Give me a signal

Date:25 April 2012 Tags:,

Q If I’m lost in the woods, should I climb to the top of a hill to get cell reception?

A Satellites play no role in cellphone reception, so getting closer to the sky, or getting a clear shot at it, won’t necessarily result in a connection. Cellular reception largely depends on how close you are to a cell tower, what geographical and man-made obstructions stand in between, and how many people are using the tower at a particular time (more users decrease a tower’s range).

That said, elevation can help. “It’s hard to say that this is a hard and fast rule of thumb,” says Brian Josef, assistant vice-president of regulatory affairs at the USA’s Wireless Association, but climbing to get reception is “common sense”. A higher elevation could put you in line of sight with a cell tower, which may help you get that one crucial bar of coverage.

This common sense applies only if coverage is a possibility; a truly remote location is not likely to have any service at all. By climbing to the top of a rock outcrop, especially during severe weather, you’re just exposing yourself to risk. If you’re genuinely lost, focus on your situation, not your tech: gather water, build shelter, and stay put.

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