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Do you have poor coverage / signal Indoors? This may help Explain / resolve it

by on ‎08-01-2013 10:15 - last edited on ‎29-05-2018 16:43 by Community Manager (98,482 Views)

This Guide may help explain the issue.


With the rise in smartphone usage that rely on 4g/3g signals as opposed to old basic handsets that used mainly 2g I see lots of posts saying since getting my new handset, the signal is worse than before. The text below may help explain the issue and give a solution.


At Present in the UK there are 6 frequency bands in use

o2/voda 900 2g/3g is not that greatly diminished by distance/ building materials, whereas 1800mhz EE / o2/voda and any 2100mhz 3g provider is. Also, remember that any 3g signal the cell size also gets smaller. All 4g on 800mhz is also not subject to the distance/building issues but 4g 2600mhz is, and more than the 2100mhz band and now the exclusive 2300mhz band high capacity poor in building


Mobile signals in the 900mhz o2/Vodafone etc 2g also penetrate buildings better unless the building materials have made the house a mini Faraday cage. The same for all 4g 800mhz providers


A real-life example

In the village I live in the pub that is some 3.42 miles (google earth measured) from the o2 mast direct line of sight the o2 900mhz 2g signal gets in through the 17th century solid stone walls (over a foot thick) 3 bars in most of the pub. Yet those on the now EE network have an 1800 MHz mast / 2100mhz 3g only 1.37 miles (google earth measured) from the pub yet struggle to get any signal in the pub having to put their phones on window sills etc or go outside to make a call send a sms etc.


This issue within building coverage these days is more to do with new builds/renovations being done to latest building regs with things like foil backed plaster board and foil insulation materials and high tech metal coatings on windows.


So for summary


o2 800 MHz 4g best at distance and building penetration


o2 900 MHz 2g/3g best at distance and building penetration


o2 1800 MHz 2g not as good as 900mhz (not too many masts in that band)


o2 2100 MHz 3g the worst for distance and building penetration (also the cell size varies by the number of handsets connected)


O2 2300 MHz 4g is the newest band and exclusive to O2 high capacity but poor in building


o2 has no 2600 mhz 4g (but would be worst for building penetration)


With most handsets defaulting now to the fastest connection o2 3g2100 /3g900 will be selected and gives the worst indoor coverage. Unless you are in a 4g 800mhz area when it will select that.


A Solution?

I always recommend when at home unless close to a 3g cell to turn 3g/utms off and go in to 2g/gsm mode only for a reliable call quality (assuming data is done via wifi) this also is advised if on a fringe 4g area and you see no signal on your device


I hope this helps explain the issue and helps people regain their coverage indoors they used to have. (2g)


Obviously, if you have always had a poor 2g coverage this will not help so looking at voip options may help if you have adsl and Wi-Fi O2 now have native Wi-Fi calling (handset dependant) and the o2ask app


Edit 8/1/2012 14.19 for accurate distances for example

Edit 23/04/2016 for updates for 4g

Edit 19/05/2018 for Wi-Fi calling and o2ask and new 4g band

on ‎08-01-2013 11:44

Good informative thread Adam.

on ‎08-01-2013 12:00

That should help a few people understand what goes on.


A saying I heard some years ago comes to mind "It's radio, not magic", sometimes people expect too much.

on ‎09-01-2013 09:56
Great post Adam. Very well done

I shall add this to this to the FAQs of this board, and perhaps others to be honest, as it is useable by all kinds of members.

Cheers, Toby
by Anonymous
on ‎02-09-2014 19:06
Sarcasm rarely helps anyone. It may be radio and not 'magic', but people expect to get the basics that their contract (where appropriate) bills them for.

O2 have a responsibility to it's customers to explain about coverage, especially where they live - this is a customers billing address and a primary point of use for their mobile phone.

I think it's fair to say that most users expect to be able to make or receive a phone call in built up areas and suburbs, with some exceptions being the middle of remote countryside. After all, that is what customers ultimately pay for.

So expecting too much (given the nature of this thread), is not the case.
on ‎02-09-2014 20:27

@Anonymous wrote:
Sarcasm rarely helps anyone. It may be radio and not 'magic', but people expect to get the basics that their contract (where appropriate) bills them for.

It's not sarcasm, it's physics. If you had no coverage at your address then you had a week to return your phone and cancel the contract. O2 cannot be expected to visit your address (and all their other customers) to check your coverage and the structure of your building for potential problems.

