Improve your Small Business' Cellular Coverage @ Lowest Cost.

Posted by on October 27, 2017

In today's small business world, wireless connectivity is essential. Employees are working remotely and staying connected to colleagues, customers and families while on the move. Most of this is made possible by using cellular technology. When that mobile technology does not work, people get frustrated quickly. Dropped calls and service that is not reliable make people feel that they are living back in the dark ages. Farther away from the tower your office is located, the worse the cellular reception. Building walls and low emission glass windows make matters worse. What can you do, to improve your small business' cell coverage at zero, or atleast an affordable cost?

Improve your business cellular coverage.

The reality is unfortunately that cellular services are still not as reliable as we would like them to be. In a recent survey, 72% of cell phone owners reported that they occasionally experienced dropped calls. If you run a business, you will know that this is bad news for team members that depend on a reliable cellular service to manage customer service, connect with vendors and coordinate with other employees. It is not only frustrating to lose a call or having spotty service, but bad cellular connectivity can impact negatively on customer service, the delivery of goods and your company's reputation.

By the same token, homeowners living in remote areas or on a big piece of land do not have time to walk through the house to find reception, or go outside to find the one spot where they can make a call, especially during a snowstorm or in 100-degree heat.

Advantages of working from home are also quickly negated by unreliable cellular service. It is not worthwhile to set up a home office if have to get up and move outside for every phone call. The purpose of cellular technology is after all to create more flexibility, not less.

One way in which poor cell reception can be solved is by using wireless coverage solutions. Many of these will guarantee reliable connectivity that will help you improve your business' efficiency. In this article, we will look at some of the available cellular coverage options for office and home, and also explore the disadvantages and advantages of each.

Why do we get Poor Cell Reception?

Reception problems are caused by two main issues: obstruction and distance.

Geographic location. For a phone to work properly, it needs to be within a certain distance from a cell tower. If this distance is too far, the signal will be weak or undetectable. This commonly happens when working or living in a remote area.

Obstructions. When a man-made or natural obstacle exists between the nearest cell phone tower and a phone, the strength of the signal is affected. Common obstructions are:

  • Natural Terrain - Any natural obstruction between the cell tower and the device will block cell signals. This includes mountains, hills, canyons, ridges, and bluffs.
  • Vegetation - Cell signals can be weakened and absorbed by shrubbery, trees, or any other type of foliage.
  • Man-made objects - The main obstruction to cell signals in urban settings is buildings. Radio frequency (RF) signals cannot pass through brick, metal, concrete or even glass easily. Almost any building could have reception issues inside the building. Standing outside, but being surrounded by tall buildings can also cause spotty cell reception.

How to detect a Poor Signal?

Most cell phone users detect poor cell phone reception by looking at the "bars" display at the top of the screen. While this provides a quick check, there is no standard that defines what a bar of signal signifies. This check does therefore not really present an accurate indication of signal strength, nor does it explain why a signal is poor.

Below are some additional ways to test your cell phone’s signal strength:

  • Apple iOS and Android phones provide a "Field Test Mode" option to test signal strength. This utility will show signal strength in decibels (dB) and not in bars. The signal is stronger the closer the number is to 0. -90dB is for example a stronger signal than -105dB.
  • If you get poor reception inside a building, go outside and check if the signal strength improves. If it does, this could indicate that building materials interfere with the signal.
  • Using a signal meter to conduct a site survey is the best test. A signal meter detects and displays bandwidth, signal frequency, and strength accurately in real time for all carriers providing service in vicinity.

If any of the tests show a signal that is especially weak, it may be time to look at connectivity solutions. Fortunately, there are numerous options available to help solve signal strength problems.

When is a Cell Signal Good?

  • > -70 dBm: Perfect signal strength.
  • Between -71dBm and -80dBm: Coverage for Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) and Broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS) bands decreases. Coverage for Cellular and LTE remains strong.
  • Between -81dBm and -95dBm: Coverage for all bands has decreased substantially.

What Options Are Available?

You may be able to fix the cell phone service in your office or home by simply boosting it. There're many easy-to-install, user friendly options available in the marketplace. It is however important to prioritize what you're looking for in a system to make sure you choose the best option for your requirements.

  1. Building size: Bigger buildings need more hardware so that the area of the building is covered and interior obstructions are accounted for.
  2. Available Budget. Connectivity options are available for any budget, from multi-million-dollar solutions to free-to use applications.
  3. Users. If you have a businesses with many staff members or plan to grow aggressively, you will need a dynamic solution that has the capability of handling multiple devices without sacrificing quality.
  4. Ease of installation. Various connectivity solutions can be installed as a work-around or improve signal strength in minutes, while others have complex installation requirements that could take up to a year to install.
  5. With these parameters in mind, let us look at some options:

    Digital applications.

