Science Questions

Why does my reception drop out?

Sun, 3rd Apr 2011

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Question

Joshua S. Spell, Facebook asked:

I've always wanted to know why I can be standing still in the same spot, yet my reception can go from full bars to a low enough signal to drop a call for no reason.

Answer

We put this question to Professor Mark Beach, Bristol University...

Mark -   In terms of the signal dropping on the mobile phone from 4-bars to 0-bars, you've got to remember that things are moving in the environment around you, so it may have been a bus or a train that blocked the signal to your mobile phone from the cell site and caused your call to drop out.  In terms of indoor coverage, yes, that can be very patchy.  There can be metal objects around the house that block the signal.  Gaining height by going upstairs is often the solution.  Of course, we could raise the power of the base station sites.  There is certainly a reluctance to do that, maybe on health grounds.  We haven’t got any definitive evidence one way or the other there.  But also, just in terms of green issues associated with mobile phone technology, we’re doing everything we can to make the system operate at very low power.

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