Can You Boost Your Mobile Signal?
There's nothing worse than picking up your phone to send a text or make a call only to discover that you've got no reception. Reception issues are frustrating, but there's not really a lot you can do about them, or is there? We're taking a look at boosting your mobile signal, what's possible and what's not, so you don't have to throw your phone out of the window…
Reception: The Basics
Let's start at the beginning and talk about how cell phone service works, so you can understand why you're having a problem. Mobile operators build (or lease) cell towers around the country, and these towers blast out that operator's signal. The closer you are to a tower, the better your reception is likely to be. However, not all areas are well covered, and this happens for a couple of reasons. Possibly your operator simply doesn't have enough towers in the area, maybe because not a lot of people live there so it's not profitable to build them, or possibly because they're not allowed to build them (maybe because it's an area of outstanding natural beauty, and is therefore protected). The other issue is interference. Some areas don't get good coverage not because there aren't enough towers, but because there's too much other stuff in the way, like mountains, towers from other operators, or tall buildings.
So now you know how you get reception, but what can you do about it if you're not getting the reception you want. We'll give you the bad news first.
The Bad News
There is such a thing as a mobile signal booster, or a mobile signal repeater, which is a device designed to boost your mobile signal. However, and this is important, in the UK these products are, for the most part, illegal. You might see them for sale online, you might even see them on the shelves of a few, unscrupulous shops, but don't buy them. You could end up in trouble, so save your money.
The Slightly Better News
The slightly better news is that there is an exception to the above rule. Mobile operators themselves are allowed to sell or approve a mobile signal booster. That means that if you're having serious problems and you call your operator they may offer to give you a booster, in which case, feel free to use it. Alternatively, you may be able to get your operator to agree to you using a booster you've found/bought elsewhere, though if they do you'll need to get that in writing.
Mobile boosters are a tricky issue, and for the most part, they're not going to be the solution you're looking for. They're static, meaning you can only use them in one particular place (like your home), and most of us aren't going to get permission to use one anyway. So what other solutions are there?
The Easy Stuff
Alrighty, there are some quick and easy things that you can try that might help your reception, though probably only if this is a one-time thing. Firstly, switch your phone off and on again. Sometimes a reset is all your mobile needs to fix a small internal glitch, and since it only takes a few seconds, it's really worth a try. Secondly, try moving a little, and holding your phone differently. Yes, that sounds crazy, but you might be blocking the phone's antenna with your hand, so give it a shot.
Next, check your battery levels. When your battery drains your phone switches into power saving mode, meaning it uses less power to search for a signal which results in lower reception. If you're low on juice then recharge, or if you can't, try switching off other things, such as WiFi, so your mobile has more power to search for that signal.
Two more things. If you can, try moving to higher ground (even just upstairs) or towards a more populated area (if you're outside), since both of these increase the chance of you getting a better signal. And lastly, if you happen to have a WiFi signal then you might just want to use WiFi calling instead. If your phone is equipped for this it may just do it automatically, if not, try using Skype or Viber instead.
The Not So Easy Stuff
So the easy stuff didn't work out for you? Then there are two other solutions, though you might not like either of them, and they're really only suitable if you have recurrent, long-term reception problems. The first of these is to change your phone. Some mobiles simply have better antennae than others. In order to not waste money though, you may want to borrow a few different models from friends to check out the reception they get at your location…
The second solution could be to change your operator. Operator coverage does vary a little bit, though not too much, and you might find that you get better service with another carrier. This is pretty easy to test by borrowing a SIM card from a friend who uses a different operator and sticking it in your phone. If you get better reception, then that's the operator for you. Whilst operators do charge you for ending a contract early the cost might be worth it, and in some cases, you might be able to persuade the carrier to waive the charges, especially if you have no reception at your home address.
Boosting your mobile signal isn't exactly easy in that you're unlikely to see huge changes with most of these methods (with the exception of changing your phone or operator). However, if you're really suffering, the above are the steps that you should take. If none of these work, try contacting your operator directly. And in the event that you get no reception with any phone or any operator at your home location (unlikely, but possible), then you might be looking at a more costly satellite phone option to make calls…