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Why do I get bad cell phone reception or struggle to get signal?

What causes phone not to have a lot of bars? Weak cellular signal. Bad cell phone reception and bad cell signal are caused by 2 major factors - distance and obstructions.

If a phone is far from a cell tower, the signal is often weak or may even be undetectable.

There are many obstructions that will block a cell phone signal:

  • Manmade obstructions – In urban areas, buildings are the main culprits that block signals. Radio frequency (RF) signals don’t pass through concrete, metal, or glass easily. Reception will therefore often be a problem inside buildings.
  • Terrain – Cell signals have to have line-of-sight to work properly. Any terrain between the phone and the cell tower will block cell signals, including mountains, hills, bluffs and ridges.
  • Vegetation – It is not commonly known that even vegetation blocks cell signals. This includes shrubbery, trees, or just about any type of foliage. RF signals can even be weakened by dust particles in the atmosphere.
  • Vehicles – The materials used to build most vehicles, including metal and safety glass, block RF signals. It is often difficult to get a good signal inside a vehicle.

List of materials that block RF signals and by how much in Decibels (dB):

Construction Material Attenuation (dB)
Drywall 0.2
Plywood 0.3 – 1.1
Glass (non-metalized) 0.5 – 2.75
Wood 2.2 – 5.4
Brick 3.0 – 5.5
Brick/ Masonry-block 10.1
Brick/ Concrete-wall 13.0 - 23.0
Masonry block 11.0 – 27.0
Concrete wall (Type 1) 11.0 – 35.0
Reinforced concrete wall 25.0 – 29.0

 

View our PDF / Infographic explaining reasons for bad reception with more clarity and in more detail.