Wanna look cool or would you prefer a working phone?

So you have this nifty cellular telephone in your car and you've decided that it just doesn't look cool enough to have the antenna sticking straight up. Your solution is to angle it back. After all, it's more aerodynamic looking and way cool. Or maybe you've decided that it should be completely, horizontal. The more horizontal, the better looking, right?

That's great! Just don't call your cellular provider and complain about dropped calls or that your wife says she can't hear you. It really isn't much different from walking into a nightclub with your shades on. It may look cool, but you aren't going to see as much. The same is true with a cellular antenna.

A typical cellular antenna (you know, the kind that looks like it has a spring in the middle) is designed to transmit a shaped wave. The transmission pattern looks sort of like a giant donut. Assuming the antenna is perfectly vertical, the transmitted signal is much higher in the horizontal direction than it is in the vertical direction. This is because the cell site with which you are communicating is located in a horizontal path away from your location. It generally isn't located half a mile above you. So it wouldn't make sense to optimize the antenna for vertical transmission.

When you position your antenna on an angle (and yes, I have often seen antennas postioned horizontally) you are reducing the amount of power transmitted forward and behind you and increasing the amount of power transmitted straight up into the sky. Not exactly the ideal situation if you want the best wireless connection. You're probably thinking to yourself, "But I don't hear any static". Oftentimes true. You may not. This is because cellular phone base transmitters are more powerful than the vehicle's and the signal reduction due to the bent over cellular antenna is more noticeable on the other end due to the already weaker signal link from the vehicle. So even though your wife may sound fine to you, she may have trouble hearing you depending on how marginal the link from your vehicle is. Mostly you are more likely to experience dropped calls in an area that isn't covered by many cell sites.

So unless you're the type of person who cares more about how you look than about performance, keep that cellular antenna vertical!


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14 Mar 1999