Mark Lerner
Mark Lerner

August 20, 2013

5 Tips to Getting Better Reception

Nearly everyone has a mobile phone these days. Most people no longer have home phones and use their mobile phones exclusively. Due to our reliance on these types of phones, for both work and personal use, when we encounter poor reception it can significantly affect our lives.

There are a slew of possible causes of poor reception, from distance from your nearest cell tower to issues with your provider, poor reception is something that many people struggle with.

tawkon compiled a list of 5 tips on how to combat poor reception so that you can keep talking without worrying about dropped calls or poor sound quality.


Make calls from a fixed position

When you are in a moving car or train your phone is constantly looking and switching to the closest cell tower. This process has a significant effect on your reception quality, the more your phone jumps from one tower to another, the less reception you will get.

Preffered roaming list (PRL)

The PRL helps determine which home-network towers to use, and also which towers belonging to other networks to use in roaming situations (areas where the home network has no coverage.) When roaming, the PRL may instruct the phone to use the network with the best roaming rate for the carrier, rather than the one with the strongest signal at the moment.

The PRL is built and provided by your carrier, and used when your phone is trying to connect to the nearest cell tower. It indicates which radio bands, sub-bands, and service provider IDs will be searched for, then allows the phone to connect to the correct tower.  Without a correct and valid PRL, your phone won't be able to roam outside your home network, and may not be able to connect at all inside the network.  The database consists of an Acquisition table, which lists which radio frequencies to search for in which areas, and a System table, which tells the phone which towers it is allowed to connect to, and the preferred order.

The setup is fairly simple, and even if you don’t necessarily have poor reception all the time it can’t hurt to do.

Most carriers let you join the PRL by dialing a special number, for example:

  • Sprint: dial ##873283#
  • Telus: dial *22803
  • Metro PCS, US Cellular, Verizon (3G phones only): dial *228


Signal repeaters/boosters

While essentially doing the same job, Repeaters and Boosters accomplish stronger signal strength in slightly different ways. 

A Booster is hardwired into your phone, while a repeater is designed to provide wireless coverage to a specified area.

A Signal Repeater typically consists of an outside antenna, an amplifier that requires AC or DC power and an inside antenna. The inside antenna is sometimes attached to the amplifier on less powerful systems.

Both Repeaters and Boosters can be utilized by anyone, however the hardware itself is somewhat expensive.

The FCC has set in place specific rules that govern the use of Signal Boosters.


While repeaters have been around for several years, femtocells are relative newcomers to the mobile scene. Femtocells are a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in a home or small business.

It connects to the service provider’s network via broadband (such as DSL or cable); current designs typically support two to four active mobile phones in a residential setting, and eight to 16 active mobile phones in enterprise settings. A femtocell allows service providers to extend service coverage indoors or at the cell edge, especially where access would otherwise be limited or unavailable.

Femtocell’s advantages over other options include better phone battery life -- the phone doesn't have to work as hard finding a signal -- and a break on call charges, because the calls are sent over your own connection.

Do it yourself

If you want to go the way of MacGyver, there are plenty of “Do It Yourself” solutions, there are many articles with specific instructions on how to increase your phone’s reception.

From paper clips to soda cans, to an old wire hanger, you may be able to find your solution lying around your house.

While it remains a last resort for most people, if all else fails you might want to consider switching carriers

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