Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Getting a poor signal on your phone?

I just had an email newsletter pop into my inbox from John Strand. If you don’t know him already, he's a long-serving mobilist with many years experience of consulting for various organisations on the subject of mobile telecoms.

I’ve often wondered myself why my phone varies in performance. I get that different networks will have an impact, but I hadn’t really thought what the other issues might be. John explains it in his recent newsletter which I’ve copied below for you (with permission). I’m interested to know what you think. How much do these factors affect performance and are there other things that can affect it? I welcome your thoughts and comments.

john strand“Various reports from around the world over the last three years note that have consumers increasingly experience poor coverage with their smartphones. The challenge for mobile operators is that the perceived coverage rarely reflects the quality of the network that the operators build and run, but rather the quality of the smartphones that people use. As a new ground-breaking study shows, the quality of the smartphone combined with how it is used and configured is more to blame that the mobile network.

Here are the 10 main reasons why you get a bad signal on you phone:

1. The wrong phone. There is a big difference in the quality of antennas in phones. As for the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3, the previous versions of these phones performed better in a major study of phone quality performed by Professor Gert Froelund Pedersen from Aalborg University, one of the world’s leading institutes for the study on antennas in phones.
2. Too many apps. The more apps you install, the less coverage you may experience. Apps create unwanted signal noise.
3. Free apps. Free games such as Angry Birds don’t not cost a penny, but they are filled with advertisements that eat your bandwidth and can contribute to poor coverage on your phone.
4. Open apps. It is a good idea to close them when not in use. Even if you are not using an app, it will still send and receive signals to the network.
5. Too many friends on Facebook or a few really active friends. If you have a lot of friends who ping and update you all the time from Facebook, this can also affect your experience negatively.
6. Your operating system. Even if you make sure you version is up to date, you run the risk that the new version is actually worse than the old. Plus you have to be sure to install all the proper updates. Android is also available in a multitude of versions, but each phone manufacturers adapts them differently.
7. A Samsung Galaxy S3 is not a Samsung Galaxy S3. Mobile phones are produced in a vast global manufacturing network and supply chain. The same phone may be made with different components from alternate suppliers. The model can vary both by country and within country.  There are at least 10 variants of the same Samsung Galaxy S3.  Your variant may not be optimal with your network.
8. Rush hour. During times of peak traffic, the same mobile mast must serve more users, so the quality per user may degrade. It's like getting into a packed train during rush hour.
9. Train travel. The metal tubing around windows in trains and related materials can be killers of mobile signals. When the train moves quickly, it can be difficult for your phone to switch connection between masts.
10. Telecom service provider. There is no such thing as the best network. The network that is best for you depends on which has coverage where you are when you use your phone.
The next time you experience poor coverage, take a look at your phone. Remember there are many things that can impact your experience beyond the network itself.

In the report “How to reduce the cost of mobile masts and improve regulation”, Strand Consult describes the challenges that operators face as they build and run mobile networks. In addition to Strand Consult reports, a number of institutions have recognized the role that smartphones play in the quality of coverage. If you want to know more about the report or about Strand Consult's experience in this field, click here..

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