July 27, 2009 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Cellular reception is horrible in my area. I get at least 2 dropped calls during my commute to work, and every cellphone I've used is generally worthless indoors. What's the best way to pester my service provider into fixing this?

I live in central coast California and spend at least 2 hours a day traveling up and down the 101 (between Salinas and San Luis Obispo). If I take an entire trip down the 101 between those two cities, WITHOUT FAIL I will get AT LEAST 2 dropped calls. I've switched cellphones twice (previously a Samsung Eternity, currently a Sony Ericcson slider).

Outside my own home (in the middle of town, I don't live out in the woods or anything) AT&T gives me an average of 2-3 bars out of 5 for reception. Indoors, however, my phone is absolutely worthless. It doesn't matter who's home I'm under, the process I endure to send a single text message consists of either:

A) Gingerly placing the phone on a stationary surface, pressing the send button while simultaneously observing if my finger on the button increases or decreases the reception enough for the message to send.

B) Constantly checking the outbox to ensure that the message went through... and that it went to the right person.

C) Playing peek-a-boo with my single, disappearing reception bar. PEEKAB... awwww it's gone :(..... WHOAH! PEEKABOOOO.... damn, gone agai--- OH GOD! :D PEE--- BASTARD COME BACK!

D) Pacing around the house for a sweet spot. I find that being in front of mirrors improves the chances of getting a signal for some reason. Also, laying the phone on a solid surface increases reception. I think the accelerometer changes how the antenna interacts with the signal... but I dunno, I'm just guessing/talking out of my ass here.

E) Giving up and walking outside.

I honestly feel that my plea will fall on deaf ears if I call AT&T. The only way they'd give a damn is if I'm a big company who has lots of business with them, or if I threaten to cancel my accounts... but lately, they don't seem to respond to that anymore (I call them on occasion for my company and they're still lousy). In fact, I don't feel I should be paying for such a crappy service since it doesn't work as well as promised. Is there anything I can do to get better service? Anyone I can call that would actually do something about it?


If you work for AT&T... FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PASS THIS ON TO YOUR SUPERIORS. I'd switch carriers, but I already signed another slave contract for 2 years and I still got another year to go.
posted by Zeker to Technology (9 answers total)
Do you live in a wealthy town? FWIW, when I lived in Princeton, NJ and got bad reception I was told by my carrier that it would probably never get better because wealthy homeowners in the area wouldn't agree to allow more cell towers nearby.
posted by amro at 10:15 AM on July 27, 2009

How long ago did you sign the contract? You might be able to get out of it in 30 days if the reception sucks, or you move and the reception gets way worse.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2009

I'm not sure how bad or unavailable cell phone reception has to be, but I hear if you live in an area with little to no service you can get out of it. A few examples are found in this thread. Start pestering them, calling customer service and asking them to leave notes in your file--enough calls add up in your favor towards getting out of the contract as the cost of maintaining you as a customer increases (customer service calls aren't cheap for them!)
posted by jgunsch at 10:45 AM on July 27, 2009

Microcells should be coming... soon... eventually... Maybe you can ask and plead and threaten your way onto the microcell testing plan.

I don't work for AT&T but I do share you pain.
posted by chairface at 10:52 AM on July 27, 2009

This article from 2006 mentions that you could do contract transfer to avoid termination fee
posted by 7life at 10:57 AM on July 27, 2009

I actually did get an ATT contract canceled because of poor reception in the Los Osos/SLO area. Try and document exactly where your calls are dropped. Demand to have your complaint escalated to higher level customer service, and give the location info to them.

Caveat- this was for a user on a business plan, and the company still had other ATT users in other areas, so ATT may have agreed to this single account cancellation b/c it was still getting most of the company's $$. Not sure if they are as agreeable for individuals.
posted by TDIpod at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2009

I've had much better luck with Nokia phones on AT&T in the southeast U.S., than with other makes. Microcode and chipsets in some phones are far superior than others in managing a signal that, coming in from the cell towers, will rarely be more than a few dozen microvolts above background noise, and going out, is only 600 milliwatts of total radiated power.
posted by paulsc at 2:41 PM on July 27, 2009

I have AT&T in the midwest and I only get 1-3 bars inside my house (sometimes 0), but if I walk outside I get 5. Usually if I lose a signal, walking near the window helps.

I have a Sony Ericsson flip-phone. One thing I find that helps is if you don't have an external antenna (mine doesn't), look up online where the antenna in your phone is. Then make sure your finger isn't covering that up. Maybe the antennae are not supposed to work that way but if my finger is over the antenna I typically lose reception. (Similarly, I've read that for my phone with built-in GPS that if you have trouble finding a GPS satellite, lay the phone in a window or outdoors so that the GPS antenna is up.)
posted by IndigoRain at 9:06 PM on July 27, 2009

For your home, get something like this:

it's a personal cell signal booster. I'm sure there's something similar you could get for your car.

Also, does any carrier have good reception in your area?
posted by reddot at 3:50 PM on August 1, 2009

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