Can you hear me now?

That's all the love I have to give.

That’s all the love I have to give you. Click.

In many of the countries I traveled to in Africa, it wasn’t uncommon to find myself in places with no mobile phone reception. But, this was almost always in rural areas, on the road between towns, or out in the bush. And even then, it always amazed me how you would see cell phone towers in the most remote locations (often guarded by one lone man employed to watch the cell phone tower and usually living in a windowless, one-room, cinder block “house” next door).

Before I started traveling in Africa, it hadn’t even occurred to me that you could be out of cell phone network. I was a naive city girl used to living in densely populated metropolises like London, where the only place you couldn’t connect a call was in the underground. I honestly don’t think I can remember a single instance in which I tried to make a call in London and wasn’t able to connect it because of lack of coverage. I’d often draft text messages while I was in the tube, hit send, and as I was tapping out on my Oyster card and before I’d even made it up the stairs to street level, the message would go through.

Now, for the first time, I’m regularly using a cell phone in the US – the last time I lived state-side, I was using land lines like everyone else (!), and my visits home have been infrequent and short enough that I never needed a US cell phone. But now that I’m back for a while, and thanks to the “old” iPhone my brother generously donated to me, I find myself a regular cell user.

And my cell “reception” makes me want to throw my phone and stomp on it, pull my hair out, or both. I’ve repeatedly had calls drop, found myself in buildings with no reception, and had to huddle near windows and doors to make calls. Most of the time my phone displays only two bars for the level of reception. I’d complain about this more if it didn’t go down so often to just one bar.

Three or four bars is doing really well; I don’t think I’ve ever seen it display a full five bars, and I wouldn’t hope for it – I just don’t think it has that much love to give. What little bars it has in its heart it doles out meagerly, and when it needs some alone time, it pulls the silent treatment on me, that loveless dotted line of zero bars. Or worse yet, it walks out the door, leaving only a note that says “Searching…”

I just don’t get it. This is the service I have experienced in downtown San Francisco and Washington D.C., not on a dairy farm in Indiana. How on earth can the cell phone reception in the US be this bad? Am I missing something? Or does T-Mobile just suck salty cell phone towers and I need to switch carriers and/or install an antenna on my phone?

But even then, I just don’t understand how such a major carrier can offer such patchy service. My impression from my personal experience is that the extensiveness of the coverage and the quality of the calls is just much higher in many European countries than in the US.

I can understand that the US is a large country, with many rural areas, and many states probably have a notably lower population density than comparably sized European countries. But surely in the nation’s capital, I should be able to have reliable reception, no matter what street corner I’m standing on or no matter what building I’m inside. Am I being unreasonable?

I tried to do some research online to find some more concrete information that might back up my anecdotal evidence, but I wasn’t able to come up with anything. I’d really like to get to the bottom of this mystery. Any ideas? Anybody else have a similar experience?

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3 Comments

Filed under Communications, Service

3 responses to “Can you hear me now?

  1. David Fahrland

    T-Mobile is the revolutionary carrier, but a bit backward in reception. i can’t get reception in my city apartment, so i have had to rent a T-mobile land line (OK, it’s only $9.99 per month). If you want the best coverage, i recommend Verizon but I’m still loyal to my UnCarrier T-mobile, warts and all.

  2. David Montiel

    I’m surprised about it as well. In Canada the reception was way better!

  3. Liberiana

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that has experienced this…

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