What’s Blocking My Cell Phone Signal?

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Building materials, organic factors, cell tower location, cell tower capacity and a variety of other factors can have a negative impact on your cell phone signal.

So, you’ve got bad cell reception and your Fitbit numbers are climbing from baby-stepping around the building to get a better connection?

More than likely walking outside right now is your best bet for tapping into a clearer and stronger cell phone signal. There are real reasons for this. Building materials, particularly the materials that stand in the way of you and that clear cellular signal you need.

Cell phone carriers tend to be the scapegoats in these situations when the likely culprits are the materials and objects around you. Below is a list of things you will want to avoid next time you are unable to make or receive a call, text, or access other cellular data.

Some of the more obvious cell phone connection inhibitors:

Building Materials

  • Construction materials can be divided into non-conductive materials, which modestly impact your cell reception, and conductive materials, which have a much more significant impact. Conductive materials are most often electricity-conducting materials like tin, copper, silver, aluminum, and others that can absorb or completely block a cell signal. Non-conductive materials such as wood, drywall, plastics, glass, and others can reduce a cell phone signal but, in most cases, will not completely block a strong signal.

Organic Factors

  • Mountains, hills, snow-mounds, trees, water, corn fields, and other similar land and organic features can block or reduce cell signals. Each range in impact. For example, fresh water may reduce your signal whereas salt water will completely block it and a tree with no leaves may give you a clear connection whereas in spring, a tree full of leaves will reduce your signal. Keep in mind that the changes in seasons can have a huge impact on your cellular signal.

Cell Tower Location and Direction

  • Cell phone reception is a frequency or wave. When you think of a wave or ripple in a lake traveling a long distance, eventually the wave will diminish completely. This rings true for radio frequency (RF) signals also. The further you are from a cell tower, the less strength that signal will have. Additionally, you could be positioned right next to a cell tower and receive no connection (Related Post: AT&T Coverage Map). This is because the cell tower could be directing that signal right past you.

Cell Tower User Capacity

  • Think about concerts, festivals, sporting events, and other high-cell-user-concentration venues. A cell signal source has limitations on the number of users it can accommodate. This is why you may have trouble sharing a video or picture or making a call when you’re watching The Rolling Stones live at Desert Trip with 80,000 of your closest friends. On top of bandwidth limitations, humans, much like organic material, are filled with water and can absorb RF waves. Stack a line of humans between your cell connection source and your phone and you’ll be left with little to no cell signal.

Some of the less obvious cell phone reception inhibitors:


  • Earlier we mentioned that water can reduce your cell signal. Well, it can do that in each of its different forms. Fog, snow, rain, sleet, hail; these will all have an impact on your signal. On top of that, dusty air from strong wind, can also have a weakening effect on your cell phone signal. In fact, the air itself creates something called free-space path loss which severely diminishes cell phone signal strength.


  • Cars, busses, trains, planes, and others are most often built with a conductive metal shell. With many car manufacturers developing their newer car models with lighter, stronger aluminum frames, the reception limitations will only continue to grow.

Radio Frequency (RF) Interference

  • In the 21st century all of our devices are in constant communication with other people and devices. Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi signals, microwaves, AM and FM radios, GPS devices, and a whole slew of smart devices all use RF waves to get the job done and can have an impact on your reception if you’re surrounded by too many of them.

To sum things up, each of these inhibitors work in combination with each other. For example, one sheet of drywall will block some reception whereas ten sheets of drywall may block all reception.

This being the case, we suggest taking a combined approach to creating a space with good cellular reception. The best practice would be to use a cell tower locator app to place your antenna(e) in the best location on your property and, if you have reception outside of your building, use a cell signal booster and point the outdoor antenna at the tower and place the indoor antenna in your most used area of the house.

Here is a great post where you can learn about all of your options for improving cell phone reception.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. lisa says:

    I have so much trouble with no network, drop calls and sounds if I’m in tunnel. I live next to offices and huge shop for our power company, , there’s huge building of metal and my fence is tgere fence which they store power transform fir outages and alot more that gies aline with it. I switch cells compan6 still the same. Help

    1. Jon Bacon says:

      Lisa, glad you reached out! It sounds like you’ve got a lot of obstacles around you that are causing your cell signal to degrade. With some additional information our tech team should be able to recommend the right product for you. The best way to reach them is via phone at 888-365-6283, or email: support@surecall.com. If you prefer they contact you, just let us know in reply to this message and we’ll have someone reach out to you. No need to leave your email. Thanks!

