Author Topic: Cell Phone Miseries  (Read 123 times)

Offline 19and41

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Cell Phone Miseries
« on: October 16, 2017, 05:58:43 PM »
I have been having nothing but trouble with my cell phone and/or provider for the last couple of weeks.  Their coverage has been tenuous at best at two locations:  Where I live and where I work.  in addition, I began to get messages that my voicemail, which I have never used is full.  As I don't use it, nor do i want people leaving lost messages on it.  I had to open contact with them (they are named after a chirping insect)  on my computer as the cell won't work here at work.  It took me 5 hours to work through getting the voicemail turned off.  Then We concentrated on my complaint about the poor coverage, explaining that my cell signal drops off completely when a train pulls into the transit station where I work.  They made out a service ticket, that was Friday.  Monday when I came into work this morning for most of the day there has been no signal at this location.  I just called them.  They said they had an open ticket on it and it would be another 4 to 5 days before they can do anything else.  I asked them if they really expected me to do without my phone servicefor that long.  They said they couldn't do anything more.  I am trying a new provider starting tomorrow morning.  Oh, and my turned off voicemail is full again.
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Offline HarrySmith

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2017, 06:06:24 PM »
I was curious about that compnay. After seeing their silly commercials I was wondering about their service. I guess you answered that one for me!
Glad I stuck with AT&T.
Harry Smith
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Offline twocvbloke

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2017, 06:25:19 PM »
Sounds like time to change providers, I haven't any idea what mobile networks are like over there, but I've never moved from my current network (Three UK) for my mobile phone since I signed up with them in 2009/10 as I've never had coverage issues with them... :)

Customer service is apparently appalling, but, I've never had need to call them up to deal with it...

Offline 19and41

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2017, 06:30:06 PM »
Unfortunately I went with this carrier from AT&T who owns it and shares the network.  I am looking at T mobile now.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Arthur C. Clarke

Offline TelePlay

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2017, 07:39:56 PM »
I was curious about that compnay. After seeing their silly commercials I was wondering about their service. I guess you answered that one for me!
Glad I stuck with AT&T.

The way it works is that the big two or three providers who cover most of the country off banwidth to these smaller mom and pop companies. Your phone may say "bug" but you are really accessing a Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and may one or two others.

It was these big companies that invested billions of dollars into building towers or renting space on existing towers and then installing the base equipment (3 cabinets - receiver, transmitter and battery backup), the large coax from the tower to the antenna platform and the antenna placed on the platform they rent from the tower owner, if they don't already own the tower.

There is no way the "bug" company could afford to do the hardware infrastructure which would do nothing more than duplicate the big boys networks. Under the TCA of 1996, the big boys are forced to sell some of the tower bandwidth to mom and pop providers.

The hang ups in service are available bandwidth (not enough for the number of phones trying to connect to the closest tower antenna), having an antenna in the area that accepts that providers signal, weather conditions (microwave signals absorbed by tree leaves, rain and high humidity - fog), physical blockage of the signal and in some cases, there is something wrong with the electronics for the antenna sector pointed toward your cell phone.

Every major company has a chief RF engineer who daily gets reports from every tower under their management. Reports include number of dropped calls, usage or volume and QC. They know which towers have bad electronics. They also know which are over loaded.

The way calls are dropped is quite simple. Each of the 3 sectors on one tower platform, one provider, uses what they used to call a pointer. This is in their software and it reads or measures how far from the tower a phone can be connected. If no one is on that sector, in the city is is about one mile and in the country about 3 miles. As more phones connect to the tower, the power used for that sector is divided up between calls. At some point, the sector will become over loaded and the pointer will shorten. As it shortens, the software decides which phones can be connected. Those closest to the tower, within the range of the pointer, stay connected or will connect. If a phone near the tower tries to connect to a tower, the tower will accept that call but since the tower is at capacity, one phone outside the pointer will loose its connection.

The networks are smart enough to realize this is happening and will try to pass the phone being dropped from the at capacity tower to another tower which will be in range of its pointer. You can sometimes hear this in that the volume will become weaker or you will hear the transfer click.

