Ok everyone. I’m going to ask you a question. Name me one place where you regularly have signal problems. Not a geographic spot, but a place.
Yes, it’s a train.
Trains are a pain in the backside. On journeys to London it’s fairly usual to hear someone say, “Sorry, I lost you then. Hello? Hello? Hello?” into their phone… several times
Trains have a metallic coating which is designed to shield the windows from bright sunlight. They’re not conductive and you’ve also got to figure in the fact that you’re in a metal tube. It’s no good for a mobile phone signal. Another reason for the low signal is that trains tend to cut through beautiful and sparsely-populated areas of the UK where coverage perhaps wasn’t always a major concern when networks were originally built out.
In some trains there’s a booster. The likes of Virgin, with their fast and sleek trains, will boost the outside signal and will repeat it inside the train. It’s clever, but you might not find it on all trains. So how do they work? How are they fitted?
Well, a lot of trains didn’t have them originally, so they have to be retro-fitted. This Vodafone blog post has some excellent inside information. First, they have to find somewhere to actually put the booster box. This is hard enough, but once done they then need to ensure that the RF cabling connects to every carriage. This isn’t easy when you consider that carriages are detachable things and need to be swapped around regularly.
On top of the carriage are “shark-fin” antennas to actually pick up the original mobile signal. These feed into the booster, which then pushes the boosted signal out and down the RF cables to two small antennas in each carriage. If there’s seven carriages or more, the train operator needs an additional booster box, but with 30 different trains just on the East Midland network and most being in use, it took some time to install the required equipment.
Now though, if you’re lucky enough to be on a train with a booster, you can get a much more reliable connection.
However, even when you get home or to work, you can find that you’re without a signal. Whilst one network may have a strong signal, the network you’ve chosen – the one you’re stuck in a contract with – might not be quite as amazing. Whilst there’s solutions such as boosters which use your broadband etc, these are often very low power and won’t cover an entire office building or even a large home. It’s here that you’ll need to consider either dangling out of an upstairs window to get a signal or looking at a phone signal booster. The latter is easy to install too. You just need to put it in a location such as a loft space or roof where you can get a bit of signal, then it’ll repeat and boost the signal into the main living or working areas of your building so that you can get a healthy and strong signal.
Best of all, you can get mobile phone booster which cover all networks, so no need to worry about which mobile or which network you’re connected to – it’ll just work. Whether it’s 2G for calls or 3G and 4G for data, you’ll have the signal that you need in order to fully utilise your smartphone. Also, you’ll probably notice that your smartphone battery lasts a big longer as it’ll be searching for a signal far less.