When does moving towards my active tower not work?

The signal arrow points you in the direction of the antenna dealing with your data. But moving in that direction will not always help. Here’re two reasons why:

If the arrow tells you to walk off a cliff or into a body of water it is advisable not to follow the arrow. High g-force impacts or immersion in water tend to be detrimental to your phone’s functioning.

Local geography might mean signal does not get better right away. The radio waves that carry your data act like… waves. This means they can refract, diffract, interfere and echo. As a very simple example of how this can cause problems: imagine a high building stands between you and your cell tower, blocking a lot of the signal. Moving towards that building may well make things worse – even though you’re moving towards your signal source. It’s sort of like moving in the direction of the sun to get more sunlight… often it works, but when there’s something in the way (like a building) you might do better to move away.

The signal arrow can help a lot in getting better signal. But sometimes you will want to assess the situation a bit before moving directly towards your tower. Maybe you want to move to, say, a gap between two buildings that gives you ‘line of sight’ towards that tower.

One Response to When does moving towards my active tower not work?

  1. Wolfgang says:

    If there is reasonable coverage a mobile is connected to more than one tower at any given point in time. This soft/er handover is an important design element of CDMA (wideband as well as narrowband) networks contributing substantially to the capacity of the network as well as to the quality perceived by the user. So monitoring just one cell doesn’t tell too much. Especially if this happens to be the cell with the strongest signal. Only the combination of the strength of the received signal with the noise level tells the story (the famous Eb/No or Energy per Bit over Noise). In fact the algorithm for radio management tries to reduce the signal strength as far as possible and does so >1.000 times per second (inner power control). This apporach is also reflected in the maximum power output of the cellphone which is 2W in GSM 900, 1W in GSM 1800 and 125mW (!) in WCDMA. The only situation where the max power of the cell plays a role is in the downlink determining the reach (cell radius) and the capacity per user. Both are closely linked eventually also leading to cell breathing, i.e. a changing cell radius (a.k.a. coverage) of the cell depending on the load of the cell.

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