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back to article In-building coverage: What’s the problem?

Most mobile calls, voice and data, are made inside a building – at home, at work, in the shops. Although the issue of adequate coverage in business premises has not been critical up to now, this is increasingly more than just a nagging concern for many organisations. In some cases, such as emergency services, good in-building …

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WLAN

Access points are as cheap as chips (so we can easily fill in dead spots), can be given plenty of bandwidth in the internal network and most importantly, we don't have to pay business mobile rates for internal calls (about 80% of mobile calls at work). The VoIP system sends incoming calls to both desktop phones and WLAN-connected mobiles - for free. If the mobile is out of range of the WLAN (i.e. out of office) then the system justs redirects to the mobile on GSM or to local voicemail.

The femtocells just make more money for the mobile operator and provide extra lock-in to their particular network.

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Boffin

Building materials as signal-suckers?

"Building materials can significantly affect signal strength. In particular, more energy-efficient, heavily insulated buildings can be real signal-suckers."

Have you got any figures for different insulating materials?

I'm asking this, as I'm about to in insulate the loft soon, and I've already got lousy coverage - I wouldn't want to reduce it further.

At the same time I can't imagine how fibre-glass or expanded polyurethane could absorb radiation in the GHz spectrum, so any explanation of the physical interference would be very welcome.

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FAIL

3 have it covered

3 have got around the uneven coverage problem by having lousy coverage everywhere.

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Silver badge
Go

Apt timing

Am being pressured by g/f at moment to sort the cr@p phone reception in the flat. Works fine in garden, but stepping inside leads to flaky at best signal, none at worst. Fine in the summer, will be hell in the winter months.

Have a suspicion that it's due to the insulating materials in the wall. Recently I understand building developers have taken to installing shiny reflective foil in the walls to better reflect heat - which obviously has a devastating effect on radio waves.

Molution I'm looking into at the moment is a mobile relay type thing:

http://www.mobdev.co.uk/

Pricey, but considering it. Effectively put this thing in a position where it gets good coverage (windowsill) and it'll relay it through the building.

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@pop-up

With modern insulating materials, I can think of foil-backed plasterboard etc. as creating a barrier. (Our 2ft. thick chalk and flint walls do a pretty good job of blocking mobile phone signals, though sometimes I think it might be the 300 years of progressive dampness that's doing it...)

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Coffee/keyboard

What about using a simple phone?

I cannot understand this article. So there are deficiencies in mobile phones signal strength inside buildings? I think that there are some devices that are already installed inside buildings that can provide a solution. In fact, they have provided it for the last centry or so.

They are called telephones, and its cabling requirements are minimal. However, if you are smart enough you can use the same wiring as your network. Oh yes, you need to plug them and your mobility is limited by this device, the cable.

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Alert

@pop-up

Most builders are using steel support beams in houses now, which creates a huge antenna (They are grounded for Lightning resistance).

The building materials aren't the only problem though, the heating / cooling ducts, electrical wirning, water pipe, signal cables, furniture and even people will block the signal. WiFi insfrastructures, radio and sattelite towers, electronic devices (Especially Microwave Ovens), and bluetooth all cause a lot of RF interference that will screw up.

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Silver badge

Why?

Why would someone use a mobile phone indoors when most buildings have high quality and cheap landline phones?

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Anonymous Coward

Metallised/foil-backed plasterboard, fibreglass, etc

Once upon a time the spooks at BAe GCHQ etc were researching spooky paints that could be used to reduce RF emissions in buildings.

These days, a bit of foil-enclosed fibreglass in the loft, foil-backed plasterboard for the internal walls, and metallised or foil-backed insulation slabs in the cavity can make a modern home its very own Faraday Cage, especially if there's not much Windows around the place

Straw bales and sheep's wool are probably OK, not much metal there.

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Happy

@What about using a simple phone?

Not only that, but in a recent innovation they have developed a solution to that pesky cord! Yes that's right, the cordless phone!

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Passive repeaters work well for many applications

Here in the US, most department stores have metal roofs, which as a consequence of their metal supporting poles are grounded and create a shield that's all but impenetrable to even VHF radio waves. One thing I've seen done at least once in these stores, as well as in an underground tunnel is the use of a passive repeater, which can be a small directional antenna like a UHF yagi on the outside of the building (aimed at the nearest cell tower) connected to a UHF dipole inside via coaxial cable. Then you have a solution that uses no power, requires no maintenance or management, and gives relatively decent coverage where there otherwise would have been none at all.

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Boffin

@Christian Berger

Could it be by definition that the phone is mobile?

Why are cordless phones popular?

Landlines are fine, but at work if I have to go out back to the factory, the ringing phone means I have to stop what I am doing to race back to a handset in the office - 30meter dash.

But a diverted call to mobile, to which I connect a Bluetooth earpiece means I have automatic handsfree communication in a business that requires me to be highly responsive.

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