    Digital applications such as Google Hangouts, Skype, and Apple FaceTime are commonly used as cellular connectivity alternatives. They offer accessible digital communications solutions and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and can be used for voice calling, video calling and instant messaging.

    These applications often provide a free-to-use, easy service across multiple devices. Some also allow calling over both internet and cellular connections, providing a useful alternative to traditional cellular voice calls. Like Wi-Fi calling however, this options does not solve spotty cellular service.

    Although digital applications offer an alternative to traditional cellular service, quality and security issues limit their use. Quality is dependent on bandwidth availability and reliable connections, so using a computer and making a VoIP call over the same network at the same time may result in poor voice quality. VoIP calls are also vulnerable to threats such as malware, viruses and identity theft.

    They therefore do not offer much value to larger businesses that need enhanced security, seamless call transition, or a scalable in-office solution.

    Network Extenders.

    Network extenders, often called small cells, microcells, or femtocells. They are available through most major operators. As they use the existing internet, they are easy to set up in an office or at home. Network extenders connect via Ethernet and provide up to four active devices with enhanced 4G LTE coverage.

    Network extenders availble from service providers are however only effective in building areas smaller than 7,500 square feet. A network extender’s impact on cellular connectivity is also negligible if more than four devices are used simultaneously. The location of the device is also limited as it needs to be connected to a router’s Ethernet port. This limited flexibility may prevent cellular signal improvement where it is most needed.

    Wi-Fi.

    Many companies believe that Wi-Fi calling is the easiest fix for cellular connectivity problems. Handsets from most major operators allow users to place calls using a wireless internet connection. Users can make a phone call across any Wi-Fi network connection when the Wi-Fi calling functionality of a phone is enabled.

    This option is cost-efficient and user-friendly and can be used in any office, home or retail location with a Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi calling offers a quick, easy solution to overcome spotty cell coverage.

    Wi-Fi calling does however have some drawbacks. Wi-Fi calling can only be effective with a Wi-Fi-enabled handset and seamless Wi-Fi coverage. It also competes for bandwidth with any other device on the same network. When using Wi-Fi on a network connected to multiple tablets, laptops and smartphones, there might not be enough bandwidth to support a reliable connection. Customers wanting to use Wi-Fi calling in a retail setting could struggle to sign into a Wi-Fi network and find it a nuisance, therefore preferring alternatives to offloading data usage.

    Wi-Fi calling also has security concerns as calls placed over Wi-Fi are vulnerable to digital threats from outside.

    Wi-Fi calling does not provide a long-term, stable solution, although it does offer an affordable quick fix to cellular connectivity problems.

    Passive Distributed Antenna Systems (Passive DAS) or AKA Cell Phone Signal Boosters.

    A passive Distributed Antenna System (DAS), is also known as a bi-directional amplifier (BDA) or a cell signal booster system. These devices enhance existing signals with passive amplifiers and components, using antennas on the outside of the building to capture the cellular signal, and passing it through a booster. The booster only amplifies the signal and does not change it in any other way.

    A passive DAS complies with FCC regulations so it normally does not need outside approval. There are however some industrial products that do need approval from operators. As most systems are pre-approved and installation does not require much infrastructure, a passive DAS solution can be installed to eliminate wireless signal problems in a few days or weeks. A passive DAS is financially viable for a wide range of users.

    Most passive DAS systems support multiple carriers at the same time. As the system boosts existing cell signals, all users benefit, regardless of device or carrier.

    Active Distributed Antenna Systems (Active DAS).

    An active Distributed Antenna System (DAS) is the most robust cellular connectivity solution. It is also the most infrastructure-intensive. An active DAS offers a high-capacity, carrier-grade infrastructure solution for huge areas.

    An active DAS uses its own cellular signal to create cell coverage within a building by distributing the signal between "remote nodes" placed around a building and a centralized signal source. Active DAS systems are typically used in large areas with thousands of users accessing the network. Arenas, airports and large convention centers typically use an active DAS.

    Although an active DAS is a robust solution, it is extremely expensive and requires significant investment of capital, infrastructure and time, including the implementation of a dedicated backhaul.

    An active DAS is also carrier specific, meaning it will only enhance the connectivity of the user’s chosen network. Per FCC regulations, any installation must be approved by other carriers who may be affected.

    Summary.

    Each option discussed has benefits and drawbacks. While some are suited for home and small office use, they may not be robust enough to support high volume usage, or may lacksecurity.

    Consider your building’s size, the number of users that need to be accommodated and the available budget when evaluating cellular connectivity options for your home or business. Rest assured that there is a solution that will meet your requirements, from cost-effective, easy-to-install options for the home, to reliable, business-grade systems for the office. Submit an equipment and/or installation quote request today to resolve connectivity problem in your large small business building or facility.

Questions? Call us for a FREE product recommendation. Need a cell phone booster installer? We offer installation services by a certified installing team that installs boosters nationwide across USA and Canada. Submit your details for a quote to have your amplifier kit installed by professionals.

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