Cell service on campus: Which provider is best?

Dallin Nelson Photo credit: Tiffany Frandsen

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UVU Review editors set out to find which cell phone provider is the best, and why coverage is so limited in certain areas on campus

KresLynn Knouse | Features Editor | @kreslynn


Every phone service provider claims to be the best, but when it comes to finding a signal on campus it may seem like there’s no clear winner. Spotty coverage in basement classrooms, particular buildings, corridors, and all over campus remains a dilemma. Without cell service, students may feel unprotected in the case of an emergency.

In 2012, the UVU Review staff set out to find who was the best service provider in a small experiment. Four editors with different service providers toured each building and recorded the number of bars they had to represent the quality of the signal.

Their results showed that the student with T-Mobile had the overall best cell service on campus, while the student with AT&T had the poorest service. Buildings on the far east of campus such as the GT, CS, and SA had the worst service on campus while the LA, PE, and PS had the best coverage.

Two years later, the problem with bad cell service persists, so we replicated this experiment to see how service compares now. Five students measured their signal in bars as representatives of Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, StraightTalk Wireless (on T-Mobile’s network), and AT&T.

To find out who had the best coverage, we tallied the bars of service for each provider in all the buildings on campus and added them together for a final total. Based on our experiment Sprint had the most coverage, followed by Verizon, T-Mobile, Straight Talk, and AT&T.

The buildings where participants had the highest level of cell service are the WB and LC, while the SLWC by far provided the lowest level of service for all providers. Most participants had zero to one bar of service in the SLWC with the highest signal at just 2 bars.

To some, it may seem like cell service on campus is intentionally poor, but different factors can influence the level of coverage you receive.

According to wilsonsignalbooster.com, construction materials such as certain metals, wire mesh, and insulation can create interference problems with phone signals. Water is another cause of interference, so pipes, trees, plants, and decorative waterfalls may also restrict your signal.

There are solutions to increase your signal without switching providers, but some can be costly. Home and office phone signal boosters can be found on Amazon from $150-$500, you can also buy a personal antenna for your smartphone. Some apps on the Google Play and iTunes store claim to be able to boost the signal, but reviews show limited success.

Alternatively, turning your phone on airplane mode in areas where there is limited or no service can preserve your battery life. Coverage on campus still may not be the best, but with outside factors interfering with your signal, it may not improve anytime soon.




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