Help! How should I investigate my dropped calls problem?

Time to tap the big brains of the readership this morning…

I’m experiencing a major problem with dropped calls at home.  Yesterday calls throughout the day dropped within a few minutes.  I suspect it may be a Three issue (the odd ‘network busy’ message), but it’s coincided with me starting to use new handset and I’ve been swapping phones and networks a lot over the last few months so don’t have a reliable benchmark point.

The techie in me feels I should be able to gather some firm evidence as to whether it’s the network or the phone beyond just testing alternatives to both for a while.  Is there any data I could get from my handset (or anywhere else for that matter) to give me a steer?

By Ben Smith

Ben is an expert on enterprise mobility and wireless data products. He has been a regular contributor to Mobile Industry Review since 2007 and is also editor of Wireless Worker.

22 replies on “Help! How should I investigate my dropped calls problem?”

Ring up and ask. Your network provider should be able to see if calls are dropping (vs being hung up). They should also be able to see if it's a signal problem or a handset problem.

iIve been having the same problem for nearly 2 weeks now with my previously reliable n95, always saying network busy but only at my home address when i go to work its all fine, Three are investigating but I don't expect them to rush!!!!

Make sure you are not accessing both the circuit and packet switch network, by that I mean make sure you have no applications accessing the internet. Use only voice. I've had this problem happen to me as well, same device as you too, hmmm.

This a problem that Three are apparently aware of, though it’s certainly been dragging on for a long time. We are dependent on our Three handsets here in our offices in Chiswick – and for the last month or so we have experienced poor data and voice services. We went into the local Three store on Chiswick High Road and were told that Three is upgrading to its new 5G network (?!) – and the store handed us (and others) a free packet of Walkers crisps as compensation…

Hi Ben,

Disclaimer: I work for Nokia Siemens Networks, a telecoms hardware vendor. I’ll presume/assume you are using a Symbian device for this (as the below software needs a Symbian device).

That sounds like a very annoying situation, that everyone knows!

What can you do? Hmm….a few things.

1. install an application called PhoNetInfo ( This can give you information like signal strength, Location Ared Code (LAC –, Cell ID (

Other than that, you would need engineering/test phone software which is “hard to get”.

2. You could find the nearest Cell station (Node-B site) for that operator. In Ireland (where I am based) the Comms. Regulator has an up-to-date website that has all cell sites. Using the above app, you can find if you are on the nearest (strongest) cell.

3. Post the issue on Jaiku. There are alot of telecoms vendor/operator people there who might be able to help you.

4. You should also ask the customer support people for the locations of the nearest cell.

5. Check with other subscribers of your operator. See if they have similar problems.

I hope that helps. If you like, you can give me an e-mail address, maybe we can help!

One point: switching phones regularly can, like you said, be confusing as you dont get a good idea of the expected coverage.

Mobile networks, and device manufacturers all follow standards, more or less. Some times some devices do not follow standards, and this can cause that device user problems.

Most operators will have “recommended” devices which they have proved in testing.

By right *all* devices should work – sometimes though, they don’t.

NB: This comment is my own. I thought it up. All of these thoughts are my own, and not those of anyone else.

I’ve had exactly the same problem with Three in the last 2-3 weeks, but only when I’m in my flat in East London and when I’m connected to the HSDPA network.

CS told me a transmitter had gone down in my area, which was causing the problems. That was 2 weeks ago, though, so they’re hardly in a hurry to fix it…!


Also, even if you have a benchmark of god performance, sometimes ongoing network optimisation means where you had good coverage, due to a site reorientation, change in RF parameters etc can have a detrimental effect on some users. Networks are engineered for overall quality, not for your front room. It may be that due to an increase in users complaining elsewhere nearby, the sight was tweaked to meet their needs but has robbed you of what was marginal but workable coverage. The life of an RF engineer is a study in professional compromises.

Or you could (and IMHO this is most likely) have a bung handset. All phones and software builds have differing RF performance (a major network I know of withheld a popular handset for months recently because they were unhappy with the RF performance. Their competitors were not so cautious, and suffered massive handset returns as a result).

Go back to a handset you are happy with for a few days and see if there's a change. If so, return the new one you have. If not, pursue the “my mobile site's knackered” line. Might be a pidgeon's built a nest in the antenna or a rat's eaten the waterproof tape on the 7/16th connectors and water's got into the feeder. Or any one of a thousand possible physical causes. I once visited a dead site, to find a few hundred rats had eaten their way in through the unused cable glands and were happily snuggling up to (and weeing on) the nice warm BTS.

Too much rat wee = poor coverage.


Hi Will,

Wow, 5G! *cough*clueless*cough*. I don't think I have to say much about that.

Regarding the crisp bag: if you eat all the crisps, hold the bag up to the phone and point it out the window, the metal crisp bag *may* act as an antenna.

Then again, maybe it won't.

If a number of subscribers have the same issue in an area, 2-3Km radius, then it could be an issue with that area.

But as Mike42 mentioned below, there are alot of reasons why this issue could be happening.

The best thing is: continue to call support, and escalate it if necessary. When people can't spend their money on the operators networks, the operator looses revenue. They don't want that. reiterate:

NB: This comment is my own. I thought it up. All of these thoughts are my own, and not those of anyone else.

Your welcome Ben.

Regarding the operator firmware version, or not, well I do not know *exactly* what the operator puts into it, other than branding, their services. I don't know if they modify the network interaction.

Try the PhoNetInfo software it is useful. Keep that device for a few days/weeks and try to establish what you “normally” get.

Network layouts don't usually change frequently, except for the reason of “making them better” (ahem!).

If this issue is happening in a high-population area, then there is probably something wrong.

Keep an eye on Cell ID, if that changes frequently *and you do not move your location* (a high number of times a day) then something is not right.

End game: It can be difficult to find the issue. Keep notice of these things and it can help.

Hope that helps.


NB: All my own thoughts and opinions.

@mike42 Wow! I really like that idea. I think I will be trying that next time I have to talk to a CS phoneline

“Hello, I don't speak English well. I am from Ireland. I want to talk to some person in Irish.”

Good one.

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