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Dead Cell Zones: Hold On, I’m Losing You http://ktla.trb.com/news/local/cyberguy/stv-news- cyberguy-071902-1.htmlstory

Nothing’s more frustrating than needing to use your cell phone and not having a signal. How can they be fixed?

Dead zones. They’re the places where your cellular phone won’t work. The cell phone companies won’t tell you where they are.

Looking for a quick fix to avoid dead zones? Try plugging your cell phone into your cigarette lighter. It improves your signal because it improves the grounding. But beware, experts say it doesn’t work all the time.

Commericals showing cell phone problems are all over TV because the problem happens all over the country.

“One time I had to call 911 for a fire that was behind where I work and it took about 10 seconds for it to get through,” says ?? “Which was nerve-racking because 10 seconds can be a long time in an emergency.”

“It messes you up when you’re on a business call and you’re just about to close a deal, and you go dead. It’s very irritating to the customer,” says ??

One cell phone user got so annoyed he started his own website: www.deadcellzones.com Type in your city and cell phone company and look for the dead zones other users have found or type in your own.

“That’s the overall goal, eventually to go to these companies and say these are the areas we have identified as consumers that are problem areas,” says Jeff Cohn of deadcellzones.com. “What are you doing to fix each and every one of these areas?”

The problem is the cell phone companies either don’t know where the dead zones are or they’re not saying. Visit one of their websites and you’ll find coverage area maps with a big green or purple blob over Chicago. No word on bad intersections or spots to avoid.

In fact, the FCC, who monitors cell phone companies can’t even tell you where the dead zones are. But it will say staying close to the cell towers won’t help. That’s because only a fraction of all the cellular antennas in the country are on these 200 foot towers. The rest are on buildings, cars, lots of places. So it’s tough to pinpoint where your phone won’t work.

But we did find out why.

First, that cell tower you’re standing under may not belong to your cell company.

Second, those antennas can only handle a certain number of calls, if the limit is 1,000, and you’re number 1001, you’re call won’t work.

Third, you might be in a shadow. Meaning, your companie’s cell antenna is on one side of a building and it loses you as you walk to the other side.

Finally, you may just be in a null.

“Rabbit ears on an old TV set. When you’re adjusting them and trying to find a signal and the TV goes from a bunch of stripes to a nice, clear picture,” says Mike Guerin, a radio frequency subsystems director.

That’s a null. But how to get rid of it? New technology is in the works, but we may not see the effects for a few years.

First, cell companies are working to increase spectrum efficiency or number of calls each tower can handle.

Also, in building technology is in the works. It grabs a cell signal from an outside antenna and brings it indoors to improve inside reception. A higher quality cell phone may also help.

In Japan, cell phones already have stronger signals and you can even watch TV and email on your phone.

Finally, there are smart antennas. Right now, cell towers send out one big signal beam that all cell callers share. Smart antennas would break that signal up into thousands of tiny beams one to each caller, improving each signal.

All sounds great, doesn’t it? But what to do with dead zones in the meantime? Call your cell phone company and if that doesn’t help, call the FCC.

“They can file a complaint with the FCC and what we will do is work with the carrier and customer to see if we can find a resolution. But again, this is a contract they have signed so it’s important that they read the contract before they sign it,” says K. Dane Snowden, FCC Consumer Bureau.

Most companies let you try the phone before signing that contract, so the FCC says try the phone where you’d use it the most to avoid dead zones.

* http://www.deadcellzones.com/ * http://www.fcc.gov/

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