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6 Tips on how to improve your mobile phone reception

Mobile | 1 August 2018

We all love our smartphones: they bring untold convenience to our lives every day.

But isn’t it frustrating when your mobile phone suddenly stops working due to low mobile reception?

One minute you’re hearing your friend or business associate clearly, and the next minute they’ve disappeared. Or you’re scrolling smoothly through social media when all of a sudden everything screeches to a halt.

Aussies are huge smartphone users. The Deloitte Australia Mobile Consumer Survey found that Australia is among the leading nations when it comes to smartphone adoption, at 88%. And that same survey found that one key “driver of choice” in choosing a mobile network is network availability. Networks are responding by bolstering their infrastructure to improve reliability.

Despite these advances, you’ll still find yourself with a weak reception from time to time; it’s inevitable. Before you go through the hassle of shopping for different carriers, make sure you’re doing everything you can to improve your reception by following these tips.

1. Get to higher ground

One easy way to improve reception is to move up higher. Mobile data networks operate using high frequencies of radio waves. And just like with FM radio, those waves can be disrupted by objects between you and the tower. Whether that “object” is a small hill, a parking deck, or a city block full of buildings, your reception can be affected. To make that important phone call or load that crucial website, move on up. Climb the hill, go upstairs, or (at a minimum) stand rather than sit.

Bonus tip: The earth itself is quite great at blocking radio waves, so you’re bound to struggle with your signal if you’re underground (even in a basement).

2. Move toward a window

The radio wave principle is in effect here, too. If you’re struggling with reception inside a building, try moving toward a window. Certain building materials block cellular signal more than others. Glass will certainly let more cellular signal through than concrete, so look for a window.

3. Use wifi when available

Using Wi-Fi in place of cellular data is a win-win. First, you’ll avoid having to worry about coverage dead zones within buildings. And with Wi-Fi Calling you won’t even have to worry about mobile reception to receive phone calls (if your phone and carrier support it). Second, preferring Wi-Fi saves your data allotment for when you need it. This is handy since our friends at Deloitte also found that many Australian smartphone users frequently exceed their data limits.

4. But… don’t trust wifi too much

It’s a paradox, Wi-Fi can be both the solution and the problem at virtually the same time. If your phone suddenly becomes internet unresponsive – apps stalling out, web pages failing to load – check whether you’re on Wi-Fi. If so, try toggling it off and see if things return to normal over your data connection. Why? Well, Wi-Fi networks can break, too. Sometimes the phone will connect to a network just fine, but there’s nothing happening on the back end. There’s no real connection to the internet.

5. Get to know your settings and options

Make sure you don’t have a configuration problem and know the difference between 4G and 3G. If you’re paying for high-speed 4G coverage but your phone displays only a little “3G” in the corner, your speeds will suffer. If you’re in an area with weaker reception, your phone may pick up the slower (but more widespread) 3G network. In this case, it’s a good thing. Slow is better than dead, right? But if you’re constantly seeing 3G, it’s time to check your phone’s settings or contact your provider.

6. Boost your signal

If all else fails, it’s time to try digitally boosting your signal. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) gives two legal methods for doing so. For home, mobile phone repeaters or femtocell tech (if your carrier offers them); and for the road, a vehicle-mounted high-gain antenna. These can significantly improve mobile reception. But beware, the ACMA warns that mobile phone boosters are illegal in Australia, and mobile phone repeaters not authorized by your provider are, too.

The next time you face frustrating mobile coverage gaps, try these 6 tips to improve your mobile reception and get connected once more.

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