Suffering from poor mobile phone reception in your home or work? Here's how to get better mobile signal, and boost your data speeds, when you're stuck indoors.
There's nothing worse than being stuck in a mobile reception black hole for a large part of your day. Whether it's at home or at work, the last thing you need when you're expecting an important call is the dreaded 'no signal' message and an empty reception bar.
Don't resort to duct-taping coat hangers to your handset or clambering onto the roof just yet, however. Below we've collected some quick and simple tips on how to get a better mobile signal when indoors.
How to get better mobile signal: What causes bad mobile phone reception indoors?
There are a number of things that can harm your phone’s reception and only some of them you have control over. Thick walls, metal frames and tall buildings are common barriers that often block signal, which is why you might struggle even in major cities to get just a couple of bars. In major cities such as London, carriers have taken special care to avoid these problems. But the same can’t be said for everywhere.
Another common signal-killer is human interference. Anyone who’s attended a festival or major public event may have found text messages taking extensive periods of time to send or be received, and phone calls sometimes impossible in areas that usually work perfectly well. As with any Over-The-Air (OTA) signals, interference can be amplified by high concentrations of mobile phones. Essentially, too may people are using their handsets, which leads to overburdened networks.
How to get better mobile signal: Try different locations
It might sound obvious, but the first thing to try is shifting your phone around, as even a few square feet can strangely make a significant difference to your phone’s reception. Holding your phone by doorways, windows or anywhere you know the walls are thinner can all contribute to better signal. Just don't try standing on top of the kitchen table while swinging your arms around.
How to get better mobile signal: Hold your phone differently
Some of you may remember the ‘Antennagate’ scandal that befell the iPhone 4 not long after launch. Users reported visible reception drop when they gripped their phones tightly. Although this doesn’t apply to all phones, the internal aerial placement on some means gripping or holding too tightly or across a certain point adds a another layer for the phone reception to ‘push’ through. By using a lighter touch or holding it higher up or lower down its body, there’s a chance you might improve your signal.
How to get better mobile signal: Orange Signal Boost/UMA phones
Some phones feature a service called UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access), which allows the phone to switch seamlessly between using the standard mobile network and (when in range) your home’s WiFi network. By switching between the two, the device doesn’t have to remain dependant on the mobile network to place a call.
Orange/EE is presently the only UK carrier to offer this type of service, which it calls Signal Boost.
How to get better mobile signal: Boosters
For those not on Orange or who don’t have a phone that supports UMA, Three and Vodafone both provided alternatives that work in much the same way. Signal boosters act like the UMA units in some phones, sharing your mobile phone’s signal over both the carrier network and your internet connection, boosting multiple phone signals. Three Home Signal is available to to Pay Monthly customers on request.
Vodafone has done away with the older boosters and replaced it with a more compact Sure Signal V3 unit. The new model plugs into a plug point anywhere in the house but still allows for another device through it - anything that uses a standard UK 3-pin plug.
For £69 the Vodafone Sure Signal can boost indoor mobile signals, even if it's placed in a cellar or basement. It allows for up to 32 devices to be registered at one time and can support eight simultaneous voice calls over 3G. Vodafone also offer a list of their latest handsets which are confirmed to be compatible with the new Sure Signal booster.
How to get better mobile signal: Use a VOIP app like Skype
If you can't get a dependable mobile signal indoors but you do have reliable WiFi, you should try using an app such as Skype for your calls. Skype uses a data connection rather than a mobile signal, with the added bonus that you can video chat with your friends and family.
How to get better mobile signal: Signal boosting cases
Accessory companies don’t just make phone holders, speaker docks and crazy cosmetic cases anymore. Some have incorporated special components and techniques when making their covers, to help improve signal strength as well as protect your mobile.
Case maker Pong, for instance, has created iPhone and iPad cases which use special plating embedded within the case to boost signal and shield the user from radiation at the same time.
How to get better mobile signal: Switch network
If you're currently Pay-As-You-Go or on a flexible contract (for instance, a one-month rolling SIM-only deal), or your long-term monthly contract is up for renewal, then you should seriously consider switching to another network.
Many people are put off changing to a new provider because they think it'll be a massive hassle, but all you need to do is get a code from your current network when you tell them you're leaving. Give this code to your new chosen provider and you can keep your current phone number, and most likely enjoy a better monthly rate thanks to special introductory offers and the rest.
Ofcom has provided links to all the UK’s major network coverage maps, which shows you the kind of reception you can expect in your area. Check out which network would be best for you and then make the switch if you find something better. Of course, if you live out in the middle of nowhere, chances are you're stuffed. But the likes of EE now boasts almost complete national coverage, so chances are you'll find a better solution.