There’s nothing more disruptive on your daily commute than suddenly hitting a black spot that zaps all your phone reception. Yes, Upfield line between Flemington Bridge and Jewell I’m looking right at you. You’d think that in our technologically-developed world we wouldn’t be subjected to drop-outs right in the middle of the city but it happens — and someone’s figured out why.
RMIT professor of telecommunications Mark Gregory broke it down for The Age on Monday, explaining that these black spots are tough to avoid because of the way our networks are set up.
Mobile phones rely on a bunch of towers that send out signal in a radius around it, which is called a cell. As you move further away from one tower, the signal weakens until you pick up on the next tower’s signal.
So if your train, bus, tram or whatever mode of transport you’re using reaches the edge of a cell where the signal from a tower is really faint, your phone reception craps out until it can pick up the next tower’s signal.
“Your device goes, ‘hey, there’s no new cell to connect to’ so it starts seeking [for one] and you drop out,” Gregory said.
“You see everyone’s phones drop out as you’re going through like a big ripple.
“I quite enjoy just watching everyone giving up on their phone for about 15 seconds.”
Other things can disrupt your reception while you’re travelling, like buildings, tunnels and hectic weather. All those things cause the signal from mobile towers to not reach as far which means our phones struggle to connect.
I feel like I knew that going into a tunnel is a total signal suck but who would have thought that trees and heavy rain also mucks around with your phone reception? I guess that explains why my phone craps out when I’m on a hike or Melbourne’s smacked with really rotten weather.