In telecommunications, particularly in radio, signal strength refers to the magnitude of the electric field at a reference point that is at a significant distance from the transmitting antenna. It may also be referred to as received signal level or field strength. Typically, it is expressed in voltage per length or signal power received by a reference antenna. Highpowered transmissions, such as those used in broadcasting, are expressed in dBmillivolts per metre (dBmV/m). For very lowpower systems, such as mobile phones, signal strength is usually expressed in dBmicrovolts per metre (dBµV/m) or in decibels above a reference level of one milliwatt (dBm). In broadcasting terminology, 1 mV/m is 1000 µV/m or 60 dBµ (often written dBu).

Examples

100 dBµ or 100 mV/m: blanketing interference may occur on some receivers

60 dBµ or 1.0 mV/m: frequently considered the edge of a radio station's protected area in North America

40 dBµ or 0.1 mV/m: the minimum strength at which a station can be received with acceptable quality on most receivers
Contents

Relationship to average radiated power 1

Cellphone signals 2

Estimated received signal strength 2.1

Number of decades 2.2

Estimate the cell radius 2.3

See also 3

References 4

External links 5
Relationship to average radiated power
The electric field strength at a specific point can be determined from the power delivered to the transmitting antenna, its geometry and radiation resistance. Consider the case of a bruh distribution is essentially sinusoidal and the radiating electric field is given by
Current distribution on antenna of length \scriptstyle{L} equal to one half wavelength (\scriptstyle{\lambda /2}).

E_\theta (r) = {jI_\circ\over 2\pi\varepsilon_\circ c\, r} {\cos\left(\scriptstyle{\pi\over 2}\cos\theta\right)\over\sin\theta} e^{j\left(\omega tkr\right)}
where \scriptstyle{\theta} is the angle between the antenna axis and the vector to the observation point, \scriptstyle{I_\circ} is the peak current at the feedpoint, \scriptstyle{\varepsilon_\circ \, = \, 8.85\times 10^{12} \, F/m } is the permittivity of freespace, \scriptstyle{c \, = \, 3\times 10^8 \, m/S} is the speed of light in a vacuum, and \scriptstyle{r} is the distance to the antenna in meters. When the antenna is viewed broadside (\scriptstyle{\theta \, = \, \pi/2}) the electric field is maximum and given by

\vert E_{\pi/2}(r) \vert = { I_\circ \over 2\pi\varepsilon_\circ c\, r }\, .
Solving this formula for the peak current yields

I_\circ = 2\pi\varepsilon_\circ c \, r\vert E_{\pi/2}(r) \vert \, .
The average power to the antenna is

{P_{avg} = {1 \over 2} R_a \, I_\circ^2 }
where \scriptstyle{R_a = 73.13\,\Omega} is the centerfed halfwave antenna’s radiation resistance. Substituting the formula for \scriptstyle{I_\circ} into the one for \scriptstyle{P_{avg}} and solving for the maximum electric field yields

\vert E_{\pi/2}(r)\vert \, = \, {1 \over \pi\varepsilon_\circ c \, r} \sqrt \, = \, {9.91 \over r} \sqrt{ P_{avg} } \quad (L = \lambda /2) \, .
Therefore, if the average power to a halfwave dipole antenna is 1 mW, then the maximum electric field at 313 m (1027 ft) is 1 mV/m (60 dBµ).
For a short dipole (\scriptstyle{L \ll \lambda /2}) the current distribution is nearly triangular. In this case, the electric field and radiation resistance are

E_\theta (r) = {jI_\circ \sin (\theta) \over 4 \varepsilon_\circ c\, r} \left ( {L \over \lambda} \right ) e^{j\left(\omega tkr\right)} \, , \quad R_a = 20\pi^2 \left ( {L \over \lambda} \right )^2 .
Using a procedure similar to that above, the maximum electric field for a centerfed short dipole is

\vert E_{\pi/2}(r)\vert \, = \, {1 \over \pi\varepsilon_\circ c \, r} \sqrt \, = \, {9.48 \over r} \sqrt{ P_{avg} } \quad (L \ll \lambda /2)\, .
Cellphone signals
Although there are cell phone base station tower networks across many nations globally, there are still many areas within those nations that do not have good reception. Some rural areas are unlikely ever to be effectively covered since the cost of erecting a cell tower is too high for only a few customers. Even in high reception areas it is often found that basements and the interiors of large buildings have poor reception.
Weak signal strength can also be caused by destructive interference of the signals from local towers in urban areas, or by the construction materials used in some buildings causing rapid attenuation of signal strength. Large buildings such as warehouses, hospitals and factories often have no usable signal further than a few metres from the outside walls.
This is particularly true for the networks which operate at higher frequency since these are attenuated more rapidly by intervening obstacles, although they are able to use reflection and diffraction to circumvent obstacles.
Estimated received signal strength
The estimated received signal strength in a mobile device can be estimated as follows:

dBm_e = 113.0  40.0 \ \log_{10} ( r / R )
More general you can take the path loss exponent into account:^{[1]}

dBm_e = 113.0  10.0 \ \gamma \ \log_{10} ( r / R )
Parameter

Description

dBm_{e}

Estimated received power in mobile device

113

Minimum received power

40

Average path loss per decade for mobile networks

r

Distance mobile device  cell tower

R

Mean radius of the cell tower

γ

Path loss exponent (average value of 4 for mobile networks)

If the mobile device is at cell radius distance from the cell tower the received power is estimated as 113 dBm. The effective path loss is depending on the frequency, the topography, and the environmental conditions.
Actually one could use any known signal power dBm_{0} at any distance r_{0} as a reference:

dBm_e = dBm_{0}  10.0 \ \gamma \ \log_{10} ( r / r_{0} )
Number of decades

\log_{10} ( R / r ) would give an estimate of the number of decades, which coincides with an average path loss of 40 dB/decade.
Estimate the cell radius
When we measure cell distance r and received power dBm_{m} pairs, then we can estimate the mean cell radius as follows:

R_e = \operatorname{avg}[ \ r \ 10 ^ { ( dBm_m + 113.0 ) / 40.0 } \ ]
Specialized calculation models exist to plan the location of a new cell tower, taking into account local conditions and radio equipment parameters. Take also into consideration that mobile radio signals have lineofsight propagation, unless reflexion would occur.
See also
References

^ Figueiras, João; Frattasi, Simone (2010). Mobile Positioning and Tracking: From Conventional to Cooperative Techniques. John Wiley & Sons.
External links

Global map of cell phone signal by network. Based on crowdsourced data.

Crowd sourced map of cell and wifi signals. Data release under the Open Database License.
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