The Intersection of Cell Phone Coverage and Where to Live

by Mark Wellborn


Over on Atlantic Cities this morning, Tim De Chant does a great job dissecting why cell and smartphone coverage is getting more and more spotty in major metropolitan areas. In short, cellular networks “are running out of spectrum” in dense cities, and as networks advance from 3G to 4G, the range of cell towers servicing these areas is being cut.

But what caught UrbanTurf’s eye was the last sentence in his column:

“Chances are you’d rather not pick your next apartment based on proximity to a speedy cell phone tower…”

In April 2010, Janelle Nanos wrote an article for UrbanTurf on the growing importance that cell phone coverage plays in a person’s decision to rent or buy a home. Greg Lopes, a renter in Columbia Heights at the time, discovered after moving into his apartment that the only place his phone worked was out on the patio. On CellReception.com, there was a chorus of frustration about poor cell phone coverage, ranging from locations near 15th and South Capitol Street NE to apartments along Wisconsin Avenue.

When prospective renters and buyers walk through a property these days, many are checking how many “bars” they get on their phones in the same way they check the water pressure in the shower. More and more, poor reception is becoming a determining factor as to whether or not they move into the home.

So, in a world where land lines are a thing of the past, what can be done to improve poor reception?

One of the solutions that De Chant outlines (in cities where building enormous new cell towers is not an option) is a technology called femtocells, small cellular base stations that are typically seen in homes or small businesses. However, the installation of femtocells are expensive, and it does not seem like a near-term solution:

“Femtocells can more cost-effectively reduce the size of cells than typical towers, but they aren’t an easy solution. Each needs to be fed by a physical connection—backhaul, in industry parlance. But backhaul is expensive, and cell phone companies are loath to build it.”

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/why_it_is_getting_harder_and_harder_to_hear_me_now/4213

1 Comment

  1. Genelle said at 11:26 pm on Friday September 23, 2011:

    Femtocells are not terribly expensive and are fed by your existing broadband internet connection.  You can buy an AT&T femtocell for home use for something like $150 and set it up in an afternoon.

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