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Q: Cell phone Reception ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Cell phone Reception
Category: Computers > Wireless and Mobile
Asked by: cmecklen-ga
List Price: $3.50
Posted: 28 Jun 2002 23:21 PDT
Expires: 28 Jul 2002 23:21 PDT
Question ID: 34777
I get bad reception in my house with my cell phone.  Is their
something that can help me get better reception?  I have seen the
little thing on TV that you put under your battery but I have heard
those don’t work.  Can you please find something that is proven to
work?  The phone I am using is an LG TP-5250 and my service is sprint.
 Also if you could personally recommend a hands free headset also that
would be great but not necessary.  I mainly need to know how I can get
better reception.  Please also take into consideration the price of
the product as I do not want to pay to much.
Subject: Re: Cell phone Reception
Answered By: chromedome-ga on 29 Jun 2002 08:32 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi, Cmecklen!

As a former cellular retailer, I've been through this many times with
my customers.  I'll expand on the comments shown below, and add a few
things from my personal knowledge.

The first thing you need to do is establish whether your difficulty is
related to your area, your carrier, your house, or your phone.  The
remedy to your problem will depend to some degree which of these
proves to be the difficulty.  The steps given below by
alienintelligence-ga are pretty comprehensive.

If signal is good outside your house, your coverage is likely not at
fault. If coverage is good-but-not-great outside your house (most
phones will show you on their display how good a signal you've got),
then you may be on the fringe of your carrier's coverage area.  Try to
organize two friends: one with a different carrier, one with the same
carrier but a different phone.  If the friend with a different carrier
has excellent signal, you may be on the fringe of Sprint's coverage. 
If another Sprint customer with a different phone gets good signal, it
may be your phone.  If everybody's signal is fine outside the house
but bad inside, then you have an issue with the house itself.

Some types of construction are worse than others.  As
alienintelligence has learned, concrete has "rebar" inside, which
interferes with the signal.  Stucco walls typically have wire mesh
inside them, which also is a problem.  Aluminum siding, of course, is
self-explanatory.  If you have no obvious construction-related issues,
you probably are getting interference from something within the house.
These are always difficult to track down.  Regardless of the cause of
your problem, improving your signal strength will usually clear it up.

Using an external antenna on your house is the option most likely to
improve your signal.  If you are simply in an area of poor signal, it
might be the only thing that will work.  This involves an investment
not just in the antenna, but usually also an adaptor kit to allow your
phone to use the antenna.  You may also choose to have the antenna
professionally installed, in order to ensure proper grounding (and to
"pass the buck" for any liability to the installer).  This is costly,
however, and you'd specified that you wanted to keep the price low.

Those little gizmos that attach to your phone are not a very viable
option.  Like the others, feedback I've received on them has been
poor.  The principle they use, however (Passive Repeater) is genuine. 
Specialty cellular outlets usually carry the "proper" repeaters,
though your mall electronics store may not.  They will typically look
like either a small antenna, or a flat patch that goes onto your
window.  Essentially they focus the signal in their immediate
vicinity, giving your built-in antenna a "leg up", so to speak.  Be
aware that while these are a legitimate and well-recognized product,
they do not work in all cases.  Before you buy one, check the return
policy clearly.  These will usually cost less than antennas.

A third choice is to purchase a higher-gain antenna for your cel
phone.  Most manufacturers make a "Hi-gain" or "Fringe Area" antenna
for their handsets, which may be easily changed in-store or by the
user at home.  These work well, and typically cost much less than
external antennas.  Again, be sure of your return options in case you
do not see an improvement.

Older "bag" cel phones are more powerful than handhelds.  These are
essentially car-mount cel phones made portable by the addition of a
carry case, and either a battery or a plug-in power supply.  If you
can acquire one of these cheaply, most carriers allow a second phone
on your account for a minimal extra charge.  Simply forward calls from
your handheld to the bag phone while you're in.

Finally, I will suggest one more option:  if you have a landline
(regular phone phone)in the house, just forward your calls!  The cost
is usually modest, even if your local telco charges for call
forwarding. You may also be able to get it bundled with one or more
features you already have, getting the forwarding for relatively

This pretty much covers the options you have available.  I can't
guarantee any of them, but with ten years' cellular sales under your
belt I can tell you it's a reasonably comprehensive list.

