What the Tech? How to Restore Your Internet Connection When You’re on the Road
If you’ve ever lost a strong signal on a smartphone, this trick may get you back online in two seconds.
The last time my family went on a fairly long trip by car we drove through a rural part of the country. I heard a simultaneous “I don’t have internet!” I’ve been on that stretch of the interstate before and I should have known it was coming.
One kid had no service, another’s signal dropped to the dreaded 1x and my wife had only a 3G signal. So what happened?
Rural areas don’t have as many cell towers as cities and in remote areas with few homes, there may not be a cell tower for miles. That might not always cause huge delays for residents there but if you’re moving quickly, like down an interstate it can leave your phone in a ‘no-cell land’ even if there’s a cell tower fairly close by.
Here’s what happens behind the scenes or under the hood:
When a cellphone connects to a tower it stays connected for as long as there’s a good signal. If a better signal is detected, as when you’re traveling, the phone will automatically switch to the nearest tower or strongest signal. We never notice that’s going on until there’s a lapse.
Sometimes the phone can connect to the stronger signal quickly but sometimes the hand-off takes a minute because the good signals are far apart. That’s why you hit those dead zones.
Most of the time we don’t notice the lag at all but if you’re on a phone call or streaming a video on Netflix, any delay in switching towers can cause a dropped call or glitchy video streams.
To speed up the process just turn on Airplane Mode for a few seconds then turn it off again. By turning on Airplane Mode you’re turning off all of the phone’s radio signals. When you turn it on again it will ignore the tower it was connected to previously and connect to the strongest signal.
This won’t remedy the issue when you’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s no signal or tower but that rarely happens now that wireless carriers have largely spaced out towers to cover most of the country.
If you’re traveling to a favorite vacation destination that you frequently visit, you probably know exactly where those ‘dead zones’ are and can be prepared for the switch.
Still, it’s a bit of information that could come in handy when the kids yell “THERE’S NO INTERNET!,” while streaming Netflix.