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Is 3G/4G slower indoors? Not as much as you might think

Gabe Scelta | May 27, 2013
Our recent 20-city tests of wireless service show that both 3G and 4G services slow down less than 10 percent indoors

Thick concrete buildings and heavy brick architecture invariably make things worse. Signal deterioration can increase twelvefold when you move from a wood-frame structure to a concrete-block building.

Case in point
Pierpont Commons at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was a standout among difficult indoor signals due in part to heavy brick building materials coupled with a lower-than-average outdoor rating. It may boast two pianos and a food court, but the University Union building doesn't have much in the way of mobile signal, even at a table near the window.

To be fair to the University of Michigan, we were surveying large areas, and our building choices were sometimes arbitrary. Nevertheless, it's reasonable to expect a mobile-proof building like Pierpont Commons in most areas. Here's hoping it isn't your house or office.

One other important indoor/outdoor difference we noticed during testing was in the physical hardware of the devices we used. Our testing was limited to the Samsung Galaxy Note II and iPhone 4S, so we can't make a wide comparison, but both screens were extraordinarily difficult to see in direct sunlight. And the iPhones we used (not to mention my iPad) frequently produced an emergency temperature warning if they weren't in the shade. The iPhones did seem to absorb the heat more readily than the Note IIs, especially in their metal bezel frame.

We'd love to hear about your own indoor-versus-outdoor wireless experiences. Let us know in the comments!


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