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13 Best Ways to Boost Your Cell Phone Signal

on January 24, 2019

“Why is my cell phone service so slow & spotty?”

It's official.

Cell phone service isn't what it used to be.

Canadians suffer through more dropped calls and slower internet because we demand more from our smartphones than ever before. With more wireless smart devices connecting to 3G, 4G LTE, and very soon 5G, it’s going to be one crowded lane.

Let’s do the math:

More people + more devices + same number of cell towers/sites =

  • Dropped calls
  • Poor voice quality
  • Slow internet
  • Stuck text messages & email
  • Still-connecting or endless loading screens

Raise your hand if this is you: clinging onto one bar of service, praying and pleading for your connection to hold, waiting...and waiting for something to send or load, but then – NO SERVICE.

Lost time, lost money, and for you, a loss of patience.

Not acceptable. Not in today's always on, always connected world.

You're paying for these high monthly cell phone bills. You deserve to get what you're paying for. Because without reliable 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G signals, your cell phone is a glorious calculator that takes photos.

Today, we look at the absolute best free & paid methods on how to improve your cell phone reception.


The 13 Best Ways How to Boost Your Cell Phone Signal

1) Use Your WiFi Network

WiFi calling uses your broadband landline internet instead of cellular service to make calls and connect to the web.

As of now (January 2019), all major carriers such as Rogers, Bell, and Telus support WiFi calling on most newer smartphones such as Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, LG phones, and other iOS & Android devices.

So if you already have landline internet in your home, connecting your WiFi calling-compatible cell phone should be able to help maintain a steady connection.

Keep in mind, if your WiFi internet speeds are spotty or horrible to begin with, then it won't be much help either, because now you have another device hogging your bandwidth.

Also, satellite internet users such as those with Xplornet won’t find much use with WiFi calling because of the high latency, unless you’re into morse code-like time delays.

Pros : Practically free method if you’re already paying for landline internet.

Cons : Zero use if you have bad WiFi or no landline internet service.
Improved Coverage Rating : 9 of 10.

Learn more: WiFi calling on iOS | WiFi calling on Android


2) Cell Phone Signal Booster

Performance drugs are bad.

But when it comes to juicing your cell phone signal, it’s a good thing, especially when you’ve got no phone signal in your house or car.

Cell phone signal boosters (also known as cell phone antenna boosters) take existing weak cellular signal from the outside and amplify 3G & 4G LTE signal up to 32X.

Think of it like a megaphone for your cellular service: making signal louder for your cell phone antenna to pick up.

Here's a quick overview of cell phone boosters:

  • Improves 3G & 4G LTE for any phone on any carrier
  • One-time purchases with no monthly fees
  • No need to be connected to internet or wifi to work
  • Fully accepted and approved by the FCC & all carriers

Home signal boosters increase mobile network signal in a home up to 7,500 sq ft.

Commercial signal boosters improve cellular coverage & reception up to 100,000 sq ft.

Vehicle signal boosters cover vehicles such as cars, RVs, trucks, and even boats..

It’s important to note that the quality of improvement is dependent on the the outside signal strength. In general, if you can use your phone a little ways outside your house but not inside, then a cell booster will work, because building material is the number 1 cause of poor cell phone signal.

Cell phone signal boosters bypass all those internal & external obstructions.

Pros: Great at amplifying 3G & 4G LTE signal for urban or rural areas.
Cons: You need some outside signal for it to boost.
Improved Coverage Rating: 9 of 10.


3) Mobile Hotspots

Mobile hotspots (also known as 4G routers, mobile WiFi routers, LTE modems, etc.) are cellular routers that use 4G data instead of landline Wifi to connect to the internet.

Popular mobile hotspot routers include the Nighthawk LTE Router, Jetpack MiFi, and Linkzone. Popular manufacturers are Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, Huawei, Pepwave, and Cradlepoint.

While mobile hotspots can be used as an alternative for home internet, it’s mostly used for people on the go who need connections to multiple devices and already have good inside cellular signal.

Besides, you already own a mobile hotspot. Most modern smartphones ( iOS and Android) are also capable of becoming hotspots for other devices.

So… if a mobile hotspot device and cell phone are essentially using the same technology, why bother with one?

If a hotspot comes with an antenna or extension port for an antenna, then it may be capable of providing better signal to your cell phone.

