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Differences Between Cell Signal Strength & Signal Quality

Differences Between Cell Signal Strength & Signal Quality

What makes a successful and enjoyable phone call? Good connection and quality signal. Signal strength and quality both affect your cell phone communication and user experience. However, strength and quality refer to differing aspects. When you drop from a call, struggle to send a text, or can’t load content on your data plan, do you blame your phone’s signal strength or quality?

Since both quality and strength refer to and produce differing functions, not knowing their dissimilarities makes it harder to find solutions to your issues. Plus, having problems with your signal’s quality doesn’t compromise your connection’s strength. So what are the differences between cell signal strength and signal quality?


Cellular devices work by transmitting and receiving radio waves. These waves carry data and information that passes through to other radio frequencies and receivers like network towers. Signals travel in specific patterns, ranging from direct beams of pathways to circular or angled passages, depending on the type of antenna available. If you are struggling to send a message, you might have weak signal strength.

Signal strength refers to the connection between your phone and other receivers. The stronger your signal, the more likely you will obtain and connect to calls or data. It also means that radio frequencies can cross longer distances, across more space, and travel through the best path possible, broadening where you can receive connections.

One way to imagine how signal strength works is to look at their journey like a race. The radio frequencies are the runners that have to tackle a specific route to reach the finish line (the other receivers and signal transmitters). The strongest waves are more likely to finish their race, traverse longer distances, and connect to their desired end goal compared to their weaker counterparts. Plus, with the best route forged for the racers, more frequencies complete their trip.

Signal quality attributes to the type of call or data connection you endure. A high-quality signal lets you connect and send information faster, conduct clear calls where both speakers have crisp communication, and optimize data transmissions. From choppy voices during calls to funky webpage layouts, signal quality affects your direct experience using your cell’s network while surfing the web on a data network. This is what happens during the frequencies journey, like combating obstacles and speed, and once they complete their race.


Numerous interferences affect both signal strength and quality but in different ways. Common causes for interrupted connectivity include:

  • Dense forests

  • Mountains

  • Heavily populated and busy areas

  • Certain building materials

  • Other passing signals

  • Debris

Each interference blocks and reroutes signals, hindering their ability to travel to and from cell towers. Barricades in the way of set signal passageways slow frequencies from crossing, making connection quality spotty and low. Certain interrupters like weather, especially precipitation, refracts and absorb the radio waves, stopping signals from reaching their end location and lessening the number of waves that complete their set journey. This weakens your signal strength.


Since signal strength and quality stand as separate components, each measure on a different scale from one another. Signal strength uses decibels relative to milliwatts (dBm) as its form of measurement. On cells, signal strength ranges between -30 dBm to -110 dBm. Weaker connections rank further from 0 with measurements of around -70 dBm and below. Anything around -85 dBm and up (closer to 0) is a strong signal. Average strengths sit between -70 and -85 dBm.

On the other hand, you measure signal quality by the ratio between sound and noise (S/N or SNR), with a total number represented in decibels (dB). The noise measured in this equation signifies external interceptions or other obstructive signals. The more interferences, the lower the S/N. The higher the S/N ratio, the better the quality. On average, the minimum S/N ranks around 3 dB.

How To Determine Signal Strength

The simplest way to determine your signal strength is using the number of bars displayed on your phone. However, those bars represent strength according to your carrier’s specific scale. Therefore, network provider A might consider network provider B’s maximum strength weak or average compared to their max signal strength, and vice versa. Both could present full bars for different strength levels. You can ask most carriers for the range or the highest dBm available in your plan to accurately determine your signal’s strength.

How To Determine Signal Quality

The most simplistic way to find out your signal quality is by testing the speed and experiencing calls, texts, and data web searches and loads. The more complicated route to determining your signal quality is calculating the S/N total. Some phones, apps, and services even provide you with your S/N score, computing and collecting data for your ratio without requiring you to do much work.

How To Improve Both Strength and Quality

Cell phone signal boosters are the best solution for improving signal strength and quality. Boosters work by capturing nearby signals from towers, amplifying those collected frequencies, and retransmitting those radio waves into your desired location. When they boost and transmit the signal, they provide the best clear and direct signal passageways, increase the number of frequencies available near you, and speed the signal’s traveling process.

Depending on your location and where you want to obtain quality and strong calls, you can choose from a range of booster antennas to provide your signal with an optimal path, minimizing interferences for your connection. Common antenna-created signal paths include a straightforward beam, a circular spread signal net, and angled streams of signal passage.

SureCall Boosters provides a variety of cell phone signal boosters in Canada, ranging from vehicular to commercial to private kits. No matter the type of booster you choose, equipping your space with a signal amplifying system enhances your call quality and strength.

Now that you have a better idea of the differences between cell signal strength and signal quality, you can find the root of some of your communication troubles and use a booster to help accentuate your signal quality and strength while also reducing potential issues. Say goodbye to choppy calls and dropped connections with a boost from a cell signal booster.

Differences Between Cell Signal Strength & Signal Quality


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