Spotty cell phone coverage and unreliable radio connectivity have never been good things, but there was a time when people used their devices for less and were more tolerant of gaps in performance.
But as cell phones have replaced landlines and radios continue to replace cell phones, the bar has been raised on the expectation for connecting quickly and seamlessly. Add to that the explosive growth in data services such as text messaging and streaming, and it’s enough to put a strain on even the most sophisticated system.
The good news is that you don’t have to just live with poor in-building connectivity, and here we’ll take a look at some of the most effective options for how to improve cell phone coverage and radio range.
Causes of Poor Coverage
Older buildings, particularly those built out of concrete, brick and steel, have a lot of old-world charm, but they don’t enable very good new world connectivity. Cell phone towers can’t penetrate the building materials, and signals are lost or non-existent. The problem can become worse in secluded or fortified areas of buildings, such as basements, stairways and garages.
A high density of users and a very large footprint are other reasons for weak coverage – either alone or in combination with each other – as networks struggle to keep up with the demand. Imagine the large number of people on a campus, at a sporting event, or in a high-rise hotel all trying to talk, watch videos or post photos to social media at the same time.
Natural barriers and obstructions, such as hills, can also interfere with cell phone and radio signals.
Distributed Antenna System (DAS)
One of the most common solutions for boosting coverage of cell phones and two-way radios is a distributed antenna system, or DAS, installed within a facility. A distributed antenna system works by picking up wireless signals coming into your building and delivering them to hard-to-access spots that need them most (learn more in our distributed antenna system whiteboard video) . A distributed antenna system is the best way to boost a signal in properties with certain characteristics.
The antenna system needs to be strategically placed for best results, which is why it’s important to call in a professional installer. An experienced installer will be able to assess the needs of your situation and determine your most effective placement options. Our distributed antenna system guide has more installation tips and information about the DAS solution.
The DAS is driven by a bi-directional amplifier, or BDA, which is a key component in locating the wireless signals that are amplified.
Two-way Radio Repeaters
Two-way radio repeaters work by receiving data on one frequency and retransmitting it at a higher power on a different frequency. Repeaters can offer a more expansive coverage area than a DAS, and for its two-way radios, Motorola has the option to link up to 15 sites to create wide area coverage.
Repeaters can switch back and forth between analog and digital modes, making them an option even for users who have a mix of both or who are considering a gradual transition. A repeater system that has both analog and digital capabilities can also use data functions such as GPS.
Repeaters can also serve as base stations, or the hub for all lines of communication. Transmissions from two-way radios can be sent to the base station, where they’re transmitted through a higher wattage to other frequencies. Base stations are useful for companies and operations that have a fleet of vehicles, from taxis to tow trucks.
Don’t Just Set it and Forget It
Once you have a solution in place that improves your cell phone coverage and radio range, it’s important to keep an eye on it to track any needed upgrades and whether any adjustments in things like antenna placement are needed.