The networks have been built out for more that 15 years so most capacity problems have been taken care of. But not all of them. As for your train station problem, it could be one or more issues: 1) high usage of a cell provided with limited bandwidth; 2) bad tower equipment; signal blockage; or something else. I guarantee you will get a song and dance from the up front customer service people. Only the RF engineer knows what is going on and the Customer Service people are told to placate the complaining customers. I worked with the RF engineers so know that side of the business most never see.

Going with a national carrier could resolve this issue. They would have more bandwidth, better base equipment and give preference to your phone over the mom and pop piggy back carriers.

This is an image of the 3 cabinets at the base of every tower, 3 cabinets for each carrier on a tower - receiver, transmitter and battery (lasts about 4-6 hours max)

Next image is a large city with 5 towers near Lake Michigan. You can see how the RF propagates quite well over water but is absorbed and blocked by terrain. City towers are usually 100-125' high and closer together due to city call volume.

Next image is a rural moderate sized city with 3 towers covering the city but loosing signal the farther away one gets from the towers. There is nothing north of this city so no cell phone coverage north. Other towers not shown may connect to the west and south.

The last image is a major highway connecting the rural city to a larger city. These are 200-250' towers about 6 miles apart. You can see the good coverage in red and okay coverage in orange and one bar weak in yellow - no signal in white. The spotty irregular coverage is due to terrain and trees.

These maps are from 17 years ago and "theoretical coverage before the tower was built" so actual coverage may be different and hopefully better in the white areas today, don't know. Just providing some insight using old, now irrelevant maps into cell networking from the RF engineers point of view. These maps were used by me to justify conditional use permits in County/City/Town Board hearings to build the towers as one of the major companies was expanding it's coverage as required by law in the TCA of 1996 - something like 80% of cities and major highways had to have coverage by 2002 or they would loose their license.

Keep in mind that the towers shown on these maps are only for placement for one of the towers showing it's interaction with adjacent towers. There are more towers not shown which provide coverage to the east of the city map. The map was to show why a tower was needed in one location to fill a gap between two other towers or in the case of the highway, to show coverage between cities already having full coverage.

Enjoy, and now you know what cell network coverage looks like and why connections problems can occur.
            John . . .

              

Offline 19and41

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2017, 01:00:04 PM »
Well, I went to T mobile this morning and set up service in less than a half hour.   I am sending this from the once dead area at work. I get 5 bars at home and 3 here. They ported my number in 10 seconds.  I am a happy camper.
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Offline TelePlay

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2017, 01:17:09 PM »
Well, I went to T mobile this morning and set up service in less than a half hour.   I am sending this from the once dead area at work. I get 5 bars at home and 3 here. They ported my number in 10 seconds.  I am a happy camper.

Good to hear. That's one of the problems with mom and pop carriers that provide cheap phones and plans, they get the left overs on the network. Inexpensive and good service are an oxymoron in cell network tech.

Below are two of the above maps merged showing how the far left highway tower meshes with the far east small city tower.

These are radio wave propagation maps created by very special software that factor in terrain and trees on that terrain.
            John . . .

              

Offline twocvbloke

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2017, 01:18:28 PM »
Good to hear, never liked T-mobile here myself when they took over one2one in about 2002/2003 and scrapped my priceplan without telling me making it more expensive (moved to Virgin Mobile not long after, which worked on the same network but had the old one2one priceplan), but T-mobile here are now merged with Orange to form EE, making a bit of a mini-monopoly, especially as they're in the triple-play system (Mobile, Home phone and ADSL/VDSL)...

Offline 19and41

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Re: Cell Phone Miseries
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2017, 01:42:40 PM »
One thing also, I work in the radio maintenance department of a large transit authority.  Our trunked digital radios operate from 5 satellite repeater stations that share land and tower space with several cell providers.  And just outside one of our equipment shelters is a set of cabinets just like the ones TelePlay pictured.  It dawned on me last Friday that it had to have been Cricket that was providing poor service while using what should have been a good network for coverage.  They sealed the deal last night when they thought I was going to just settle for having no phone for the next 5 days.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Arthur C. Clarke