Why doesn’t the cell phone pick up when there is no signal?

What factors affect the strength of the cellular signal and why the phone does not pick up or has few bars in certain areas or points of the house

When the telephone signal does not get the causes can be very different and often several causes together make it impossible to connect to the operator’s closest antenna.

In fact, it can happen that you have a full signal and, taking just a couple of steps, see the signal drop until it disappears completely, preventing us from calling or surfing the Internet.

This problem is even more evident inside homes: there are houses where the telephone does not pick up except in some corners or where there are dead zones, where the signal is no longer present, showing the fateful message “Emergency calls only” .

In the following guide we will show you what are the factors that affect the strength of the cellular network signalto understand because the phone does not take and why in certain places the phone has no signal. We’ll also show you how to fix some of the problems, so you can always make at least one phone call or send a message.

READ ALSO -> Calling without a SIM: how to do it

1) Distance from the operator’s antenna

Every phone communicates using radio waves that get weaker as they pass through the air; this means that if the phone is very far from the operator’s antenna, the signal will be weak or even absent.

This situation hardly arises in very large cities such as Rome or Milan, but it is very frequent in the suburbs, in the hamlets of cities or in sparsely inhabited areas (such as hills and mountains), where the antennas are far apart and you may be in an area isolated from any cellular signal.

A telephone can, theoretically, connect to an antenna which is up to 70 kilometers away, although due to the way telephones work, the effective limit is reduced to 30 kilometerseven in perfect conditions without obstacles and interference.

In this case the only way to increase the signal strength is move closer to the closest or most powerful antenna.

To help us find the right direction to follow we can help with an android app like Network Cell Infowhich transforms the phone into an “antenna radar” complete with a power indicator, direction indicator, information on the type of network used and an interactive map, useful for finding the position of the best antennas and the distance between our phone and the antenna locked.

2) Impediments and obstacles to the signal

Radio waves travel in straight lines from the phone to the tower where the antenna is: if there is some big obstacle along this path (such as a hill, a forest or a mountain range), the radio waves will have a lot of difficulty in overcoming the obstacles, up to the definitive loss of the signal (even if on paper we are in the area of signal coverage).

For the same reason, in the city the presence of many more nearby antennas makes the roughness of the ground less problematic.

The problem of obstacles in the city is houses and buildings, as concrete, steel, and most building materials are great at stopping cellular radio waves. In garages, cellars and basements there is often no telephone signal because the ground shields radio waves very well and the building materials do the rest, making it impossible to make calls or connect to the Internet.

If our phone does not pick up at homewe are unable to make a call or connect to the Internet we suggest you to stay on the ground floor (if we were in a basement or cellar), place you near a window or open the balcony and go outside.

3) Different coverage between operators

The antennas present in an area can serve one telephone operator instead of another: in a precise point of the city or in a particular area it is therefore possible that TIM takes very well, while WindTre or Vodafone take with a lower signal or even none it’s coverage.

This applies to all operators without any distinction: everyone has an area where they take very well and another area where they take very badly.

To learn more we can read our guides on how check the coverage of the cellular network in Italy come on which mobile operator has the fastest internet in 4G and 5G.

4) Weather conditions

Radio waves cross the atmosphere in order to reach our phones: on sunny days the atmosphere does not present any obstacles in signal transmission, but things change strongly in case of rain, storm or other unstable weather conditions (fog, snow, etc.).

The signal can therefore be disturbed during a thunderstorm and it will always be stronger and more stable when the sky is clear, without rain and without fog.

If we have to make an urgent call, it is better if it is clear outside, especially if we are in the open countryside or if we are far from inhabited centres, perhaps helping us with weather app for android and the weather app for iPhone.

Alternatively we always can take shelter from the rain in some mall or chain storewhere there is always a Free wifi hotspot to use; on this topic we invite you to read our article at app to find free Wi-Fi and free wireless networks on the map.

5) Users connected simultaneously

Cellular signal transmission antennas act like large modems, providing telephony and Internet to a large number of users at the same time.

In big cities there are many antennas and the user can connect to the freest one (not necessarily the closest one); the situation is different in rural or less inhabited areas, where often there is only one antenna that serves all the users who pass through the area or who live in the suburbs.

The clogging of the broadcast antenna is also the reason why in some tourist areas (such as holiday villages, by the sea) network problems may occurin particular for the data connection to the internet.

If there are few antennas and those few are almost full of connected usersin order to host new users, the antenna automatically decreases the speed of all the others already connected, until reaching very low speed values ​​(or highly disturbed calls).

Other cases of blockage occur when, for example, you try to send New Year’s greetings at the stroke of Midnight or when you try to send an SMS or make a phone call or connect to the internet at the stadium or at a concert, where many people try to use the phone simultaneously.

In both cases we advise you to connect to the nearest free Wi-Fi network and plan your greeting messages in advance, as seen in the guide on like sending future emails or post dated messages.

6) User movement

Traveling by car or train the phone signal will be highly unstable, considering that at high speed we will hook up to many antennas in a few minutes.

From this point of view, the stability of the signal in motion has improved with the arrival of 5G technologyalso tested for a long time on trains at 300 km/h: the signal is decidedly more stable at high speeds, but a large number of antennas are still required to be able to cover all areas affected by heavy traffic or by passing trains.

To learn more, we can read our ai guides best phones with built-in 5G come on how to check 5G coverage.

7) Device interference

Radio waves from phones can be disturbed if nearby there are large and remote-controlled machines such as, for example, cranes.

If the crane’s large metal arm is moved in a way that blocks electromagnetic waves, it can create a small cone of shadow, attenuating nearby signals. The very powerful radio frequencies of the crane can then disturb the radio signals.

Let’s not forget the interference from household appliances: proximity to modems, routers, Smart TVs, consoles, microwave ovens, cordless telephones or other electronic devices can significantly reduce the quality of the radio signal, until it disappears completely in the “centre” of the house, where perhaps they all collide the electromagnetic waves generated by our devices, by the Wi-Fi networks of the neighbors and by the various radio antennas present near our home.

In this scenario we advise you to always make traditional calls outside the house, avoiding large cranes or metal structures; alternatively we always can call from home with Wi-Fi.

8) Defective phone

Signal issues can also be caused by the phone itselfwhich instead of remaining connected to the closest cell, fetches the radio waves from a farther cell causing the reception bars to suddenly collapse.

This explains why two phones that look the same and with the same telephone operator they can mark a totally different level of coverageeven arriving at abysmal differences (a phone that does not get any signal and another that instead gets full signal).

In these cases, if we talk about Android smartphones, we can try useful apps for optimize the reception of the telephone signal or find out which phone works best by taking a look at the best phones for reception quality.


The telephone signal is a very complex thing to explain, especially if we start talking about radio frequencies that we have deliberately ignored here.

There are many factors that interfere with the phone signal and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised if a corner of your house doesn’t catch anything (dead point), while moving even a few meters away we can make calls or surf the Internet.

To learn more we can also read our guides on how to connect the phone if 5G does not hook up to the network come on how to see cellular signal strength on android and iphone.


Professional writer with a passion for technology and all things related to personal computing. With years of experience in the field, William has honed his craft as an expert in writing about how to use PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and staying up-to-date with technological updates.

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