However, compared to a cell phone signal booster, a mobile hotspot does not boost any signal whereas a cell phone booster amplifies incoming signal up to 32X. In fact, many hotspot users also get a signal booster to work in tandem with their 4G router.

Learn more about your carrier's mobile hotspot:

Pros: Can connect to multiple devices when it has good inside cellular reception.
Cons: Essentially another cellular device: no service to your phone also means no service to your mobile hotspot.
Improved Coverage Rating: 5 of 10.


4) Find a Cell Phone Tower Near You

“How do I find a cell tower near me?” That’s a question we often get at Wilson Amplifiers.

After all, knowing the closest Rogers cell tower near you or Bell tower location a mile or two away from your house helps tremendously when it comes to getting the best reception. The closer your phone is to the tower, the better the signal strength.

Here are some methods in locating the nearest cell tower:

Websites (Good, But Technical & Not User-Friendly):

CellMapper:

Used by telecom installation professionals, CellMapper provides a wealth of information including cell tower location, broadcasting direction, triangulation, frequencies, and power. It’s regularly updated through crowdsourcing meaning everyone contributes data to the pot.

Antenna Search:

It looks outdated and takes a bit of time to load (from 30 seconds up to 3 minutes), but it provides a great amount of data. Maybe too much, because it throws everything at you at once. You'll need a little patience or engineering degree to mine out the data.

Apps (Better)

OpenSignal (Recommended): For iPhone | For Android

RootMetrics' Cell Phone Coverage Map: For iPhone | For Android

LTE Discovery (Recommended): For Android

Network Cell Info (Highly Recommended): For Android

These are our recommended apps to help find cell tower locations and coverage quality.

OpenSignal features a compass that points in the direction of your carrier's cell tower and also has a cell tower map.

RootMetrics shows signal quality around your area; however, it does not have a cell phone tower map finder. Still there’s a heatmap around your location with real-world signal strength results from end-users.

Both LTE Discovery and Network Cell Info are powerful, in-depth, and user-friendly enough to show the best cell service in your area. They’re highly recommended apps used by most professionals.

While these apps don’t exactly show you how to boost network signal on Android or iPhone, they’re fairly accurate in determining the general location of your tower and providing information about the quality of signal strength in your area.

DIY: Use Your Own Phone (Best)

Your smartphone is a great tool to find your cell tower.

It all begins with cellular signal strength or dBm (decibel-milliwatts).

Cell phone signals are radio frequency waves measured in dBm (decibel-milliwatts). All cellular devices operate between -50 dBm to -120 dBm.

-50 dBm is considered strong signal (full bars). -120 dBm is considered weak signal (dead zone).

Any number in between represents the scale from good to poor coverage. The closer to - 50 dBm, the better the signal. The closer to -120 dBm, the worse the signal.

However, the number of bars on your phone are subjective to the phone manufacturer and carrier. Repeat: subjective.

There's no industry standard and practice to match dBm values to the number of bars.

What could be 1 bar on an Apple iPhone for Bell could be 2 bars on a Samsung Galaxy for Rogers or 3 bars on a Google Pixel for Telus DESPITE performing at the exact same speeds!

This might explain why you sometimes have 2-3 bars and can’t keep a connection, while other times you have 1 bar and have blazingly fast speeds and service.

That’s why you can't trust the number of bars on your phone too much, because the number of bars is subjective across all devices and carriers.But dBm readings are not subjective. Just plain math and truth.

OUR RECOMMENDATION:

  1. Find dBm readings on your phone.
  2. Walk around your house inside and outside.
  3. The number closest to -50 dBm is where you get your best signal

So how do you find dBm reading on your smartphone? It’s called field test mode, and it’s a native function on your phone.

How to Access Your dBm Signal (Field Test Mode):

For iPhone Users

Starting with iOS 11 and 12, Apple has hidden dBm readings in iPhone field test mode. However, depending on your iPhone chipset (Intel or Qualcomm), there’s a slim chance to find your dBm readings through this workaround.

