Things to Do to Boost Cell Phone Reception

By Editorial Team

Updated September 09, 2022

You don't need to stand underneath a cell phone tower to boost your phone's signal.
i Leonid Sorokin/iStock/GettyImages

You're driving down a remote dirt road and you need to make a call – but your cell phone is in a dead zone and doesn't get a signal. Rather than just throwing up your hands in disgust and driving until you get reception, there are alterations you can make to your phone as well as products you can use to boost your wireless reception.

What is a PRL Update?

PRL is the abbreviation for "Preferred Roaming List." This information tells your phone which cell phone towers connect to the network on which it runs, and the order in which to connect to towers in your area. T Mobile sends out these updates automatically; you probably haven't realized your phone has been receiving them.

However, you can also update T Mobile PRL manually through your cell phone. For Android devices, go to the main menu and select "Settings," followed by "System Settings" or "System Update" and then "Update PRL." It takes less than a minute for your phone to update automatically. For iPhones, tap "Phone" and dial the T Mobile PRL update code, ##873283# (i.e. "##UPDATE#"), then press "Call" and tap "OK" to complete the process.

Verizon offers another way of updating your PRL. First, dial "*228" on your cell phone and press the "Call" button. Listen to the menu options and select option 2. Selecting this will automatically update your phone to include your provider's current network. Wait until the automated voice tells you the updating process is complete before hanging up.

Consider Signal Repeaters and Boosters

The magazine "PC World" divides these products into two categories: signal repeaters and femtocells. Signal repeaters – also called boosters – act by amplifying the signal sent by cell phone towers, strengthening your reception. Sold by third-party companies, some popular brand names include Wi-Ex's ZBoost and products by Wilson Electronics.

Try to Boost Mobile Signal With Femtocells

Femtocells – which utilize newer technology than signal repeaters and boosters – are typically attached to the wireless router in your home. They act as mini-cell phone towers, and can generate a five-bar cell phone signal to any phone within 2,500 feet. They are sold by wireless providers, including Verizon's Network Extender, AT&T's 3G MicroCell and Sprint's AirWave.

Re-Evaluate Your Carrier

Some carriers are rolling out larger networks with more powerful signals. Both Verizon and T Mobile offer 4G networks across most of America. Many companies are rolling out 5G too, although there have been delays. These networks can increase the size and strength of your signal, but they may only be available on certain phones and in certain areas of the country, particularly with the most up-to-date technology. Visit your wireless provider's website to view a map of their coverage area and compare it to the coverage map from other networks.

Attempt DIY Alterations

There are other, less conventional ways to boost your mobile signal. The website offers several options for increasing reception, such as attaching a piece of insulated wire or a paper clip to the antenna of your phone. Paul Michael, the editor of WiseBread, says he's tried these techniques with moderate success. However, cell phone providers do not recommend these alterations, as they can damage your phone as well as nullify the terms of any warranty you may have purchased from your wireless carrier.