Hello? Can you hear me? I think you disappeared? Helloooooo?
We’ve all experienced it. That call being dropped by what seems to be an inexplicable reason. Sometimes you can simply call back and continue the conversation and sometimes you have to wait a while. But if you are on the highway after a crash and your emergency call is dropped, it may feel more urgent that the call is actually completed.
Both the networks and the mobile phones themselves are complex and many things can contribute to interrupted calls. Sometimes the signal strength can decrease and increase while you are standing still and the whole thing may seem more like magic than as science.
What are the most common reasons why calls are disconnected or dropped?
1 Far from a cell tower or blocked signals
According to George Lamb, CEO of Nextivity, the most common reason for disconneted calls is that the signal is weak, which makes sense. Generally, you get stronger signal the closer to a cell tower you are and vice versa. In ideal conditions, your phone can work with a tower that is about 45 miles away but usually half the distance is more accurate. This depends on the towers’s own capacity and the mobile phone itself.
2 Things are in the way can cause dropped calls
The signals are affected by things that are in the way. On a mountain it is more likely that you can get a good signal than if you are down in a deep pit. Even the earth’s own curvature can affect the signals if you are far enough away from a cell tower. Reinforced concrete, something used in many new houses today, is another thing that can affect. Even a large bus can affect your signal strength. If you walk along a sidewalk in the middle of a city you can therefore temporarily get worse reception which then increases in strength again when the bus has passed by.
3 Rain affects coverage and signal strength
Neither Bluetooth signals, wind nor your travel speed affects coverage. Therefor these are usually not the cause of dropped calls. Rain, on the other hand, does. The high frequency wavelengths used by mobiles have difficulty moving through water. When it rains the water tends to block the signals between the tower and the phone. Warmer weather can affect signal strength because hot air can hold more moisture than cold air. Snow and hail can affect a little, but because they do not have as much water in it, they do not pose the same problem.
Because leaves on trees contain a lot of water, trees are very good at blocking mobile signals. Therefore, you can have better coverage in the forest in winter, when the leaves have fallen, than in the summer.
4 Overloaded cell towers often leads to dropped calls
Having good quality of the signal is as important as having a strong signal. A cell tower’s range is called a cell (hence the name cellphone). Places with dense populations usually have a larger number of towers with shorter signals, ie small cells. In sparsely populated areas it is more common with towers who have a long signal strength.
At various events, such as concerts or sports events, more phones are gathered around one and the same cell, which can cause that particular tower to become overloaded. What the tower does then is that it distributes signals to the next nearest tower. This is called cell breathing, used to balance the traffic. Then your signal might be sent to a tower that you do not really reach, your signal gets weaker and hence the call can be terminated.
These are the three most common reasons why calls are dropped. Of course, there is an almost unlimited number of other reasons that can cause this too. If you find that your calls are often disconnected, you can always contact your carrier.
Want to know more about how you can influence your mobile coverage? Read our blog post about 4 things you can do to get better coverage.
Latest update October 2020