Another Lesson in Network Congestion and Signal Strength


5-5-16 another lesson

The saying goes, to each his own. That’s definitely the case when it comes to what the bars on your phone means in reference to coverage. It’s something we’re often asked about, simply because sometimes bars don’t always add up to the actual strength of the signal you’re getting.

So for all of you out there who have installed a CEL-FI and wondering why you might not be seeing five bars on your phone, no need to worry. More than likely it’s doing the job it’s supposed to even if you do not see a major change in bars and here’s why.

The fact is, you could have two different phones being used in the same space and the number of bars might be completely different. That doesn’t mean one is a better phone than the other. Nor does it mean one is getting a weaker signal than the other. The simple explanation is different phones use different methods to calculate the number of bars shown.

The first thing you need to know is that there are two factors that can come into play when it comes to coverage: one is the signal strength generated by the cell tower. Another is the number of users sharing that tower – also known as channel loading. (Note: there is a third factor that can come into play in the LTE world, which is interference from neighboring cellphones, but that’s another story.)

High channel loading can be compared to being in a room with many people talking loudly. Simply put, all that background noise makes it hard to hear what the person you are speaking with is saying. But if everyone is whispering, then it’s easy to hear that person. That would be akin to low channel loading since there is less “noise” on the network.

Bars on a phone may be determined by signal strength or channel loading depending on the device and manufacturer. Neither bar measurement is superior to the other. But it does mean that your phone could only be showing three bars and have a perfectly fine signal; while another could have five bars and dropping calls.

Or you can just trust your instincts. If you’re using your phone on a congested/high channel load network, you might not see five bars when you install a CEL-FI. But you can rest assured that if you’re getting uninterrupted coverage with no dropped calls, you’re in good shape – whatever you think those bars are telling you.

Want to find out the true measure of your CEL-FI’s performance? We are happy to walk you through it. Visit to learn more.



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