Mobile Signal Strength and Coverage

Teragence, Signal Checker and Cell Coverage

Get answers to your questions about mobile signal strength, mobile coverage, and how to use our mobile network coverage mapping products. Teragence Signal Checker and Teragence Cell Coverage help you finding the best mobile operator and technology in your specific location.

1. Teragence and its Mobile Network Coverage Mapping Products

Teragence Signal Checker is a service to verify the mobile signal strength of a specific operator and a specific technology at a specific location. It covers 2G to 4G (with 5G becoming available by the end of 2023) as well as LPWAN technologies such as LTE-M and NBIOT for all major licensed opertators in Europe and North America. The service can be accessed through a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) interface or through an API.

Teragence Cell Coverage is a service to ascertain the coverage of every individual cell tower in Europe and North America across all cellular technologies (2G to 4G with 5G becoming available by the end of 2023). The service can be accessed through a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) interface or through an API.

Teragence Signal Checker is fundamentally different from a mobile coverage map. Traditional mobile coverage maps are designed top-down with limited granularity and are mainly marketing instruments. Teragence Signal Checker takes the exact opposite approach: we start bottom-up with on-the-ground measurements, we provide specific, quantitative values for specific locations (the tradeoff being that we do not provide country-wide maps) and we have no interest in marketing the performance of mobile networks. We aim to give a true, neutral view of the performance you can expect while being transparent in how we came to certain values.

Every minute of every day we aggregate measurements from millions of devices. Our main data source is through crowdsourcing through partnerships with consumer mobile apps. In addition we use other data sources such as connected car data, drive testing data and IOT devices. This gives us access to a wide data pool across a range of locations and scenarios.
We are very careful not to invade anyone’s privacy in our data collection methods. The data we collect is devoid of any permanent individual identifiers, we do not collect any data we have no use for and we do not trade or sell on any of the raw data we collect. We apply rigorous standards across the entire technology stack to ensure that our data is protected. More details can be found in our privacy policy (link).

Geo-spatial analytics is the application of data analytics in a geographical context. Put differently, in addition to the traditional analytics metrics, it alos takes into consideration the “place” dimension of the data. Mobile networks, signal and towers exist in a specific location and we use geo-spatial analytics to bring out that location-specific dimension.

Every day we collect new data points. Our products such as Signal Strength Checker and Cell Coverage work of the basis of 12 months rolling data pools. This means that every day we add new data and remove the oldest data from the “pool”. This ensures a continuous, up-to-date view of the performance of different mobile networks.

We cover 2G to 4G with 5G to be included by the end of the 2023. We also cover LPWAN technologies such as LTE-M and and NB-IOT.

2. Mobile network technologies

Our day-to-day understanding of mobile signal strength is as “the number of bars on my phone”, which attempts to give an intuitive understanding of the mobile signal strength with five bars being “very good” and one bar being “bad” and no bars being “no signal”. While this is a very intuitive understanding of signal strength, it is also very simplistic and there is a suspicion that the phone manufacturers are sometimes inflating these measures. A more scientific mobile signal strength measure is dBm (Decibels at 1Milliwatt). dBm values are always negative and will be between -70 (very good) and -120 (very bad/unusable).

Accessing the dBm signal strength value on your phone can be easily done. How depends on the type of phone you are using. On Android you can access the information via the Settings Menu ->Status (or SIM Card Status). On IOS the procedure is a bit more complicated and you need to access the Field Test Application. This video tells you how (

There is also a variety of apps which you can download to get more detailed information. Of course, all this will only enable you to ascertain the signal strength at your current location. If you want to know what signal you can expect at a location without actually going there, you can always use our Teragence Signal Checker and verify the signal strength without leaving your desk.

In simple terms, 5G delivers higher throughput or bandwidth and lower latency (latency is the lag between a signal “leaving its origin and arriving at its destination”. Typical real-life world manifestations of latency are the delay one sometimes experiences on video calls or phone calls or in gaming (where “ping time” is an important factor ). When reading up on 4G vs 5G performance one needs to be careful to separate theoretical performance from actual performance. For example, theoretically, 4G can deliver upto 1 Gbps, whereas in practice, typical 4G throughputs are in the 10 Mbps- 50 Mbps range. Similarly, 5G can theoretically deliver multiple Gbps, but real-world throughput is most likely in the 20-100 Mbps range. As for latency, most 4G latency will be at 50 milliseconds or below, while typical real-world 5G performance will be in the 20-30 milliseconds.

