Improving mobile phone reception in the car

personBy Art Grainger
access_timePosted 28 December 2014, 8.26am est

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OK! I wonder if anyone actually knows the answer to this - because my searches on the intergoogle have been a bit fruitless, with lots of websites making wild claims or directing me to something that is capable of cooking a chicken.

I'm wondering if, in the same way as we have micro-powered FM transmitters for use in the car, that we have a means of picking up a mobile phone signal from outside of the car using an antenna on the body work (or glass) and relaying it inside, with micro wattages (one website claimed to use a relay - in the car - with a power of 3 WATTS???!!!!).

In Scotland there are an awful lot of fringe areas for mobile phone coverage, so getting every ounce of a mobile phone signal, especially for radio listening (it's the future of radio, after all, right?), is now becoming a bit more important to me.

Does any expert on mobile phone reception know of any products that are legal and can do the job?


2 years, 2 months ago

In the good old days handsets had aerial connections on the bottom and you could buy a car kit connecting to a nice omni antenna on the roof. Then Bluetooth car kits took hold and the rot started (because the antenna was then inside the car, and this looses typically 10dB signal. 10dB is engineer speak for a lot!)

You can help yourself by getting one of those non-slip mats off ebay and placing your handset on the dashboard, not on the seat, in handbag etc.

I'm not sure but I think some high-end cars like BMW's have built-in mobiles connected to an antenna (typically a naff shark-fin) on the outside. Not sure if the aerial connects by co-ax cable, Bluetooth or something else to the inside electronics...

I like the sound of your idea Art, and maybe such a thing exists. I doubt there will be a big market for them though - people in general are too lazy and/or not aware of the benefit. Hence they normally moan about their network oblivious that it's normally the handset causing the coverage problem! Network stats indicate that the best handset for maximum coverage and least dropped calls is the cheapest Nokia PAYG handset that you can find. Worst is probably the most expensive all frills smartphone that you can find!

2 years, 2 months ago

This is a subject that strikes a particular raw nerve with me. I really wish we could go back to the good old days when mobile phones were viewed as a functional item, instead of a throw-away fashion statement!

I could go on, but have work to get on with this morning! ;)


1 year, 6 months ago

I won't use one - nasty dangerous things - so I don't have this nagging problem!

1 year, 6 months ago

My Dad had a "car phone", as we knew it back then, in the early 90's and this definitely had an external antenna. Infact, the hands-free kits he had (which originally had a separate speaker, then were intregated into the stereo) through the 90s had external antennas right up until he got his first GSM Nokia.

No real reason why they couldn't make a comeback, either through the MicroUSB ports, or Lightening Connectors in the case of iPhones.

1 year, 6 months ago

The thing is James, very few phones have an aerial connection nowadays. USB only does power and data. There are some kits on ebay where you can stick a pad in a very precise location on the handset (where its antenna is, normally at the bottom where you hold it on a smartphone!). This pad has some co-ax connected to an antenna. It's not as good as a proper aerial connector, but next best thing.

Like I said before though, if coverage is your key criteria, you are best advised to get a really basic Nokia pay-as-you-go handset - one with buttons. These have the best performance by far. Smartphones are wonderful and ingenious, but to a fair degree they sacrifice radio performance to cram-in all the other features that we all "need".

1 year, 6 months ago

It is possible to make use of an external antenna for mobile calling.

Many cars with so-called mobile phone preparation, typically offered by the German car manufacturers (but also on others), have a GSM antenna within the shark-fin as Glyn highlights above.

The key is to have a phone that supports the Bluetooth RSAP spec (most Androids do - iPhones don't).

The Bluetooth RSAP (remote SIM access profile) allows your car's GSM transceiver to run off the SIM card on your phone. This means your car is basically a phone of it's own, whereas most (basic) in-car Bluetooth hands-free systems work with your car being effectively the speaker/mic with your phone doing all the work still.

The RSAP system is so seamless I suspect most people who have it, aren't even aware they are benefiting from it, until they change to a phone/car that doesn't have it and drive the same route!

1 year, 6 months ago

A few years ago my Dad had two SIMS, one for a mobile phone and one for the phone built into the car, but they were on the same number, and he had to dial a short code to switch between which handset was "active" and which was not.

(Presumably as we get more and more connected dashboards, cars have a SIM in them anyway?)

1 year, 6 months ago

As I say, the Bluetooth RSAP covers this all. No need for two SIMs any more!

1 year, 6 months ago

That's fascinating Ash - I'm in the industry and did not know that!

1 year, 6 months ago

Does any expert on mobile phone reception know of any products that are legal and can do the job?

Buy a second generation Motorola: no radio, no nothing, but it'll pick a signal from a tomb! :)

This is a subject that strikes a particular raw nerve with me. I really wish we could go back to the good old days when mobile phones were viewed as a functional item, instead of a throw-away fashion statement!

Yeah, like this: (image) (image)

1 year, 6 months ago

This is why I have Android phones over iPhone - which are fashion statements.

My Note 4 is particularly useful in-car, like I said on the Moyles thread. With a £30 Bluetooth dongle I effectively have features in my little Ford Fiesta that are normally reserved for the sort of cars I find tailgating me on the motorway each morning. ;-)

Without Smartphones I'd have to buy an aftermarket DAB radio, a Sat Nav and either an MP3 player or a truckload of CDs.

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