  2. Dianne L Hawes says:

    After 12 hours (cumulative) with Sprint trying to resolve a reception issue, someone in Tech Support accidentally gave me useful info by asking about SIM status and asked me to run a speed test as well. Started to monitor phone, was running between -115 and -102 dBm and speed test 0.80 download, 0.30 upload. This is on a Samsung S9. The issue started after moving into an apartment Sept 1st. I lived in a small town down the road, no problem and before that I lived at several addresses in Portland OR area, no problem. And no problem away from my apartment. Magic Box could barely hold a single bar, so I sent it back. Swapped Sprint SIM for a T-mobile one – no change. Now they want to sent me a Casa Pebble (previously was denied one because I only have one line). I’m in a dead zone, but for nearly 2 months now, Sprint tried to blame my phone. Even with dBm stats and speed test result, tech support wanted to “troubleshoot” my phone yet again. If their Magic Box couldn’t pick up the signal here, not sure how the Casa Pebble is going to fare any better. For all the remote diagnostics allegedly done since Sept 1st, surely those tech support folks had to see how weak the signal is here and how slow the internet connection is, and yet they put on this show – turn your phone off and turn it back on. Enter these codes and then turn your phone off and turn it back on. Remove the SIM card and then reinstall it. Now turn your phone off and turn it back on. Please check to see if your software is up to date. Please update your Profile and (whatever that other thing is). Every time they absolutely promised me that whatever “Cure of the Day” they were offering, that was going to be THE THING that fixed it, guaranteed, for sure. (because I am such a valuable customer and they do not want me to stress myself over this issue any longer) I have noticed more emails with offers to upgrade to a new phone also (I bought my phone outright) but why would I spend that much money on a new phone when it’s the inadequate cell coverage in the area causing the problem, and not my phone ? I’d just have a bigger phone bill for a newer phone and the same issues I have now.

    1. Jon Bacon says:

      Sorry to hear about your frustrations Dianne. What you’re going through is unfortunately a common problem. Most of it is economical, given that it’s not cost effective for carriers to cover very remote areas where few people reside or use their devices. That said, if there is some usable signal outside, our boosters can be effective. They boost all carriers, so if you switch it will continue to work. They also are only a one time purchase price (and possibly installation depending on your DIY skills), but once it’s installed properly, you’re good to go for years. Good luck!

  3. Louise says:

    We are full-time RVers and have been battling cell signal weakness wherever we go. We have a Nighthawk MiFi, supposedly a great product highly recommended by mobile techies, and it’s running on the AT&T network. We are currently in an RV park in San Antonio, TX. We have one sparse tree about 30’ away and another motorhome about 15’ away on the left. The rest of our surrounding is wide open, no tall buildings in sight. This park is only 5 miles from the center of the city. There have to be cell towers all over the place. We get up in the morning, turn on the MiFi and it shows us 4-5 bars. During the course of the day, that signal drops to only 1 or 2 bars. I have a MiMO antenna that can suction to the windows, and it doesn’t matter where I go with that antenna, N/S/E/W, the signal never strengthens. I can understand not getting a signal in the woods of North Carolina, but I can walk to the hub of the 7th largest city in the US, and I’ve got 1 bar? I just got up and checked the MIFI and it’s up to 4 bars now. Next time I look at it, I might see 2. Please help me understand why this is happening!

    1. Jon Bacon says:

      What a great question! First, sorry for the delayed reply. The short answer is capacity. When cell towers have few users, it is able to give you a more dedicated signal. But when it has a lot of users trying to access it, especially when the greatest pull is away from you, your signal will drop. This is because the signal from a cell tower fluctuates or “breathes” throughout the day depending on the amount of people using their cell phone or cellular device in proximity to the tower. In urban areas, a cell tower will get heavy usage throughout the day, but the peak times are similar to what you might imagine: lunch breaks, early evenings, etc. Hope this helps!

  4. Karen a Broyles says:

    having trouble recieving calls

    1. Jon Bacon says:

      SureCall cell phone signal boosters are definitely able to help. If you have a specific question about which product might be best in your situation, please contact us at support@surecall.com.

  5. Dianne Hawes says:

    My issue was eventually resolved . Once customer service took it seriously, the complaint was dealt with.

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