Operators worldwide have announced they will sunset their 2G and 3G networks. Usually the timescales for 3G shutdown are much more aggressive then those for 2G, but in most countries these networks will have disappeared by the end of the decade latest. More information about specific timescales for specific operators and countries can be found here:

The typical use case for knowing the location of a cell tower is to do “reverse geolocation” -i.e. if you know the cell tower a device connected to and you know the location of the cell tower, you know that the device is “somewhere around the cell tower”. However, while Teragence does not know the exact location of the tower, we are able to very accurately ascertain its footprint, making reverse geolocation based on Teragence data more accurate than the traditional cell tower location based method.

A cell tower is ID’d through its CGI (“Cell Global Identifier”), a code which consists of a number of elements. The most important ones are:

  • RAT: Radio Access Technology – for example “LTE” for 4G and “NR” for 5G.
  • MCC: Mobile Country code – identifies the country in which the tower is located. For example, 234 is the MCC for the UK.
  • NC: Mobile Network code – identifies the network operator. For example, in the UK EE is identified by MNC 30.
  • LAC or TAC: Location Are Code to Tracking Area code: identifies the region where the cell tower is located.
  • CID or ECI: this is the code which actually identified the cell tower.

The above is a somewhat simplified definition of things. For more detail we refer to detailed technical literature.

Teragence does not provide information about the location of a celltower. However, we get very precise information about any given cell tower’s coverage area of which is arguably the more relevant bit of information.

Signal strength is a measure of the strength of the radio signal your phone (or other device) is receiving. It is expressed in dBm (“DeciBels at 1 Milliwatt”). Most consumers understand it as the “the number of bars on my phone”. A useful (but not entirely accurate – every analogy breaks down somewhere) is to think of it as the number of lanes on a highway.
Throughpput or bandwidth is the other measure understood by most people, it refers to the amount of data that can be pushed (or more typically downloaded) through a connection. It is expressed in Mbps (megabit per second). Consumers typically relate it to how long it takes to download a file and the “smoothness” and resolution of an online video. There are other factors outside of bandwidth which influence this, but for our purposes those shorthand definitions are good enough.
If we build on the road analogy we set up earlier, the throughput or capacity is the time it takes to get your “payload”, distributed over a number of trucks from A to B. A few things become immediately clear: if you have many lanes and no-one is using the road, your payload will be shipped very quickly (or put differently, if you have a strong signal and not many people are using it, you should have a ton of throughput). Inversely, if you only have a few lanes (i.e. weak signal), even when not many people are using the road, it will take significant time to get your load from A to B. And if lots of people use it, very little will get through on time. So bad signal will always mean bad to very bad throughput.
The relationship between signal and thoughput is dependent on the utilisation, but good throughput is only possible when there is good signal.

3. Introduction to Mobile Coverage

Mobile coverage or signal checking refers to the process of assessing the signal strength of a cellular network in a specific area. Teragence’s products enable users to get granular and quantitative insights on the quality of their mobile coverage.

Mobile phone coverage denotes the extent and strength of the mobile signal in a given area, which determines how well users can make and receive calls, send text messages, and use mobile data. Mobile network coverage can vary based on the network provider, technology, infrastructure, and environmental factors.

Mobile coverage types include 2G, 3G, 4G, 4G, and 5G, each offering varying speeds and reliability. With Teragence’s Signal Strength Checker solution, users can get insights into the coverage of all these types as well as LTE-M and NBIOT.

4. Understanding Mobile Signal Data and Mobile Coverage Maps

Teragence’s solutions like Signal Checker and Cell Coverage provide visual representations and metrics of network strength and reach. Colours, patterns, and data points on the map indicate different signal strengths with green denoting good / strong signal and red denoting weak / bad signal.

With Teragence’s Signal Checker, users can easily evaluate the mobile coverage for their location. Simply select the location on the map and get detailed mobile coverage connectivity insights at that location across operators and technologies.

5. Mobile Signal Strength and Troubleshooting

Multiple factors can impact your mobile signal, including technology, geography, physical obstructions, distance from cell towers, and network congestion. Teragence’s tools provide insights into these factors, enabling better network design and optimization.

With Teragence’s Signal Checker users can check the available network signal strength for any operator and any technology in any location in Europe and North America. Simply select your location of interest on the map and Teragence Signal Checker will return the available signal strength across all operators and technologies.

Your mobile signal refers to the strength and quality of your phone’s connection to a cellular network. Teragence’s tools can provide precise metrics on this.

