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Understanding Phone Signals for Dummies


Almost everyone knows how to use a phone. A mobile phone has slowly become a necessity in today’s bustling life, as it allows one to connect and contact their loved ones at any time, in any place.

But how much do you know about how phones work? Sure, you can answer with telecom jargon like 4G and LTE, but what about the core theory behind the case and screen?

Specifically, how much do you know about cell phone signals?

If you don’t know anything about it, that’s okay. Most people can live without any knowledge of it.

However, “knowledge is power,” as the old adage goes, and knowing what cell signals are and how they work can make your life more convenient in terms of taking advantage of mobile tech.

This guide will help you understand phone signals using the simplest terms possible.

The Five Ws of Phone Signals

#1  What are they?

Phone signals are basically your phone’s service/reception. They are based on radio waves and are measured in decibels, which is the same unit for sound levels.

#2 Where do they come from?

Cell towers transmit phone signals. They are usually placed in high areas so that phone signals won’t get disrupted by obstructions like concrete buildings or the surrounding landscape.

You can use map apps or sites to find the location of your nearest cell tower.

#3 Who puts up those towers?

Phone carriers do. Every major carrier builds their own tower, which will transmit signals that can only be used by their respective subscriber.

Private individuals and companies can also erect a cell tower, so that they can lease them out to carriers who do not have one in that area yet.

#4 When will I lose signal?

If you go beyond the range of your nearest cell tower, phone reception will gradually degrade. Traveling along the edge of its area may result in dropped or irregular calls.

For areas like those, it’s better to get a phone signal booster. It’s a device which gets any signal—weak or strong—from a nearby cell tower, doubles its strength, and redistributes it in an area around the booster, effectively making another cell tower.

#5 Why can’t I get a good signal?

Chances are, there isn’t any cell tower near you. There are still some places that don’t have cell tower coverage yet, especially in rural areas.

Another reason is that your nearest cell tower may be receiving a high number of calls—too much for its capacity. During such time, carriers may drop weak calls to give way to emergency and other similar priority calls.

Yet another reason is that there are obstructions between you and a cell tower. Concrete, metal, and many other materials can disrupt phone signals. That’s why it’s difficult to make a call inside a building with thick walls.

And the H: How Do Phone Signals Work?

When you talk to someone on the phone, your phone turns your voice into an electrical signal then directs it to a cell tower. The tower then transports that signal through radio waves, hopping through tower after tower until the signal reaches the other phone.

All phones have an antenna. You can notice these on old models like the Nokia 5160; newer phones hide theirs inside the device. These antenna pick up signals transmitted from cell towers.

Once the other phone receives the signal, it then converts that back to an audible voice.

That’s the Gist of It

And that’s how phone signals work. Hopefully, you’ll be wiser when trying to make a call in a low reception area. You’ll know now to go near a cell tower when making an important call.

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