Here’s how:

 iPhone with Intel chipset (iOS 11 & 12)

  1. Dial *3001#12345#*
  2. Tap LTE.
  3. Tap Serving Cell Meas.
  4. Your dBm is read as rsrp0.

iPhone with Qualcomm chipset (iOS 11 & 12)

  1. Dial *3001#12345#*
  2. Tap 1xEV-DO.
  3. Your dBm is read as RX AGC0.

For any iPhone pre-iOS 11

  1. Dial *3001#12345#*
  2. Swipe down notifications bar.
  3. Your dBm is in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

If you’re unable to find any of these options during your field test mode process, you most likely have an incompatible carrier and chipset. The next best method is performing a speed test around areas inside and outside your home. But once we crack the code on dBm readings on your iPhone, we’ll update as soon as possible.

For Android Users

Field test mode on Android varies by phone model and Android OS version. However, it is generally found under the Settings menu.

Typical sequence:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap About Phone
  3. Tap Status or Network
  4. Tap SIM Status
  5. Your dBm is under Signal strength

Once you have your dBm reading through field test mode or app, walk around inside and outside the perimeter of your home. Make note which areas get the best dBm reading. This shows you the general direction of your cell tower and which rooms inside your home have the best reception.

Pros: Find cell tower maps and understand cellular signal strength beyond bars.
Cons: Doesn’t directly boost signal but provides valuable knowledge.
Improved Coverage Rating: 7 of 10.


5) Minimize Interference

The great thing about cellular or radio frequency waves? They can reach miles in the distance to deliver calls, texts, emails, and internet you need.

The flip side?

Almost anything between your phone and the cell site can disrupt your signal. When there’s a clear line of sight, everything works and you get what you’re paying for.

But for people in rural areas, there’s mountains, valleys, and tall trees. For people in urban areas, there’s tall buildings, RF interference, and crowded networks.

In short, by the time 3G and 4G LTE signal reaches to your phone, it’s been greatly reduced in performance.

Here are the 6 main causes of poor cellular signal:

1. Cell Tower Distance

We’re well aware of the physical distance but did you know there’s another type of distance?

Cell towers have the ability to transmit signal for tens of miles, which is necessary in the countryside. However, in the city, cell tower transmission power covers much less ground, because it doesn’t want to interfere with other carrier towers and networks.

So while there’s a physical distance problem in rural areas, there’s a broadcasting distance problem in urban and suburban areas.

2. External Obstructions

Literally anything under the sun can absorb or disrupt cell signals: trees, hills, mountains, valleys, dense foliage (especially pine cones), swamps, and any large or tall object.

3. Building Material

Building material and the layout of your house is the leading cause of poor indoor cell phone signal coverage.

The biggest culprit is metal. Anything metal–roof, wall, studs, lining, etc.–will tackle your incoming cell phone signal. Other disruptors are low-e (energy-efficient) glass, concrete, wood, and other signal blocking material.

Open floor plans generally have better signal than multi-room layouts. Thick walls are a major impediment.

4. Internal Interference

Electronics can create RF interference. Same with anything metal (again!) and magnetic can affect cell phone signal.

5. Weather & Cosmic Events

Moisture can affect your signal. So rain, snow, and thunderstorms are fair game. Even solar flares have some effect. It feels as if windy days can blow signal to or away from you.

So those are the problems, what’s the solution?

Reduce the interference between your cell phone and the tower:

  1. Move outside.
  2. Get near a window or crack it open.
  3. Get higher. Usually the second floor of the home gets better signal.
  4. Reduce interior clutter, especially metal & solid objects.
  5. Do some yard work, trim any tall trees & bushes.

All these tips should help get you better reception.

Just remember this, less things between your cell phone and the cell tower, the easier the two can keep communicating. Cellular signals are very fickle by nature. Sometimes, a slight move here or there can drastically change reception.

Pros: Best way to “boost” cell phone signal for free.
Cons: Does help some but maybe not to the results you desire.
Improved Coverage Rating: 4 of 10.


6) Check Your Phone Settings

Your phone needs to do many things.

Multi-tasking tends to build up, leaving some lingering issues.

Some best practices:

  1. Toggle Airplane Mode off and on to reconnect to the cell tower.
  2. Update to the latest firmware.
  3. Restart your phone.
  4. Make sure Cellular data is turned on under Settings.
  5. Check your SIM card for any damage.

Pros: Best practices we all should do to maintain our phones.
Cons: Some effect on improve cell coverage.
Improved Coverage Rating: 3 of 10.


