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Do bars really matter?

Discussion in 'Sprint Forum' started by grapeape1966, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. grapeape1966

    grapeape1966 New Member

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    I know this sounds like a dumb question, at least to me it does. But I have had had several of my Sprint friends say they can still make/receive calls with no bars showing. Try that at AT&T.!Just curious, I have AT&T now, it appears to have the best coverage where I live and according to the sprint map, signal strength out here away from the city of Midland doesn't look to good. Only reason I am considering a change, AT&T has some long dead spots on I going towards Dallas Tx and appears Sprint has fewer, shorter zones. Any help appreciated.
     
  2. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    Each phone manufacturer and model can vary a little bit in how the signal meter is calibrated. So 3 bars on one phone might be equivalent to 2 bars on another phone, etc.
     
  3. chamb

    chamb Junior Member
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    In some areas, I can make calls with no bars at least some of the time. Other times, even with one steady bar, the calls will mostly fail. It depends on a whole bunch of variables. Nobody can tell you about your area. You would need to actually have a Sprint phone and try it in your area yourself.
    One thing for sure however, if you have one bar or no bars outside and you try to take the phone inside, be prepared for problems.
    Do you have a friend with a Sprint phone that can visit you and allow you to really test the service??
    Looking at the bars on a phone will not really tell you if the phone will actually work properly.
    It will only give you a rough idea. If you can get a phone and it shows no bars or only one bar at your residence, that should at least make you be hesitant to switch. Test things real good before you switch if you have this situation.

    You may be able to find a good roaming signal at home from Verizon, Alltel or US Cellular but needing to roam at your home location is not usually a situation you want to encounter. Check the coverage maps for those 3 companies and see if they appear to have good signals that would be there for your roaming use.
    The good thing is that Sprint does allow you to roam for FREE and this might give you coverage much better than you now have while traveling in the bad areas. Set the Sprint phone on automatic and it will find another carrier when needed if another carrier is in the area.
    Sprint is ok with your roaming as long as the roaming is not the major amount of minutes you use. Abuse the roaming privileges and you will have problems.

    You may consider getting a Sprint account with a new number and not KILLING the old AT&T account so you can test the Sprint service for a week or two. Make sure the account can be canceled without any cancel fees if the service will not be acceptable to you. They may give you 30 days to make a decision but be totally sure of this.

    Somebody in the Sprint store may already know that the service will not work for you. But be careful, the employee at the store is a SALES oriented person and will be making a commission, so they have an interest in selling you Sprint service.
     
  4. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Another thing to consider is that Sprint uses CDMA and AT&T uses GSM (and WCDMA for 3G). CDMA and WCDMA can use weaker signals due to the nature of the system. CDMA/WCDMA can work with a RSSI of about -105dB or so, while GSM needs at least -100dB or so (based on my experience. Technical documents may say something slightly different)

    ...but anyway, the lower RSSI may be a reason CDMA/WCDMA phones may be able to work with what looks like no bars...
     
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  5. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Bars are generic gage of what your phone is recieving. On most phones I tested full bars is usually in the -83 or -84 range the lower the DB reading the stronger the signal.

    The carriers can set limits on the tower to automatically drop calls when the signal gets to low for some carriers they use -107 as a factory set point. A few of the GSM carriers use tower mounted amplifiers to help pick up the handset better.

    I have been in rural areas with one bar floating between -100 and -105 and managed to hold a call for about 30 mins. I know in fact the nearest tower was roughly 20-30 miles away and it had tower mounted amplification. But then again I have been 2 miles away from a tower at 1 bar and went down in a valley and dropped calls immediately.

    PCS is a bigger challange. You really need about half signal before you go indoors and stay close to a window so you can have more of a line of sight to the tower.

    Its vague but imagine a flashlight beam anything in the beams path will stop the beam from travelling farther. With radio waves its similar but not as drastic, obstical will damper the signal strength depending on density of the object such as trees, hills or buildings etc.
     
