Are You in a Mobile Phone Dead Zone?
It’s a minor nuisance to experience poor cellular reception as you pass under a bridge, through a tunnel, or between tall buildings. But it’s a much bigger deal if your home or office (or just certain rooms) are in such a “dead zone.” Here are some gadgets that can help to bring your cellular signal where you need it the most...
"No, I Can't Hear You Now!"
It's frustrating to have poor signal reception, no incoming texts or calls, and the dreaded “network unavailable” message. Weak signals mean scratchy, barely-audible conversations with frequent repetitions. It’s like living under a bridge or down in a hollow. A retired friend of mine lives in a comfortable basement apartment, but he can’t receive calls down there and has to trek up to the house’s deck to call anyone. Even there, his call quality is lousy.
The carriers do a lot to minimize dead zones. But no matter how many broadcasting towers your carrier says it has within half a mile of your home, there may be a dead zone caused by local terrain, tall buildings, thick trees, interior walls, or other obstacles to radio frequencies that just are not going to go away.
As more of us cut the landline cord at home and work, the need for technology that overcomes dead zones becomes greater. I've previously written about Cell Phone Signal Boosters that can be used to amplify weak cellular signals, so you don't have to walk down the street or stand on the roof during a thunderstorm to make a call. These devices tend to be a bit pricey ($200-$300 and upwards), but we are starting to see other solutions to this growing problem. Here are some that you can explore.
Filling Gaps In Cellular Coverage
Panasonic offers a line of multi-handset cordless telephone systems (about $50 for a basic one-handset system, up to $149 for a five-handset luxury system) equipped with Link2Cell technology. Essentially, the cordless phone base station links with your smartphone via Bluetooth. The smartphone can be placed wherever reception is best and you can make or receive calls through it using the cordless handsets. You do not need a landline, but one can be plugged into the base station if you wish.
Bluetooth is generally considered a short-range wireless networking technology. The latest standard is capable of linking devices that are 100 meters (330 feet) apart, in theory. But manufacturers are recommending a maximum of 30 feet between cell phone and a Bluetooth device.
Another nice benefit of such a system is that you don’t have to carry your smartphone around home or office. Just place cordless handsets in frequently used rooms. No more, “Where did I leave my phone?” You always leave it in the same place, plugged into a charger. Cordless handsets are cheaper than smartphone when they fall in the toilet, too (and at any other time, I suppose).
Cordless handsets cannot display text messages, but they can alert you that text messages have arrived on your smartphone. They also feature advanced noise-reduction technology for clearer calls.
Other dedicated Bluetooth-to-cellular gateway appliances are appearing. The Xlink Cellular Bluetooh Gateway is a small appliance that connects up to three cell phones to all of the phones in your place (wired or cordless). The basic model without landline capability costs $40; another with the ability to connect a landline to the network costs $45.
The Cobra PhoneLynx (about $30) is the simplest and cheapest of the Bluetooth-to-cell gateways I have seen. Not much bigger than an iPhone itself, the PhoneLynx has only two buttons. Place up to two cell phones where they get the best reception, hook them up to PhoneLynx via Bluetooth, and plug the PhoneLynx into an available landline jack and power supply. When either cell phone rings, the hardwired or cordless handsets in your place will ring. Calls placed from any handset are routed through one of the cell phones. The PhoneLynx supports up to three landline handsets or ten wireless base stations for cordless handsets.
Another device that can help to boost cellular coverage around the house is a microcell. This gadget connects to your existing Internet service and broadcasts a cellular signal to nearby mobile phones. Think of it as a mini cellular tower in your living room. Some readers have told me that their mobile providers have given them a microcell for free when they complained about lack of service in their home. If you can't finagle a freebie, you can probably find a microcell compatible with your mobile provider for about $100 on eBay.
And there's always the option of switching to another service provider. My daughter's T-Mobile phone wouldn't work inside our house at all. But Verizon and AT&T have strong signals here. Just be aware that there may be an early termination fee for cancelling your mobile service plan. Some providers will reimburse you for that fee if you switch to them.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 19 Aug 2014
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved