Measuring Signal Strength in Decibels on Your Cell Phone!

(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

Measuring Signal Strength in Decibels on Your Cell Phone!

The coverage of the mobile network is improving over the years. The 4G technology increases both speed and range by the combination of long and narrow bands. In the future, the 5G technology will further enhance it. However, we will focus on explaining the current types of coverage and how we can know what we have in numerical values and how to interpret it.

Currently, among the devices that we use daily and connect to the Internet, we have mobiles, tablets, and laptops. In them, bars and icons indicate the amount and type of coverage we have. Still, it is not the only way to know the range.

The types of coverage that we usually have and their speeds are:

  • G, GPRS or 2G: 6 Kbps
  • E, EDGE or 2.5G: 48 Kbps
  • 3G: 2 Mbps
  • H or HSDPA: 7.2 Mbps
  • H + or HSDPA +: 21 Mbps
  • LTE or 4G: 100 Mbps
  • 4G +: 300 Mbps, and up to 1 Gbps with Carrier Aggregation.

The coverage maps that feature all the major operators indicate the signal strength in certain areas through how radio waves propagate through the different regions and are measured in dBm (decibel-milliwatt). This measurement is estimated based on the range of each antenna, so they are usually not wholly reliable.

The dBm (measured in logarithmic scale) is usually the most accurate way to know the strength of wireless signals, both for mobile networks and Wi-Fi networks. This value ranges from zero to values ​​that are -120 dBm. A value of zero would be a perfect hedging situation. If the value is less than -120 dBm, we will be without coverage. The reference scale to follow is the following:

  • From -120 dBm: no signal
  • Between -120 and -104 dBm: shallow coverage (we will start to have problems making calls).
  • -103 to -98 dBm: low coverage
  • -97 to -90 dBm: medium coverage
  • -89 to -77 dBm: very good
  • -76 to -60 dBm: excellent

These values are usually available on the cell phone.

In the case of Android, some modified ROMs allow showing the numerical value. Still, we can also use Signal Notification, which shows the value in the status bar or with a widget or Signal strength, to show it with a widget on the desk. The latter allows knowing both the intensity of the mobile network and the Wi-Fi network. We can also see it without installing apps in Settings-About Phone – Network – Signal strength.

Suppose you need to know which tower you are connected to or which one is closest to you to improve your coverage by getting closer to it. In that case, you can use applications available on Play store for Android and Apple store for IOS. These applications will help you to locate the mobile phone tower connected with its distance.

 

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