Common Mobile Network Problems (and How to Fix Them)

International Cell Connectivity
International Cell Connectivity. John Lamb / Getty Images

Mobile devices and wireless networks can do amazing things to make our lives better, but attitudes change quickly when technical issues crop up. Mobile broadband networks suffer from their fair share of problems, unfortunately. These suggestions should help you cope with the most common types of issues.

Can’t Get a 4G (or Sometimes Any) Signal

Using a high speed LTE phone connection becomes addicting over time.

When the device suddenly reverts to from 4G to 3G because of cell tower or other network issues, the performance drop is significant, and the slow speeds we were satisfied with several years ago are no longer acceptable. A very slow data connection is often just as bad as having no signal at all.

Some wireless providers offer much better 4G coverage than others depending on the location. Different models of phones can also pick up cell signals better than others. Research providers in your home area carefully before buying a device and signing up for wireless service. Keep your devices upgraded with software and firmware updates too, as glitches in them can also affect network reliability.

A quick trick? Disable your data in your phone's settings and then re-enable it. Often times this will force your phone to give a fresh look at what signals are available and may re-connect with the faster 4G signal.

Can’t Tether the Device

Tethering is the capability of mobile phones to be configured as Wi-Fi hotspots. While most modern smartphones support tethering, internet providers sometimes block its use or charge customers extra fees.

If you plan to use tethering, first check that your phone and service provider both support them.

If they do, and your tethering setup isn’t working, restart your phone and try again.

Using Too Much Data

Most people subscribe to mobile data plans that limit how much cellular network bandwidth they can utilize per day or month. Modern apps, particularly those that support video streaming, can consume a month’s worth of allocation in a few hours. Tethering may also lead to a similar problem as multiple active devices share one network connection.

Consider setting up monitoring alarms on your devices to alert you when network usage exceeds chosen limits. (Some third-party apps offer data usage tracking features for devices that don’t have it built in.) Additionally, switch your device from cellular to Wi-Fi connections when possible to offload utilization from your data plan.

Wi-Fi Disconnects

Mobile devices with Wi-Fi lose connection with wireless access points when carried outside the range of the signal. When Wi-Fi drops out, apps sometimes revert automatically to use the cellular connection (if one exists) and sometimes stop running altogether, depending on your device settings.

Although it’s not possible to prevent all disconnects, carefully positioning yourself and the device is necessary sometimes to maintain a reliable Wi-Fi signal.

Avoid excessive data usage by restricting apps to only run over Wi-Fi connections.