  6. cellular_freak

    cellular_freak Senior Member
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    I've come to notice that it seems you can make a call no matter how many bars you have on a CDMA phone and the call quality is exactly the same. (This is my experience, pretty much everywhere I've been) I also used to have a GSM phone, and most of my family has GSM phones. It appears that they need at least two bars to make a call, and if you want a good signal, you need more than half your bars. And where I live (in the woods) my family can't make good calls, so they're always asking to use my phone, lol. They don't understand why it is that my phone is the one that can make good call and theirs can't and I try to explain it to them, but they don't understand, lol.
     
  7. Eric47

    Eric47 Bronze Senior Member
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    i agree phones make a big difference.

    anyone with a blackberry can vouch that they always have signal and can call in places where everyone else, regaurdless of carrier usually, are saying that they cant call.

    im not sure why this is, i chalk it up to blackberry being a good product.

    anyone have any technical reasons for this?
     
  8. RJB

    RJB Gold Senior Member
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    I think for the most part it can tell you or not if you will have a good connection or not.
     
  9. Jerro

    Jerro Bronze Senior Member
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    Others may disagree.
    CDMA will sound good even at lower signal. If it gets too low it just drops.
    Last week my cousin on TMobile (GSM) talked to me on my CDMA Verizon phone for long calls several times. The TMobile calls were from Novato Ca., Dania Fla. Philadelphia Pa. and Atlantic County NJ. It sounded good for the most part but in low signal dropped usually garbling first. It dropped in all areas.
     
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  10. charlyee

    charlyee Ultimate Insanity
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    To me bars are only a relative measure of signal strength with all other parameters remaining the same.

    For examples on my Treo, I get 4/4 bars from home & 3/4 from my office, all that signifies to me is that I have better signal at home than at work. There is no difference in call clarity between these locations. Since db is a logarithmic function it is not easy to corelate that to just 4 or 5 bars & come to a conclusion .

    In my experience sometimes even two different phones from the same manufacture have a different relationship of bars to db.

    Just my 2 cents :)
     
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  11. QLR

    QLR RIP Note!
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    IMHO, the bars just tell me whether I am close to a site or not. On my Q, if I am close to a Verizon cell site, I get readings between -50 & -60 and four bars... although the phone shows 4 bars up to -75 db. I dont take call quality into account since I have had calls drop while I was underneath a site .... and at other times I have maintained calls on 0 bars.

    I went through a county where VZW has no license/sites there (but has sites in neighboring counties), the Q maintained the call without dropping (although the call garbled once) all with 0 bars.... in this same area, my previous Samsung would have dropped the call
     
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  12. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    this is another topic that get beat back and forth and will not die. Bars are for the layman that doesnt know much about phones and just want to use it.

    All phones are different even the same model will not get the same signal. I had 3 Nokia 6230 phones and they were all different, it was usually suttle such as -5 db difference between them.

    I disagree on the Blackberrys. My Nokia will blast my blackberry out of the water anyday. My blackberry doesnt get the signal that any of my handset do but I use it for Data only and Data is more forgiving than voice.

    GSM can make and hold calls at approx 1 bar but its safer to use 2 bars and all phones are different. CDMA has the advantage with the soft handoff it can have 1 bar but may be pulling in 3 weak towers vs 1 on GSM.

    Even CDMA will drop calls at 1 bar and its also a good practice to have at least 2 bars as well depending on how well the phone works. I have had some CDMA phones (Qualcomm) that was crap if it didnt have 2 or more. But I have had Nokia phones on Alltel that would make decent calls at 1 bar about 50 percent of the time then eventually get robotic audio and fall out.

    Basically just an rough gauge like a cars gas gauge. You have full, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 and empty.

    You know you dont have much with a 1/4 and need to hurry and get to were you gotta go and quick.
     
  13. Jerro

    Jerro Bronze Senior Member
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    May I disagree as to bars meaning proximity to a site. If you are far away for instance at a high location the phone may receive bars but cannot respond to the tower because of the phones lower power output. In the really good old days some Motorola portable phones had a blinking light. Some had red or green to indicate that a signal was present.

    Same in the pre cellular dark ages on my DIAL phone Motorola Pulsar IMTS car phone.
     
