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How to boost mobile reception

If you’re sick of bad mobile reception, there are several fixes to try, some of which don’t cost a cent.

Nathan Lawrence
Feb 19, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

A mobile phone user walks into a single bar. Not a singles bar. A single bar of reception. That may read like the start of a joke. Unfortunately, that single-bar reality is, like death and taxes, a frustrating affair that seemingly comes for us all at one time or another. Thankfully, unlike death and taxes, there are several workarounds for shoddy mobile reception.

Here’s how to hop from single-bar sadness to multi-bar joy, boosting your mobile phone reception.

How to boost mobile phone reception the easy way

There are some simpler steps to try before moving on to more advanced or costlier alternatives. Start by toggling aeroplane mode on and then off. Or just restart your phone entirely. These steps act as a basic network reset, but you can also dig into your phone’s settings and reset the network options entirely.

It’s a good practice to keep your smartphone updated to the latest version, so keep an eye out for update pop-ups. That said, certain updates can create connectivity issues that may be addressed by a hotfix, so reach out to your telco if you notice connectivity issues after a recent phone update. Anecdotally, my Google Pixel 7 Pro refused to use mobile data after an update and the fix was to reset the network settings.

You may also want to dig into your app settings to see what’s automatically using data, potentially when you’re not even using those apps. If you notice calls dropping or slow internet speeds when you’re holding your phone, try making a hands-free call or holding the phone differently. That may sound strange, but the internal placement of a phone’s network antenna could be blocked by certain phone grips and has caused issues with particular models.

If you typically have bad signal inside, crack a window or head outside. Mobile coverage is generally talked about in terms of ideal conditions, which translates to being outside. Buildings with thicker walls or other potentially network-interfering blockers may cause reception issues. It’s a similar logic if you’re in a heavily populated area: you may need to move away from buildings or crowds to get a better phone signal.

Use the interactive map below to see how mobile coverage looks from the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone networks in the areas you frequent.

Use WiFi calling to boost mobile reception

If mobile reception is better outside than inside for you, consider a telco-and-phone combination that supports WiFi calling. Basically, this feature uses home internet to make calls rather than a mobile network. As long as your compatible phone is connected to WiFi, if your telco offers this feature, you’ll effectively have better mobile reception.

Here’s a list of the prepaid telcos we track in our comparison engine that offer WiFi calling:

The list below is of popular prepaid plans from our comparison engine, comprised of telcos that offer WiFi calling.

And below is a list of the telcos in our database that offer WiFi calling with their SIM-only plans:

Check out popular SIM-only mobile plans from these WiFi call-supporting telcos below.

How to boost mobile phone reception the moderately difficult way

If the steps above didn’t work, it’s time to up the difficulty. Contact your telco and chat about whether you might benefit from a new physical SIM card. Alternatively, check if your mobile phone and telco supports eSIM, which lets you ditch the physical SIM card and just use a digital one instead. The SIM-only telcos below from our database include eSIM support:

  • AGL
  • Everyday Mobile
  • Kogan Mobile
  • iiNet
  • More
  • Optus
  • Telstra
  • Vodafone

And here’s a look at popular SIM-only plans from those telcos.

If you prefer a prepaid plan, these telcos from our database offer eSIM:

  • Amaysim
  • Everyday Mobile
  • Kogan Mobile
  • Felix Mobile
  • Lebara Mobile
  • Optus
  • Superloop
  • Telstra
  • TPG
  • Vodafone

Check out popular prepaid mobile plans from these eSIM-offering telcos.

Speaking of shifting telcos, it’s worth considering if the areas you frequent don’t have the best mobile reception. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are the three network owners in Australia, and the order they’re listed in is also representative of coverage from most to least widespread. If you live in a populous part of Australia, you should have the choice of all three. But you have the best chance of better reception with Telstra and Optus before Vodafone if you live in or travel to less populous areas.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone aren’t the only telcos in Australia, but every other telco does operate on one of those three major mobile networks. If you want the full Telstra network, you can choose either Telstra or Boost Mobile. There are other telcos in our database that use the Telstra wholesale network, which is still more expansive than the Optus and Vodafone mobile networks.

Check out popular mobile plans from telcos that use the Telstra network.

Here’s a look at popular mobile plans from telcos on the Optus network.

And here’s how plans from popular Vodafone network telcos look today.

How to boost mobile phone reception the hard way

It’s less that it’s hard and more that it costs the most. Switching telcos may cost money but it can also lead to a cheaper prepaid or SIM-only plan. But buying a replacement phone can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you’re still rocking an aging phone—particularly one that only supports 3G, which is being shut down in Australia—it’s worth considering an upgrade if none of the steps above have helped boost your mobile reception.

Start comparisons with mobile phones that have Telstra’s “Blue Tick” or the “Top Pick for Regional Coverage” options from Optus. The Telstra Blue Tick mobile phones are dominated by the Samsung Galaxy range, so consider one of those if you’re in the market for a new handset.

And if you want to pair a new mobile phone with a postpaid plan, check out these popular Samsung Galaxy picks from Telstra and Optus.

If you don’t want to buy a new mobile phone, consider purchasing a device that boosts mobile signal, but there are some hoops to jump through. The safest bet on that front is purchasing a hands-free car kit that includes an externally mounted antenna to boost mobile reception. Other options are a whole lot trickier.

Why? Because the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) requires users to receive written permission from a mobile network owner to use any mobile booster. Without this permission, these mobile signal boosters are illegal to operate, which is why we advise steering clear of them. If you do want to go down that path, the ACMA has general rules for repeaters exempt from murkier waters.

Boost mobile phone reception frequently asked questions

Generally, this is the network ranking from best to worst in terms of reception: the full Telstra network, Telstra wholesale, Optus, Vodafone. Use our interactive map above to find the best mobile signal in your area.
The easiest way to improve mobile strength in Australia is to try restarting your phone and/or resetting the network settings. If that doesn’t work, consider comparing reception outside vs inside, switching telcos, particularly one on a different mobile network, or upgrading your mobile phone.
Mobile phone signal is typically better outside than it is inside, which can be compounded by thick potentially signal-dampening walls or other interfering objects. Go outside to make a call or switch to a telco that offers WiFi calling for better phone reception inside.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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