This thread (eighteen months old now) is about helping to understand why some locations have poorer coverage than others and options for mitigating signal problems or alternatives such as using VoIP over WiFi or TuGo.

on ‎02-09-2014 22:23
Unfortunately I see customers unrealistic expectations every day in my job Smiley Sad
on ‎03-09-2014 16:28
Nice post Adam, I try to explain this most days to people to try and explain how the networks work.

I've drawn more diagrams regarding this than I can imagine.

It's a fascinating subject I have to admit (Well it is for me lol)
by Anonymous
on ‎21-09-2014 13:31

Its not only phyics its very well know physics that higher frequencies have poor penatration. Now, all the phone providers will have known this well before they even started transmiting. But they blame the physics, when it is clearly not the physics its the phone providers. They should have provided more masts in the areas where the higher frequency bands where going to be affected so customers could still get the same or even better service.


But as usual the phone providers knew the higher frequency would mean more bandwidth hence more customers  and saw the £££££ rolling in and thought "stuff the customer satisfaction" we'll tell them its the physics.


No its the phone providers for not providing better coverage by building more masts to cover the same area with the higher frequency!!!!!

on ‎21-09-2014 19:28
This is an old thread. Though what you've missed is that the masts went up over 20 years ago under specific licencing requirements and with different technology let alone what was allowed in certain areas by landowners/councils etc. Try getting through the "process" what they did years ago and its a complex minefield of politics and demand.
by Anonymous
on ‎23-09-2014 17:05

Hello Adam, 
Very nicely writen explanation mate. 
It actualy helped me to educate myself.

I did notice that in newer models signal is much worse especialy indoors.

However even after truing to turn off cellular data the signal did not improve indoors. 
Iphone 5s Pay as You GO.

Help? Smiley Very Happy

by Anonymous
on ‎28-09-2014 14:35

That just makes things a lot worse, we have companies like o2 make hundreds of millions of pounds in profit off customers by supplying them with substandard service, using 20 year old technolog. Shocking!! And to top it off they blame redtape. 


Facts are O2 bought the shiny new frequency range, they knew the physics, they advertised the benifits to customers, got them onto contracts charged them more for the service and left them short by not upgrading their systems and blaming redtape. Scewing the customer over to maximise profit.

on ‎28-09-2014 14:44

They are committed to upgrading the service but it's poor consolation for those trapped into the contract now with mast congestion and poor coverage. I can only hope that upgrades are moved along at a faster rate than we are seeing now.

by Anonymous
on ‎21-07-2015 12:20

Nicely explained 


I'm an O2 customer and I've just got a new phone


I never remember having too many problems before with signal indoors , however, it's barely 2 bars inside these days , 


I have now changed my signal indoors to 2G only and I get full signal ,  indoors I have wifi , so no need for data


So the answer is then -  when I'm out and about I activate 4g / 3g if I can get it , and at home just use Wifi and 2g - not ideal as I have to keep playing with settings, BUT if it means I can hear the person at the other end of the phone and not be cut off in the middle of a call then so be it 


Is this still a widespread problem for O2 customers ?  do other networks have this problem?



on ‎21-07-2015 12:36

There has been a congestion problem now for months but check the status page to see if there are any issues in your area or if any work is planned.

Service Status

on ‎21-07-2015 13:05
The 2g signal will always penetrate buildings better and give a decent indoor signal on whichever network you are on (unless it's Three).
by Anonymous
on ‎10-09-2015 11:17
Thank you, thank you.

I read the information above and as I only have an o level in Physics, not a degree, it made sense but did not translate into a solution.

After ringing o2 or 18 months, trying 2 different phones, new sim cards, trying Wifi (made no difference what so ever), being fobbed off, and being frustrated having to move around my house to talk to people (hard with mobility problems) & regularly having calls failing - here is the solution. Have turned off my 3g, and have a consistent 3/4 bars and no swinging up and down.

Wish I had known this sooner, or O2 customer services/chat etc had suggested it. Yes its a pain not getting downloads as fast, but primarily I have a phone to PHONE people.

Thank you so much. Smiley Happy
on ‎10-09-2015 11:28
If you still connect to wifi you can download data over that so no need for 3g to download. Just leave it on 2g unless you move out of range of wifi.