“No Signal” has become a familiar phrase when entering most offices and public buildings. Even though it is extremely annoying, there is nothing much we can do about it. With all the latest technology available, as close as in our hands, reliance on our devices has never been greater. And yet, we are still unable to get a reliable mobile signal at all times.
Some of the reasons are linked to the constant demand for greater energy efficiency which is often determined by the type of materials used in the construction of buildings, mostly for strength and insulation.
Mobile phone networks make use of radio waves for communication between mobile devices and transmitters. Unlike radio or TV where transmitters only send signals in one direction to a receiver, mobile devices use two-way communication. Mobile phones rely on signals that are strong enough from both sides to reach another phone.
We have a solution to this problem ….
Barriers that Affect Mobile Phone Signals
Mobile device signals use different frequencies (known as ‘bands’) to operate. These bands are divided up and auctioned off to different service providers (known as ‘carriers’) by a company called Ofcom. Service providers in the UK include Vodafone, Three, 02, and EE.
In addition, there are numerous MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) like Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Giff Gaff, etc. that use one or more of the aforementioned carrier networks.
The higher the frequencies the more prone they are to obstruction. This can clearly be seen where modern WiFi installations with a 2.4Ghz band are able to penetrate walls better and reach further than the more modern 5Ghz bands.
Here are a few examples of building materials that can block mobile signals:
Concrete is used in almost all buildings around the world, particularly steel-reinforced concrete. Concrete as a material absorbs radio waves and very little is able to pass through. Add to this the steel mesh usually contained in reinforced concrete and it creates a very effective signal blocker.
• Coated Glass
While plain glass does not form a barrier to radio waves, modern coated glass contains a material that not only reflects heat to increase thermal efficiency, it is also very effective at reflecting mobile signals. All those fancy buildings with big panoramic windows may look fantastic, however, they are a major obstruction to mobile signals getting through.
• Foil-Backed Insulation
Insulation-style products like Celotex/Kingspan have a foam layer that is compressed between two aluminum foil layers. This type of insulation does a good job of keeping buildings insulated but the foam is very absorbent and the highly reflective foil forms an effective barrier to mobile signals.
Some existing solutions are better than others ….
• Stand close to a window
This simple solution has been a workaround for many years but it is not very practical.
• Find a spot and stand still
Finding a spot where the signal is strong and standing still has been an effective workaround but not very conducive to good conversation. If a sweet spot happens to be near someone’s desk or office it can be very distracting. It can also be very frustrating to head for the nearest window every time your phone rings.
Femtocell, also known as “Sure Signal”, creates a link to your carrier through the internet and then broadcasts a small mobile signal. Femtocell is usually available through your mobile network and in most cases designed for domestic use. You will be required to register the mobile device for authorized users. Although this can be a very effective solution, usage is reliant on an internet connection and not interchangeable between carriers. So remember, if you buy Femtocell through a network like Vodafone you will be stuck with Vodafone and it will be very difficult to change to another network provider.