Why your signal might come and go (or wobble to and fro)
Wireless networks have improved by leaps and bounds in the last few years, but there are still moments when you may see your phone display only a few bars. When this happens, there are a few possible explanations for why. First though, it’s good to know a little bit about where your signal comes from and what exactly those bars represent.
Where does my signal come from?
In order to connect to other phones and to the Internet, your phone connects to a cellular network. It’s actually called a cellular network because the network is made of a system of “cells”. Each cell, in this case, is tower. When your phone connects to a network it reaches out to the nearest cellular tower. As you move from place to place, your phone picks up on different towers that are closer to your new position, so that you have the best signal possible in your area. You can find a complete map of Sprint’s coverage here.
When you lose your connection altogether it’s usually because some obstacle got between you and the tower. The signal strength icon on your phone’s notification bar tells you how strong the connection is between your phone and the tower.
What kind of obstacles can reduce my signal strength?
When you connect to a nearby cell tower, your phone needs a clear avenue of communication. Ideally it should have a direct line-of-sight to the tower. The signal can penetrate many materials like wood, furniture, drywall, and transparent glass pretty easily. Other things like mountains, concrete, metals, and reflective glass are harder for the signal to travel through. If you can’t connect to a network, it could be because those materials have interrupted the signal.
For example, driving through a tunnel will often cause the connection to break off, since your car—and your phone—are surrounded by concrete within the tunnel. It doesn't help that most tunnels travel underground, where wireless signals can’t penetrate. Many large buildings have poor cell reception in their lower floors, which are generally surrounded by concrete foundation. Traveling in a dense city can also cause trouble for your connection, since the skyscrapers around you are made of steel, concrete, and reflective glass. Brick houses and homes with metal roofing will also reduce the signal strength inside them. This is also why people’s calls drop inside elevators.
On very rare occasions, bad storms can also cause intermittent signal issues if they damage the towers in your area, but damage like that is usually repaired very quickly, to keep you connected to the people you care about.
There are many ways to improve your cellphone reception
As a general rule, moving farther away from barriers made of concrete, metal, steel and reflective glass will generally improve your signal strength. You can also check Sprint’s coverage map and make sure that you’re in an area with good 4G coverage.
If you’re in an area that should have a good signal but are still having trouble, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot your connection. Sprint’s device support page for your phone has a lot of great resources tailored to your device.
Those resources include some excellent troubleshooting guides for your device, with steps that can let you troubleshoot data connectivity or issues related to making and receiving calls. If you’re having trouble with either of those features on your phone, it’s likely you’re having trouble reaching a network.
Can I still connect to the Internet if I can’t connect to Sprint?
If you’re outside of a network coverage area or if you’re working in a building without good signal penetration, you can often connect to a local Wi-Fi connection. A Wi-Fi connection (usually in your home or in a public place) lets you access the Internet without using a cell network, but only while the Wi-Fi router is in range. Tutorials for connecting to a local Wi-Fi network are available on Sprint’s device support page as well.
Speaking of Wi-Fi networks, next time we will explain a new feature called Wi-Fi Calling. Wi-Fi Calling is an exciting feature rolling out to many Sprint phones that lets you use your Wi-Fi network for voice calls. Want to be notified every time a new blog goes live? Simply subscribe to the RSS feed.