7) Check Your Phone Battery

Connecting to a cell tower takes a constant supply of power, so if you’re low on battery, your phone might not have enough juice to find a signal. That's why many smartphones have a battery-saving mode.The following best practices should help conserve battery power:

  1. Turn off hardware options like Bluetooth and NFC when not in use.
  2. Lower screen brightness.
  3. Close unnecessary & unused apps working in the background.
  4. Turn off push notifications.
  5. Keep phone away from extreme temperatures.

But if you still find your cell phone lacking power before the end of the day, we'd recommend a portable battery charger. FYI, phones older than 2-3 years tend to have degraded batteries and components, so that might affect performance.

Pros: Helps limit battery drain on your phone.
Cons: A little improvement for better reception.
Improved Coverage Rating: 3 of 10.


8) Don’t Block Your Cell Phone Antenna

Before the rise of smartphones, most mobile phones had external antennas (the 90s & early 00s). They were a crucial part of the device that gathered and sent signals to the cell tower.

However, on most smartphones today, the antenna is now designed to be tucked inside the phone.

Great for cosmetic reasons but difficult for increased reception, because those interior antennas still need to do the same job.

By holding your phone in landscape position (sideways), your hands may be effectively blocking your antenna from the cell tower. Although the newer smartphones have designs to combat this problem, a smartphone in a rugged case and gripped with both hands can occasionally give you the no-signal burp.

To avoid such antenna problems, try holding your phone in an upright position with your antenna free of a blockage. It should help increase the flow of signal. Or better yet, go hands-free with a Bluetooth headset, and you’re bound to get better service.

Also about your cell phone case– thick, rugged cases may prevent it from damage, but it’s also preventing your cell phone antenna from capturing signal. So make sure that isn’t an issue.

Pros: An unblocked cell phone antenna is vital for any phone.
Cons: No direct way to make antenna signal stronger.
Improved Coverage Rating: 6 of 10.


9) Find Some Me Time

A cell phone tower can connect to a few hundred users. What happens when everyone tries to access that tower at the same time?

Chaos.

Tower congestion is a real pain at concerts, festivals, and crowded public events. Who isn’t trying to take a selfie and upload it to Facebook or Instagram these days?

With so many people on their smartphones and tablets, it's bound to overwhelm the cell tower or cell site.It all leads to the following problems:

  1. Dropped calls
  2. Poor call quality
  3. Slow internet
  4. Super slow uploads & downloads
  5. Stuck text messages
  6. Spotty service

Instead of competing for signal bandwidth and clogging up the network, finding a less populated area should help improve your situation. Of course, if you followed Step 5 above, you already know how to find the nearest cell towers.

Pros: Good for lone wolves.
Cons: May involve some walking.
Improved Coverage Rating: 5 of 10.


10) Get a New Phone.

If your smartphone is about 4-5 years old or newer, you can skip this part. But for those still hanging onto your Blackberry, Windows Phone, Palm, flip phones, brick phones, etc.– it’s time to make the jump.

Phones, like people, get old. They don’t perform like how they used to. And technology is changing, meaning newer phones support newer technology that may have that reliable coverage and fast internet you need. Change is hard–heck, I still listen to Leonard Cohen, Michael Jackson, and Oasis every day to work– but it’s inevitable.

Pros: Should make a difference for much older phones.
Cons: Costly unless provided free by carrier.
Improved Coverage Rating: 4 of 10.


11) Change Network Providers.

Well, you’ve done everything you could, but there’s still no progress.

No one likes the inconvenience of change or burning bridges, but you've got no other option.

If your phone is fully paid for or past its two-year contract, it may be time to jump ship and find a carrier better suited to fulfill your mobile needs.

And most carriers are eager to get customers to switch, so you might be able to get a new or highly discounted smartphone or bill.

So keep an open eye for carrier deals and promos. They're everywhere.

We recommend using the Open Signal app to research carrier heatmap services for your location. Search by postal code and compare network rankings in your area.

With that information along with understanding cell tower location, it should give you much better ability to assess the quality of your carrier's and competition's services.

There are a lot of variables to consider.

Rogers does have more 4G coverage nationally, but if you live near a Bell cell tower, then you might get better results with Bell. Perhaps talk and text is more important to you than internet data, so Telus's or Freedom's plans might be more cost effective.

So take your time and do the right research.

Pros: No longer paying for deadbeat service.
Cons: Time-consuming.
Improved Coverage Rating: 7 of 10.


12) Go Skyward.

