How to Get Better Signal With Verizon Wireless

by Ken Burnside

Verizon Wireless sells cellular phone services and wireless data plans for both phones and as an alternative to conventional broadband services for the home. These data plans are part of Verizon's 4G LTE network. Wireless connections have any number of reasons for bad reception, mostly dealing with signal strength and the relative distance to a cellular tower.

How Cellular Phone Systems Work

Cell phone systems use overlapping towers that transmit handshake signals to cellular phones. As the phone moves, its location data moves from one cell phone tower to the next. If you've seen a car tracked by a phone's signal strength in a police procedural drama on television, you've seen this illustrated. While dramatic license reigns on the set of NCIS, the fundamental principal is sound, and it doesn't matter if the cell phone is making a voice call or sending data for an Internet connection. As far as your network is concerned, data is data.

Bad Signal Causes

Each cell phone has a set of antennas tuned to the slice of the radio spectrum a given cell provider uses. In the U.S., the cell phone signals are at 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. In Europe, the cell phone spectrum used is 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. Factors ranging from condensation near the part of the phone where the antenna is placed to the materials between your phone and the cell phone tower can cause the radio signals to be absorbed or reflected before the cell phone antenna catches them. The leading cause of bad cell phone reception is metal mesh or grounded metal structural members, both of which tend to absorb the incoming cell signal and run it to ground by induction. Another candidate is concrete.

Overcoming Weak Reception

For home users who want a better wireless broadband signal, the best result comes from mounting a directional antenna over your wireless receiver's high-gain antenna. This effectively acts like a focal reflector on a stage light; the wireless signal comes in, is reflected off the metal reflector and towards the antenna. This, coupled with making sure that your existing wireless broadband system is near a window that's facing the nearest cell tower, can be an inexpensive solution.

Cellular Network Extenders

There are two broad categories of technical solutions for boosting signal strength in your home. Femtocells, which act like miniature cell towers and reroute some of your voice calls and data services to a wired broadband connection, and cell phone repeaters and boosters, which amplify and rebroadcast the signal from the nearest cell phone tower. Both types of devices can be found at electronic supply stores. Repeaters and boosters tend to be more expensive and require a bit more technical skill to set up; they require you to position the antenna near the window with the strongest network signal and run wires to where you want the repeater to broadcast.

About the Author

Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.

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