Hyderabad: A few days ago, Imran was at a massive protest at Dharna Chowk near Indira Park. He tried to post pictures of the protest on his social media accounts but was unable to do so. Though his mobile phone was on “full signal,” he couldn’t even send a text message on WhatsApp.
Imran isn’t the only one to face this problem. At places with large crowds such as sporting events, religious processions and protests, mobile internet often becomes useless on many phones.
Journalists often walk with their phones held above their heads to get some reception to file their copies.
The reason for this is quite simple, the demand for mobile data exceeds the supply.
Mr Narsi Reddy, a telecommunications engineer, explained that mobile phones are like WiFi routers. They have a limit on the amount of data they can send out at a particular point in time. He explained that most mobile phones are now using 4G or LTE (long term evolution) frequency bands.
“On most phones, the default settings make it the only option. In a crowded place, everyone is trying to upload pictures or livestream the proceedings. This causes an excessive load in that particular network,” he said.
The phone is quite confused when this happens. “It knows the network is there but doesn’t know how to use it,” the engineer said.
Mr Ramu Penthota of Sri Ram Enterprises, which sets up cellular infrastructure for major cellular networks in the city, agreed.
“A cell tower can only take on so much traffic. Most people don’t understand it. Companies spend a lot of thought in deciding where they want to set up cell towers,” he said.
There is, however, a workaround to this problem. Users could switch to the local 3G network when the 4G network is congested.
Mr Penthota said, “Most carriers continue to maintain a 3G and 2G network. However, they are seldom used since most mobile phone phones are set to receive only 4G signals. If one digs around the settings for a few minutes, one can have a completely workable 3G or even 2G signal.”
This workaround is only valid with carriers other than Jio, since the carrier offers its services in LTE....