Reception of this FPP will be better if you move closer to the window.
October 6, 2008 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Cell Phone Reception and Tower Search: "...searchable databases of over 130,000 cell phone tower locations registered with the FCC, and over 43,000 cell phone carrier comments submitted voluntarily from real customers using their service all over the U.S. ...and with our graphical tower location search, users can pinpoint nearby tower locations. Even to the exact rooftop with satellite imagery and the help of Google Maps!"[e.g. Casper, Wyoming] You can also search for dead spots, and see how your neighbors really, truly feel about their reception.
posted by not_on_display (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Give it two years and you'll have a cell phone antenna in your house.
posted by tkolar at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is pretty nifty. I noticed recently that my BlackBerry's status screen shows the signal in dBm and when I got near the tower down the street from me I'd see it at about -50, whereas when I was in my basement it would be over -100, so I figured that this was kind of like a really, really accurate version of the coverage bars.

I then started using this to create a mental map of where the other towers were based on the rises or dips in that number. It was a little intellectual exercise that I was using to entertain myself.

One that is now completely obviated by having a map of their exact locations. :)

I'll just have to find some other pointless geeky thing to do to distract myself, I guess.
posted by quin at 1:16 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Vermont has the second smallest population in the country with the 43rd smallest area and still has seven pages of dead spots. Why am I not surprised?
posted by jessamyn at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2008

I recently went looking for web sites with this data. They're all pretty awful. The one linked here is good in that it will give you actual data for free, but that data is not very accurate. For instance, they show there are no cell towers at all in the Castro, Noe Valley, or Mission districts of San Francisco. While that would explain why my iPhone reception sucks at my house, I'm guessing it's not really correct.
posted by Nelson at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2008

They've started making bag phones again: just for Vermont. (And Michigan -32 pages).
posted by acro at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2008

US only = fail.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:47 PM on October 6, 2008

This would be a lot more useful if their map of towers was restricted to cell phone towers and listed the carrier using the tower, not the company who owns the tower (and leases to the carrier). A lot of the towers they show are for police and municipal radio, aircraft radios, etc. As it is, the map is pretty much useless.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:50 PM on October 6, 2008

This one's hiding.
posted by longsleeves at 3:32 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Holy crap, I knew they were lower power, but -100 dBm is redonk.
posted by DU at 3:38 PM on October 6, 2008

Well, -100 dBm is pretty weak even in the scheme of cell phone signals. There must be quite a bit of attenuation between Quin's basement and his serving cell site whether due to distance, materials in the radio path, or both.

You'd certainly get a stronger signal than -100 dBm if you were in your basement with a femtocell down there. Also, if I had to make a blind guess, I'd bet Quin would get more like -80 dBm somewhere in his yard if he went outside and walked (slowly, so the screen has time to update) outside of his house. Care to experiment?

Also, on some models of Blackberries, you can change the signal bar display on the main screen to a dBm display by holding down the Alt key and pressing N M L L, in case anyone is interested in doing that :).
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:04 PM on October 6, 2008

It's missing this one here in my hometown.
posted by ubernostrum at 6:20 PM on October 6, 2008

Just be glad you don't work at someplace called "mobiledia".
posted by smackfu at 7:30 PM on October 6, 2008

yep, just like i thought...the dead spot in my house puts the screen door directly between me and the tower...neat.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:38 PM on October 7, 2008

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