, why are dropped calls still a problem?
Why haven't we solved problems with inconsistent service, and what can we do about short-term outages and interference? Here's a look at the major causes of dropped calls and how you can prevent them.
The Main Causes of Interference and Dropped Calls
Fundamentally, cell phone signals are radio waves generally transmitted at a set series of frequency bands between 700 and 2100 MHz. Like any other radio signal, cell signals can be subject to interference or obstruction. It can happen in a number of ways.
Your mobile phone carrier handles more traffic now than it ever has before. With well over four-fifths of Americans using smartphones, cell phone usage is hardly just calling and texting anymore. For most users, it involves everything from downloading and uploading files to interacting with gigabytes' worth of apps and games.
Our networks are more burdened than ever as a result. Even as they build additional capacity and new technologies to handle the load, network congestion — where there is simply too much traffic in your provider's frequency ranges — can still knock out cell service.
Widespread congestion-related outages appear to be most common in summer months, but they are possible at any time. Even big crowds of people converging for a concert, sporting event, or conference make it nearly impossible for cell signal to get through, as thousands of people compete for signal from the same location.
Materials in Your Building
Both modern and historical buildings contain materials that can interfere with your cell phone signal. What typically happens is materials like brick, concrete, or steel filter some portion of the radio waves that comprise your mobile signal. They reflect those waves around the interior of your space — creating an effect called destructive interference, which degrades signal strength and quality.
This causes the signal-to-noise ratio to drop, so maintaining a consistent connection becomes harder, data downloads slow down, and calls get cut off. There are even certain kinds of windows (like energy-efficient LEED-certified windows) that can have this effect.
Physical Barriers Between You and the Cell Tower
This is a variant on the building materials problem. The source of interference in some cases may not specifically be the materials in your building or vehicle. However, if there's some kind of natural geographical barrier between you and your cell tower, then those obstacles can be a major barrier when it comes to dropped calls.
A weak signal created by heavy urban build-up can be compensated for. But if the obstacle in your way happens to be a mountain range, then it's likely that getting clear of that obstacle is your best option.
Interference on Your Carrier Frequency
Especially in the case of 4G LTE devices, modern phones are built to make use of several frequencies depending on the carrier. Nevertheless, on occasion (particularly with the short-wavelength, higher-frequency signals), carrier signals can interfere with each other and cause dropped calls.
This can lead to seemingly inexplicable events where two people with the same device, in the same locale, and with the same carrier can have completely different experiences with dropped calls.
Weak Mobile Signal Strength
Signal strength is measured in decibel milliwatts (dBm). A cell phone signal above -85 dBm is considered strong, and having a strong signal is the first step in having clear, high-quality mobile service. While the bars on your phone are meant to measure signal strength, they also measure your signal's quality or its signal-to-noise ratio. Because different carriers and phone manufacturers have their own ways of interpreting the overall data, the readout isn’t terribly accurate or reliable.
To ensure that you have a clear and comprehensive measure of your signal, you can get a professional with a signal meter to test the frequencies, available bandwidth, and signal strength at your location. This can tell you whether you might need a WilsonPro cell phone booster to improve the consistency of mobile service for your company or building.
Prevent Dropped Calls and Improve Your Signal
Luckily, there's a solution to the frustration of service interruptions and dropped calls. It lies in cellular booster technology — a system that takes existing cell signal, captures, and amplifies it many times over. Boosters then redistribute the amplified signal where it's needed (both within your office or vehicle and back to communicate with your cell phone tower).
A cell phone booster system can take many different forms. One of the most common is the passive distributed antenna system or passive DAS, which is designed to work with any kind of carrier network supplying a signal. A carrier-agnostic system is fast to install, easy to maintain, and cost-effective. It performs well both in providing gain — that is, in boosting signal strength — and in improving your signal quality by boosting downlink and uplink performance.
These improvements provide a wide range of practical benefits:
Better battery life. Weak signal can cause phones to waste power in the endless search for a connection with the nearest cell tower. A boosted signal can save power, time, and money.
More efficient data. If you need to transfer data using your phone, something that's become routine for a large percentage of Americans, weak signal and interruptions can slow down the process and jack up your data charges. A better signal means faster, cheaper data.
Reliable access in case of emergency. If you need to communicate urgent circumstances to your team and coordinate fast responses to changing circumstances on the fly, you can't afford interruptions. A high-quality cell booster can ensure that your phone is working the way you need it, when you need it.
If you're ready to learn more about how passive DAS cell signal boosters can help you eliminate frustrating service interruptions and dropped calls, WilsonPro stands ready to help you. Contact us today and let us help you find the best solution for your business.