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A question re theory: how signal strength fluctuates?

by motme / April 25, 2008 3:04 PM PDT

Here's a question that I just cannot get a good consensus on (and if you respond, please say whether you are "conjecturing" or you have technical expertise). I frequently see max number of bars on my phone and while talking, see the bars drop. Sometimes, the signal drops all the way to zero and my call gets dropped. I know this happens to other networks besides mine (Sprint). I also am reasonably familiar with cellular technology. I can understand if I am moving and the call had to be handed off to another cell but I am standing still (not even in a car). The last time I checked, the cell towers were not moving anywhere (even though I AM in CA). What gives?
Some theories that have been proposed have been that as new users enter the cell, the ones further away from the towers get a reduced signal. OK, but does anyone know beyond a "guess"?

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I'm a bit surprised here.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 25, 2008 9:11 PM PDT

That issue is widely documented. But if you have no background in electronics and specifically RF design then you won't have the basics needed to enter into a discussion. It will all sound like conjecture and "magic." Some may get visibly upset over technical discussions like this so the question is not the one you asked but how would you talk to them without hurting their feelings?

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Let's give it a shot
by motme / April 27, 2008 3:32 PM PDT

R. Proffitt
If it is widely documented, why don't I find it when I Goggle? Further, I also don't see it on this forum either. For grins, let's assume that we have a fairly intelligent audience. I''m pretty sure that I can explain esoteric topics such as string theory or even nuclear fusion without requiring my audience to be physicists or even have a advanced degree in the subject. If you are aware of an answer or even can advance a theory, I would be interested.
But if you can't describe what you know then how can we learn. After all, that IS the purpose of this forum isn't it?

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Do we need to show google search results?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 28, 2008 1:03 AM PDT
In reply to: Let's give it a shot
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different carriers
by listenman20 / April 27, 2008 12:41 PM PDT

I've had that problem when standing on the line between 2 different carriers towers. i may have full signal one minute then next not have anything then next i'm roaming with full signal.

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Two basic things
by Jimmy Greystone / April 28, 2008 12:40 AM PDT

Two basic things are at play here... One is the transmitting power of your phone. Transmitting a voice signal takes a lot more than your basic "I'm here" chatter that's taking place nearly constantly with your phone and the nearest tower.

The second would be the amount of traffic on the towers. If you live near a high school or some kind of college, I would bet that around the time classes get out, there's a huge spike in the amount of traffic. Or, if you just happen to live in some of the more populated areas of CA such as the LA or Bay Area, you can just have high amounts of traffic at all times.

You can only build so many towers in a given area, and each tower can only handle some finite amount of traffic. Combine that with all this 3G data stuff the carriers are pushing, things will tend to get congested.

And as Bob alluded to, there's always the possibility of some kind of EM radiation interference. Anything from someone's bluetooth headset nearby to maybe an FM transmitter for a MP3 player in a passing car, or a cordless phone... Even a microwave, can weaken the signal on your phone, and given the amount of power the average cell phone battery can output, there's not much you can do to overcome that background noise if it gets high enough.

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Let me see if I understand you:
by motme / April 28, 2008 9:13 AM PDT
In reply to: Two basic things

Thanks for your post. Let me see if I am getting your point: First - transmitting power. You are saying that my handset "meter" does not really reflect the actual signal strength (both transmit and receive). This is because the handset has limited transmit power. But why would the receive power be also affected (usually around the same instance)? I know when I am being "garbled" when my incoming conversation is quantizing. I would have to suppose that the towers have a much greater flexibility in scaling and power modulation than my measly handset.
Your second point is well understood. However, I am not totally convinced that the state of the cell/wireless is so "hit or miss". I totally understand the effects of interference, whether EMI, shielding, or just plain contention. What I don't get is why this isn't as apparent in many other countries? I compare our "quality" vs. other countries (including very populous countries) and I can't understand why they don't have the same interference (given similar usage/populations). I know this is somewhat anecdotal and our carriers have different issues than the carriers overseas, however, I think that one trait is clear. That is the willingness to make the network stronger and less trouble prone. Hence the advertisements that claim: "Fewest calls dropped", etc.

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