Good luck, and hopefully one of these suggestions will do the job for


Request for Answer Clarification by cmecklen-ga on 29 Jun 2002 10:33 PDT
I have done what you guys suggested about testing other services and
phones.  I have two roommates one of them using AT&T and the other
also using Sprint.  The roommate that uses AT&T does not show having a
good reception maybe only one or two strength bars out of four or five
but yet he never has any problems with his calls.  I on the other hand
will some times loose a call or it will cut out on me.  The other
roommate that uses sprint has a different phone and runs into a few of
the same problems but not as much. He says his seldom looses the call
but will cut out every once in a while.  As for the house I live in it
is an old house that has wood paneling. I think it may be possible
that I am on the fringe of the reception area as if I am just outside
my house I get slightly better reception but if I walk 100 feet down
the street to an open park I get almost full reception though so I am
not sure.  If you guys could please recommend some products I could
look at on the Internet I would appreciate it and Thanks for the
informative answer.  Also changing carriers is not really a feasible
option as I just renewed a year contract and do not want to have to
pay the $150 to cancel and sign up with some one else.

Clarification of Answer by chromedome-ga on 29 Jun 2002 17:54 PDT
Hello again.

As you'd already guessed, I did not provide links for any of these
products primarily because of the price tag you'd put on your
question.  Also, while the question falls within my personal
expertise, your particular phone does not.

Any cellular dealer (as opposed to retailer) in your area should be
able to help you with an antenna or passive repeater.  A higher-gain
antenna for your LG handset should be available through your dealer.

A Google search using these parameters

+"passive repeater" +cell

turns up hundreds of dealers, several of whom should be able to oblige

I neglected to touch on your request for a handsfree, in my original
answer.  This should not be construed as an endorsement (I don't use
one myself), but Plantronics are the market leader and have headsets
for most phones.

If you require more specific information, I would suggest posting a
new question giving some indication of your location, and the specific
price range you will consider for accessories.

Thank you again,

cmecklen-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Overall a good answer for only $3.50.  Would have liked some links to
some of the options but for the money i paid i can't complain.

Subject: Re: Cell phone Reception
From: alienintelligence-ga on 29 Jun 2002 00:27 PDT
There are several causes for bad reception with any type
of wireless device. A few that might be your source are:
Signal Shadows, weak areas, fringe areas
Electromagnetic interference
Signal Grounding/Blocking

My house, here in Cali, is made of concrete. It's like a
bunker. In the walls there is rebar (steel/iron rods).
Most of the time these are tied to "ground" or electrically
connected to the earth. This combined with the thickness
of the concrete serves to dampen or absorb, and block the
signal. This is most likely the problem. To correct this,
you could connect an external antenna to your roof, and
hook it up to the phone. Not very wireless anymore huh?
Not too safe if your area is prone to lightning either.
There aren't many other ways to help against grounding
and signal blockage.

Electromagnetic Interference, or EMI... can come from
anything with an electric power source. Even battery
operated items. Best thing against those, is moving away
from them, or placing the offending item farther away
from where you sit. Various filters are on the market
to get rid of reflections along the electrical wiring
in your house. I can't guarantee that these will help

Signal strength loss due to shadows and fringe areas.
Shadows, in rather simplistic terms can be thought of
as the ripples in a pond or lake, and how they reflect
and overlap. Some rising in height, others going away.
Points where the waves disappear are where they have been
cancelled (equal strength signals in opposite polarities).
An area like that is on a road near my house. I complain
to the cell company about it frequently, but they don't
care. I don't find many fringe areas anymore living in
California, but that could be a problem in a smaller
population area.

Essentially, either the location you are at, or your house
and/or its contents are causing the cellular problems you
are having. And no... those things on TV that "increase
cellular strength" do not work. Anyone that disagrees...
show me proof. 

It seems all of your available options are free ones.
You might want to walk around with the cell phone and
make a map of good signal areas vs bad ones. If you know
someone with a different brand and better yet, different
carrier, walk around the same areas, and see if the bad
areas match. That will at least let you know if it's 
cell provider problems.

*hope this helped*

I'll post a reply to the second part later, if I can find
any useful info.
Subject: Re: Cell phone Reception
From: mvguy-ga on 29 Jun 2002 06:42 PDT
Excellent response from AI. And you're right about those signal
boosters: They're a ripoff.  As AI said, your best bets are to look
into using a different phone company (which may not be practical) or
finding the best spot in the house and making your calls from there. 
A different phone might also help, but probably only marginally.

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