Forget terrestrial-based internet. Look to the skies. Satellite internet providers like Xplornet provide internet in areas with slow or no high-speed options.

Prices can get steep (up to $150 monthly) plus installation costs around $99 to $150. Speeds are also slower compared to landline and cellular internet. But when there’s no other option, it’s a godsend.

Pros: May be only option in unserved or rural areas.
Cons: Expensive with higher lag and slower speeds than terrestrial-internet.
Improved Coverage Rating: 5 of 10.


13) Camp Out at Your Local Tim Hortons

They have free WiFi and enough power to challenge your carrier to make sure their locations are serviced well. Worst case scenario, you know you can get internet there!

Pros: Guaranteed to work, and you can get some coffee and doughnuts to boot
Cons: Doesn't actually address your problem, may develop diabetes
Improved Coverage Rating: 2 of 10


FAQ

1. How do I find if Rogers, Bell, Telus, or Freedom serves my area?

2. How do I test Roger’s, Bell’s, or any other carrier’s speed?

3. Who has the best cell phone coverage & service?

Historically speaking, Rogers has been the leading wireless provider followed by Bell, Telus, and Freedom.

However, the most important thing is where you’re going to be using your phone most of the time and if there’s a carrier cell site nearest to you.

4. What is the best mobile phone for poor reception areas?

The Samsung Galaxy seems to be a good performer in weak signal areas with up to +6 dB gain compared to Apple iPhone Google Pixel, OnePlus, LG, and Motorola. However, it’s important to note that if you’re in a dead zone, no phone, regardless of weak signal performance, will have service.

5. How can I make my antenna signal stronger?

Technically, you can’t make your antenna signal stronger. It’s an internal component within the phone.

Charlatan products like cell phone antenna cases, stickers, and apps claim to make a difference, but they won’t make a noticeable change. DIY hacks and homemade antennas may slightly help, but you risk damaging your phone.

While you can’t make your antenna signal stronger, you CAN make the incoming signal to your antenna STRONGER. Keep reading.

6. How do I improve mobile strength? Which method is best?

If you already have landline internet and have acceptable speeds–up to 10 Mbps download & 5 Mbps upload–using WiFi calling is the best method to get better internet, talk, text, emails, and video streaming.

If you don’t have landline internet and don’t have access to it, a cell phone signal booster is also a great device because it amplifies weak signal and then rebroadcasts the new signal into your home, office, or vehicle.

7. What is dBm?

dBm (decibel-milliwatts) is a unit of measurement to express the power, in this case, of cellular signals and radio frequency waves. All cellular devices operate between -50 dBm to -120 dBm. Closer to -50 dBm is good signal. Closer to -120 dBm is poor signal.

8. What is a good signal strength for a cell phone?

  • -50 to -70 dBm is great signal.
  • -71 to -85 dBm is good signal.
  • -86 to -95 dBm is fair signal.
  • -95 dBm to -110 dBm is poor signal.
  • -111 to -120 dBm is near-dead signal.

- 95 dBm is generally considered the limit for working signal. Anything worse and you'll have spotty service.

9. How will 5G affect my cell phone service?

It won’t for awhile. While 5G will launch in 2020 (the real 5G), 4G LTE will be around and is still being built out in North America and will last until at least 2030-2035. 4G LTE is the backbone of Canada’s mobile network.

5G isn’t expected to reach mainstream nationwide until 2030.

10. Who are you and how can you help me?

Wilson Amplifiers is a leading provider of cell phone signal boosters, devices that amplify 3G & 4G LTE for any phone with any carrier for home, office, or car. We’ve boosted over 10,000,000 sq ft of signal for homes, buildings, and vehicles across the United States and Canada.

  1. Free consultation (ask us anything) with our customer support. Email: (sales@wilsonamplifiers.ca). Phone:1-800-568-2723.
  2. Free shipping. Usually ships same day.
  3. 90-day (seriously) money back guarantee. We want to make sure you're satisfied.

Our goal is simple: keep people connected. Ask us anything and we'll be glad to help.


Learn more about cell phone signal boosters with our complete guide:

Cell phone signal booster guide

Archive

About

WilsonAmplifiers is the leading provider of weBoost & WilsonPro signal boosters serving Canada since 2011.


For any questions, comments and more
information, please call us at
1-800-373-2927
or email at sales@wilsonamplifiers.ca.
We'd be glad to help.



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