SAM WAMBUGU: Why your mobile phone calls drop [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Hello, can you hear me?"... This is a common phrase for many irritated mobile phone users when they have connection problems.
When you cannot reach someone, or when you are only faintly audible, frustration sets in, especially when the message is urgent.
Dropped calls along with congestion are the two most important customer-perceived problems that affect quality.
A great amount of money and time is invested by mobile phone operators in order to improve the network quality of service (QOS) to acceptable values.
They have attempted to address network challenges in various ways, including expanding their network coverage, as well as increasing cellular capacity.
Experiencing too many dropped calls is a common customer complaint to mobile service providers. The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) conducts assessment on completion of calls, success of calls set-up, the call set-up time, call drop rates, blocked calls tendencies, speech quality, hand-over success rates and strength of received signals.
The mobile phone service providers are expected to deliver overall performance of at least 80 per cent on these indicators to be compliant.
Those that fall below the threshold are punished. In Kenya, companies with small client bases usually perform better on these indicators than the bigger ones.
For example, Safaricom was last year required to pay half a million shillings by the CCK because it failed to meet standards set by the industry regulator on aspects such as call completion, rate of dropped calls and the quality of speech during calls.
CCK is further seeking higher fines for operators who fall below the acceptable benchmarks. In Africa, Rwanda and Nigeria have more severe penalties.
Most mobile devices use a set of bars of varying heights to display the strength of the signal where the device is located. Whereas mobile phone companies have been under pressure to improve their mobile infrastructure and attract customers, there are still some dead spots – faint or no signal is visible on the handset.
Generally, stronger mobile phone signals are easier to obtain in an urban area, though urban areas do have some dead zones where a reception cannot be obtained. Many rural or minimally inhabited areas lack a signal or have a very weak reception.
To make calls, people have to climb up trees or walk for a distance to a higher ground where there is guaranteed coverage.
The fact that cell phones rely on radio waves, and radio waves travel through the air and are easily attenuated, cell phones may be unreliable at times.
Connection is degraded when the signal between the handset and the cell site antenna is blocked, usually by hilly terrain, excessive foliage, physical distance, or tall buildings.
Sometimes, you find that certain spots in a building have weak or no connection at all. Reason is, houses today are cluttered. There is no space for the signals to travel optimally.
They are also often not able to penetrate through a building's walls because of the materials that are used to make them. Signals are prone to such interference and can be highly affected by certain metals.
For example, a building with thick walls may prevent good signals. In addition, mirrored windows and metal blinds can prohibit good cellular reception. Many underground areas, such as tunnels, parking garages and basements, lack a reception.
If your phone has poor or no connection, sometimes all that you need to do is to restart your phone and, voila, connection improves. It is recommended that you switch off your phone for at least 5 minutes a day. It helps the phone to re-energise — don't we all?
Since most the people have their phones on 24/7, it often becomes difficult for the phone to revitalise itself.
Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Samwambugu@gmail.com
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