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  14. ace41690

    ace41690 Junior Member
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    From what I've seen, bars mean nothing on gsm(ATT)
    Att can show five bars in my house and drops calls and is still garbled. They are on the same tower as sprint is which is equally bad, but atleast only shows 1 bar or no service. I have also found it true that sometimes the cdma will hold onto a call with almost no service. In my immediate area, sprint and ATT share the same towers and in places where the towers are stretched quite far apart, sprint will maintain the call while att will fade away. Ive seen this first hand with my friends ATT phone, she always drops the call in places where i wont even though the signal is low.
     
  15. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Everyplace and phones are all different. All the carriers could be on the same tower but there are alot of variable such as quality of the Network, does the carrier keep up with mainanence, how good is the quality of the equipment at the tower, the antennas, cables ETC.

    I have made test calls on CDMA will full Signal as well on a rural site that I knew wasnt a capacity problem and had aweful audio on 2 different phones.

    Alot of times the bars are irrelevent to making calls. CDMA uses soft hand off and other measurements of noise quality is also a factor. Here is a picture of test mode that show the actually DB reading off of 1900 PCS at -74 with full signal at 7 bars, but I can change the UI on the phone from 4,5, or 7 bars.
     

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  16. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Speaking of full bars and cant make calls. I have seen carriers programm phones wrong that were crap brand new right out of the box. I have played with some LG flip phones that were GSM that were straight garbage. The phone was nice but it could not hand off right and constantly dropped calls in full coverage areas. The person that had the phone exchanged it for either a moto or nokia and hasnt had a problem since.
     
  17. QLR

    QLR RIP Note!
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    Ah... another wrinkle. It helps that I am in a relatively flat area with some hills but not bad enough to create the above problem :D
     
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  18. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Charylee is right, the bars on your phone are "one dimensional". They only show you your RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) or the power of the signal you are receiving, and that's all. It just lets you know a signal is available, and how strong it is, but tells you nothing of the quality of the signal (The noise level (Eb/Io or SIR) would be more of a reflection of quality.)
     
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  19. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    You can have the same sound quality at -100 dbs with 1 bar that you have at -50 dbs and full bars on CDMA phones if the EC/IO is low. I've had over -100 dbs and had very low noise in the signal.
     
  20. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    True this is one of the benefits of the softhand off. If didnt have the softhand off I dont think it would be possible.

    I would imagine in a rural area were you only have one strong PN you would have more of a problem with dropped calls like the the CDMA carriers experience up my way.
     
  21. RJB

    RJB Gold Senior Member
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    Yeah Larry I am the same way I have had some calls not alot in the 100's that have sounded just fine.

    One thing about CDMA that does suck is when you have to much pilot pollution I have some in my home and it can drop a call from time to time.
     
  22. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    lots of different variables between calls, towers, terrain, networks, phones, carriers and opinions.
     
  23. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    The problem I've witnessed with CDMA is the ability to hang on to the best available tower/PN offset. Sometimes the phones will handoff to other PN offsets that have a lot worse RSSI and/or noise. You would think they could develop the technology to be a little bit smarter to better choose the handoff ranges.
     
  24. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Im curious to see if any of this has been adressed in WCDMA
     
  25. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    CDMA also has a problem with incoming call delivery if you are right in between towers on different switches (NID's). It's a really bad flaw.
     
  26. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Yah Ive seen it first hand you think they would limit the pilot pollution and try to similate a hard hand off to only allow one to hold the call.
     
  27. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    Those NID border areas can really screw things up for a fairly large area. The Irvine switch 1/2 here in Orange County affects incoming calls for about a 3 mile radius. Luckily there's only 2 NID's in Orange County.
     
  28. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    You metro guys have more of a problem with this than us rural guys. We have switchs running half a state and hundreds of towers.
     
  29. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    Yeah I bet. There's a lot of switches in Los Angeles County. If the CDMA vendors could solve the NID incoming call problem CDMA would have a great advantage over GSM. Whether or not GSM suffers from this switch problem I don't know.
     
  30. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    its not as bad on GSM because GSM uses the hard hand off, what ever is stronger takes it.

    In my area the switchs are in different markets or RSA so its not to you get on the RSA line were you will go to 1 switch or the other.
     

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