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Android P will allow carriers to visually represent how LTE signal strength are shown

Feb 8, 2018, 10:10 am

While the 4G LTE technology has been introduced to the world almost 8 years back, with many companies working to develop the 5G network, getting desirable signal strength is still a problem faced by many users around the globe. The network is often seen to relay back to 3G or 2G, and there are also times when a device can lose signal altogether.

The external build of a device, the bands included by the manufacturer, signal carrier, and user location are some of the factors that determine signal speed. And in all the cases, Android parses the received signal, in the same way, to represent them accurately as the all too familiar signal bars. In the next version of Android, Android P, the carriers will be allowed to decide how the actual LTE signal bars are defined and shown to the user, along with being granted the ability to hide signal strength from users.


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LTE signal bars are a comprehensive visual representation of the signal strength in a particular location calculated in dBm by the device receiving said signals. In Android 8.1 and lower, the signal strength thresholds are defined by device-specific “config_lteDbmThresholds” values. However, it has been discovered in a couple of commits in the Android Open Source project that carriers can now define custom signal strength thresholds for each of the 5 LTE signal bars, with a full meter being shown at a lower or a higher dBm value, leading the user to believe that the signal strength is stronger than it actually is.

What this effectively means is that LTE thresholds shall become carrier-specific rather than device-specific for devices running on Android P, making them universal. Vodafone Libertel in the Netherlands (20404), Verizon Wireless in the United States (311480), and Telstra Corp. in Australia (50501, 50511, 50571, 50572) are some of the carriers mentioned in the commits.

This ability to hide signal strength may allow carriers to normalize signal bars with numbers that are standard for a specific carrier or country. This means that a lower or higher dBm number may be standard in a certain carrier or country, and it may now be tweaked by carriers so that signal bars aren’t always sitting at 1 or 5. Contrarily, this new advantage may be misused by carriers to mess with the numbers behind signal strength bars, leading non-technologically savvy users to think a particular carrier provides a better signal on the same device when compared to other carriers.

As of now, no APIs are being affected or restricted by these changes and interested users may get an idea of signal strengths by downloading apps like Signal Strength from the Play Store. However, if carriers wish to prevent users from accessing accurate telephony data, there may be future efforts to lock down APIs used by these applications to provide cell signal statistics.

Via: XDA Developers

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