Tired of dropped calls and limited coverage in areas around Central Florida? Are you bothered by your cell carriers colored coverage map that clearly states you *should* have signal at home, but you you don’t? Well, there is an analytical way to determine what is the best cellular carrier coverage you will receive at home, work and in any areas you plan frequent in Central Florida and beyond.
Before we dig into how, let’s review some basics behind your most revered gadget… (your cellular phone).
At a very simple level you probably understand the technical marvel you carry with you can transmit and receive radio signals which deliver our phone calls. (We won’t discuss the science of antenna theory or signal propagation in this article). These radio signals are transmitted by cellular towers.
Each tower has a specific distance which it can transmit. Some towers can transmit many miles. While others can transmit only a few hundred meters. Your ability to connect to the tower and maintain a call is affected by these and many other parameters. A few parameters include; tower network, location, height and transmit power.
A special note about location, due to Central Florida’s terrain, there are very few high elevations. You have noticed there are no mountains nearby. As a result, cell towers compete with building structures and the curved earth.
Cellular signals more or less travel in a straight line. If you imagine the curve ball shaped of earth and an antenna poking out of the ball. A straight line slanted from the top of the antenna eventually touches the horizon.
At the place that the line (which is our cell signal) touches earth is the last point where that signal can be detected (at that elevation). This is called line of sight. Technically a 6 foot tall person could have a better signal than a child with a phone if the signal is limited by the horizon.
Lastly, the magic is affected by the device you use. Some phones have better antenna and radio design, which can maintain a signal better in poor conditions.
Steps to superior signal
You will need a working cell phone to perform and active evaluation. If you don’t have a phone, ask your first prospective carrier if they have loaner or test phones. T-Mobile offers a trial with test phones. If this is not an option there is a web research option too. (Central Florida Top 5 has you covered)
Step 1: Where do you go?
- No carrier works everywhere. There are places in central Florida where there is no cellular coverage. Many of these places are in rural areas or located near large bodies of water or undeveloped land.
- There are four major carriers in the United States.
- They are alphabetically… AT&T, Sprint, T-mobile and Verizon
- There are other carriers.. however many of them do not operate their own cell towers.
- They lease tower access for their customers from the larger carriers. (These carriers are called MVNO’s Mobile virtual Carrier Operators.)
- If signal is your most important attribute above cost, start by noting the places where you spend most of your time. Home, work, gym, stores, restaurants and theme parks.
- Any place you will be for more than 30 minutes twice a month should be noted and added to a list.
OpenSignal provides an application which collects actual phone signal strength where cellular users are located.
- OpenSignal is not new, they have been collecting data for many years and have some of the most accurate real time signal strength data comparisons of all carriers worldwide.
- Upon opening the app you will see several tabs. You will be most interested in the coverage and stats tab. The coverage page will rate and carrier coverage at your exact location. For some of you… this will be a reality check.
- Once installed use the phone normally, in the places you listed above. It may be valuable to visit each on a day you have to time to drive around. Otherwise check the app at each location you frequent. OpenSignal will automatically notify you when you don’t have a signal. Therefore you don’t have to constantly open the app. Visiting the stats tab will give some insight into the past hour, day, week or month of coverage.
If you do not have a current cell phone plan, want or installing the application isn’t an option you can perform some manual research via http://opensignal.com/, by entering the addresses you collected in step 1.
For those who want to simply know what carriers OpenSignal has recorded with the best coverage. The top 3 are:
I still recommend you test for your area as this list is an average of the entire Central Florida area.
There are competing applications which provide similar data, one example which users might find useful is RootMetrics http://www.rootmetrics.com/ It is certainly useful, but lacks direct comparison and carrier ranking.
Higher Learning and sources
If you have any tips, suggestions or thoughts… post below!