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Why Won't Cell Phones Work in an Elevator?

Written by Wilson Amplifiers
20th Sep 2023

Why is it so hard to get a signal in an elevator? Perhaps it’s the cosmic energy of the world converging to prevent you from being the rudest person in a crowded elevator? Maybe not. It is, however, pretty simple science.

Cell phones use electromagnetic radio waves to communicate. These signals travel to and from cell towers and small cells, which send them along to your correspondent, and back to you. Technology has advanced so much since the advent of mobile phones that these signals can bust their way across entire continents with crystal clarity. Most of the time...

...and we all know about the rest of the time when they don’t. And when they don’t, it’s infuriating. So, what is it about elevators that stops cell phone signals in their tracks?

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Why Won’t Cell Phones Work in Elevators?

As magical as these travelling radio waves may seem, there are a number of barriers that can block, absorb, or reflect your precious signal. Some of the strongest signal-killing culprits include common building materials like brick, wood, concrete, and the number one signal-blocking component: metal. Really, anything that’s keeping out rain, sleet, and snow is just as effectively keeping cell phone signals out, too.

Now, if you’re in a building that’s large (and high tech) enough to have elevators, just imagine how many layers of metal, cement, brick, wood, drywall, and glass you must have guarding your phone from its precious signal. *Unless you’re an Avenger in an outward-facing glass elevator, in which case, your dropped call probably has more to do with Mother Nature or cell tower distance. Glad we could clear that up!*

Considering the fact that even windows are capable of slowing down your signal (especially low-e or tinted glass), imagine what that enclosed metal box riding up and down a steel shaft is doing to your service. Most elevators are made from some combination of steel, metal pulleys and cables, and aesthetic finishes like carpet or tile, and probably some plaster or sheetrock covered in wallpaper (so you can feel more at home and a little less like you’re riding up and down dozens of floors in a tiny metal box suspended on wires and cables). Add in the electronic components required to make it run—for a little extra interference—and you’ve got a pretty solid cell phone signal destroyer. It’s like a vertical tunnel, so it’s best to just keep on driving ‘til you’re through.

How to Solve the Cell Phone Elevator Conundrum

First things first, if the thought of being trapped in an elevator without a cell phone signal is giving you the creeps, please rest assured that modern lift systems are legally required to include an ADA-compliant two-way means of emergency communication. So, let’s take a moment to relax and take comfort in that precious “call” button. And, if you’re lucky enough to be close to a cell phone tower, you can probably get enough of a signal to make any urgent calls, too.

Do Cell Phone Boosters Work in Elevators?

Yes and no.

Cell phone signal boosters bring cellular signal into buildings with ease, but elevators are particularly tricky. First of all, elevator shafts are straight vertical spaces with a large metal box inside. Covering the shaft with signal is a challenge in and of itself, and getting that signal into an elevator even harder. Unless the booster is installed directly into the elevator itself - hardwired, to ensure continual power - rigging up the shaft is not feasible unless it's only a two or three story building. Plus, there is liability to consider.

So, technically you can get a signal booster to work in an elevator, but they're highly impractical.

That said, many elevators struggling with poor signal exist in a larger ecosystem of poor signal. If you never fail to drop a call inside an elevator, that's symptomatic of poor signal inside your building. For that, we have a solution.

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How do I Know if a Cell Signal Booster is Right for Me?

Maybe you just so happen to be one of those tech-savvy building operators? Wilson Amplifiers is the premiere cell phone booster provider for home, office, and even your high-rise. If you’re interested in making yourself (and everyone else who rides your elevators) very happy, then our customer support team is eager to help you select the perfect signal booster set-up for your operation.

  • Free consultation (ask us anything) with our US-based customer support. Email: (sales@wilsonamplifiers.com). Phone: 1-800-568-2723.
  • Free shipping. Usually ships same day.
  • 90-day (seriously) money back guarantee. You want to make sure you're satisfied.

Interested in Learning More? Check Out Our Signal Boosting Info Center

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