This is a basic primer on cell phones, but I think it’s important to understand some of the issues, especially since 72 percent of cell phone users experience occasional dropped calls, according to a recent study by Pew Research, and 32 percent say it is a common problem. To a lawyer who uses a mobile phone for company calls, dropping a call equals lost time and increased customer frustration—and that can mean lost profits.

confused woman with cell phone

Basically, here’s how cell phones work: The signal leaves a tower, travels to the phone, then returns to the tower. This simple process is full of potential obstacles, however. Problems with cell phone reception are commonly categorized into three groups—carrier problems, environmental problems and cell phone problems.

Carrier Problems

The carrier you choose can impact the quality of your cell phone reception. Each carrier has its own towers to transmit signals to its subscribed phones, and your cell phone uses the closest tower to connect. If you are traveling and move out of range, the signal is handed off to the next tower. This usually occurs without complications.

However, heavy usage on a tower, glitches in backend software, power outages and a host of other issues can affect this. It is also possible to enter into “dead zones” where there is no signal, which is more common with the smaller cell phone providers than with the commercial networks.

Solutions — Carrier problems can be solved for your business by selecting a larger carrier with better coverage. Check a coverage map, such as the ones provided by Open Signal, to discern which carrier provides the best signals in your area.

Environmental Problems

Some environmental factors, such as weather, are temporary. Events such as storms, heat and snow can all temporarily affect service. Other environmental factors, such as building construction materials, wire mesh, electrical cabling and plumbing, affect service as well.

Solutions — You have a few options to improve the signal inside your office. Some carriers, such as Sprint and Verizon, offer an option called femtocells that picks up the signal outside and rebroadcasts it inside the office. Be warned, there are some pros and cons.

Similiarly, T-Mobile’s 4G coverage can be improved in an office by using Wi-Fi Calling to transmit over Wi-Fi hotspots. Incidentally, of all the carriers I’ve tried, Verizon reigns with overall coverage, and T-Mobile has the fastest universal speeds. Unfortunately, when you exit major metros, T-Mobile’s service just dies.

Cell Phone Problems

Sometimes the problem is the phone itself. Older cell phones, broken antennas, damaged phones and a weak battery are some of the reasons your cell phone fails.

Solutions — Keep the latest roaming database updated on your phone. Make sure to keep your phone charged. Update older phones to newer models. Replace damaged phones. If your phone is new and in good working order and still drops calls, you may want to buy a signal amplifier. If you spend a lot of time traveling, get a signal booster for your car.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.

1 Comment

The Legal Beagle · May 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I swear there is always some sort of issue with cell phones and weather no matter how good and “cutting edge” they claim to be.

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