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Can Buildings Cause Poor Signal?

14 Nov 2014
Buildings, Glass, Windows, Building, Architecture

Modern buildings, such as these, can cause poor signal.

Signal issues can be extremely inconvenient and highly annoying. Poor signal can render some of the more advance features on mobile devices, such as internet connectivity via 3G or 4G relatively useless. This is because mobile devices may be forced to roll all the way back to 2G/GSM networks if they cannot secure any signal from the more modern protocols. Unfortunately, mobile data access is not possible via GSM as it is a voice only network. Mobile phones will always attempt to connect to the GSM network at the very least, but sometimes even this is not possible.

Poor signal does not simply arise from signal cast from broadcasting towers not being able to directly reach a mobile device. Within urban environments, people will almost certainly be within the broadcast radius of the tower; the tower will be powerful enough to provide coverage for the town or city that it is serving.

What causes issues are the buildings within the town or city. These constructions can block, reflect and interfere with mobile signal. In fact, buildings can create signal ‘not-spots’ in areas that have ample network coverage from broadcasting towers.

This is caused by the materials used in the construction of the buildings. Signal is known to be blocked by anything metallic, metal oxide coated windows and concrete. These are all things that modern buildings use extensively, especially high rise buildings found within cities.

Are certain types of buildings worse at getting signal than others?

Absolutely. Anything made out of concrete will not get good signal. The same goes for any underground buildings or basements. Similarly, modern constructions that use lots of metal will also struggle to get good signal. This includes windows with metal oxide layers on them.

If these buildings are well spaced out and are not in a tight cluster with each other, then the signal may still be strong enough to propagate through the building’s windows. If there are a number of these buildings in a small space, this will dramatically affect the quality of the signal. The signal will bounce off of the buildings, gradually become weaker and weaker with each reflection. These reflections can also cancel each other out when they collide with each other (out of phase), and form “black spots” where there is absolutely no signal at all.

Ultimately, this can cause signal issues for the entire area, as the signal from the broadcast tower is irreversibly weakened by each reflection.

Saying that, most traditional buildings will not block signal. The materials used in the typical construction of houses does not reflect signal, and the signal can easily pass through windows and doors. Signal issues may not occur in flats, apartments and offices, either. If they are in an area that receives strong signal, being higher up can actually be advantageous, as it means the signal received by the devices in the building is cleaner as it has a more direct route into the building from the broadcast tower.

Can poor signal in problem buildings be fixed?

There are a variety of solutions that can improve signal. Some users may find that femtocells are the best option. These are fairly limited and restrictive solutions, but if you live on your own, or in a house where all mobile devices use the same network provider, then a femtocell could be the best option.

For public and commercial properties, or homes with lots of devices connected to different mobile networks, installing a mobile repeater could be a more useful solution. StellaDoradus repeaters are not network restricted, which means they will boost the signal of all mobile networks, which makes them much more flexible.


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