The key to understanding mobile coverage is Shannon’s law. In simple terms, it states that any signal has to contend with a tradeoff triangle between power, data and distance:

  • The further you want to make a signal reach, the more power it will require (all things being equal)
  • The more data you want a signal to carry, the more power it will require
  • Lower spectrum bands can carry signal further than higher spectrum bands (for the same power and payload)
  • Higher spectrum bands can carry more data (but over shorter distances) for the same power

Given that the power which an operator can put through an antenna is limited, the signal you will receive is pretty much a function of how far away you are from the tower and the spectrum on which the tower (or more precisely, the antenna) operates.

A second set of factors is the medium through which the radio signals need to travel. Radio signals will degrade as they travel through a physical medium, be it air, brick or wood. The more solid and metal-like the material becomes, the more difficult it is to penetrate. In addition, some material such as water and glass will deflect radio signals. Again, these effects become more pronounced in higher frequencies: for example, where low frequency signals will not be affected by things like rain or snow, high-frequency signal will see a stronger effect. Equally so for vegetation and foilage. The effect becomes especially pronounced indoor vs outdoor. Put simply, high frequency signals struggle to travel through buildings. And many modern buildings make use of signal deflecting materials such as steel and glass, exacerbating the problem. Whereas a Victorian brick building will see very little signal degradation, even at higher frequencies.

Teragence is not in the business of identifying the “best operator in country X”. We don’t believe this is useful information- if only because national or regional averages can hide many local issues. Instead, our focus is on identifying the best operator in a specific location and a specific technology.

The inability to connect to the internet via your mobile can be due to four factors:

  1. Lack of mobile network coverage. Check the number of bars on your phone or verify the local signal strength with Teragence Signal Strength Checker
  2. Lack of capacity: even when you have strong signal, it is possible that you have no internet if many users are trying to connect at the same time. This can happen at busy places such as train stations, festivals, etc..
  3. Interference: in certain cases, you might not get any internet connection even when you have strong signal and available capacity. This might indicate the presence of network interference. This can be caused by a misconfiguration in the mobile network or the presence of illegitimate radio object.
  4. A fault in your device: A faulty device can prevent you from getting any internet, even when all other factors are good. Check your device settings or have it checked in a repair shop.
The first step is to chose the best mobile operator. Using Teragence Signal Checker, users can find the best operator to serve their location. There are a few things you can do to improve your mobile signal and overall mobile experience. First thing is to get a high-quality handset. Different handsets have different types of antennas with different performance characteristics. Getting a good handset with a good antenna can help you eke out a bit of extra performance. A second option, specifically for indoor coverage is to look at boosters and repeaters. There are now many independent providers of mobile booster and repeater systems which can help you to augment your available coverage. However, they will charge you for their equipment and services.


LPWAN stands for “Low Power Wide Area Networking”. It refers to a set of wireless networking technologies for the “Internet of Things” (IoT). IoT connections are connections between devices such as water meters, people counters, remote monitoring stations or your smart thermostat. LPWAN technologies focus on carrying small volumes of data over long distances with minimal energy consumption (to enable long battery life).

There are LPWAN technologies which operate in unlicensed spectrum such LoRa (or LoraWan). NBIOT (“Narrowband IOT”) and LTE-M (LTE-Machine) are LPWAN technologies which operate on the licensed spectrum (and are provided by the licensed mobile operators).

Our NB-IOT and LTE-M coverage and signal strength data is delivered through a two-step-process. First of all, through our cellular crowdsourced data we know the coverage by band for each operator. We also know, which operators offers which LPWAN technology on which band. If we detect signal in an LPWAN band for a specific operator, we mark that location as NB-IOT or LTE-M “capable”. i.e. , if the operator has enabled the relevant LPWAN technology for the covering celltower, there will be a signal at the indicated strength. However, to be absolutely sure that there will be a signal, we need confirmation that the covering tower is indeed enabled for that LPWAN technology. This data we obtain by working with our IOT partners who provide us with the data sourced from their devices.

Through this combination of cellular and IOT crowdsourced data we are able to provide highly accurate LTE-M and NB-IOT coverage maps.

Teragence Signal Checker provides location-specific, transparent data on the quality of NB-IoT signal strength and availability across Europe and North America.

Teragence Signal Checker provides location-specific, transparent data on the quality of LTE-M signal strength and availability across Europe and North America.

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Teragence maps out all aspects of mobile network coverage. We provide accurate, granular, and transparent data on network coverage and mobile signal strength. Our mobile network mapping improves the operation of businesses that need mobile connectivity to be successful.

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