Dead spots remain for many cell customers in Las Vegas Valley

Updated March 4, 2018 - 1:18 am

A call to Steve Greenberg’s cellphone goes like this.

He answers the phone. States his home number. Then when the call inevitably drops, he waits for a ring from his landline.

“All eight years I’ve lived here it’s been like that,” said Greenberg, who runs an import business from his two-story home near the intersection of Jones Boulevard and Windmill Lane.

He’s had service through different companies and taken to balancing his cellphone at different elevations in the house, all to get better reception.

On this day, he rests his cellphone atop a cup in his home office so he doesn’t lose someone when they call.

“I don’t ask why,” he said. “I just do it.”

Cell phone signal dead spots Thinkstock Las Vegas Review-Journal

Greenberg isn’t alone. The Las Vegas Valley is a hodgepodge when it comes to ability to make and complete a cellphone call.

Larger clusters of places where it’s difficult to make, take and complete cellphone conversations exist along the 215 Beltway. Clusters exist near the beltway’s intersections with U.S. Route 95, Summerlin Parkway, Rainbow Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway, according to wireless coverage mapping company OpenSignal.

T-Mobile ranks high

So what determines whether you can make or take cell phone calls in the Las Vegas Valley?

That’s a matter of where you are in the valley. What carrier you have. The time of day. Even the materials of the building you’re inside or how many trees surround you create obstacles for the call trying to make its way to or from your cellphone.

According to cell phone analytics company RootMetrics, the best cellphone companies for making calls from a mobile phone to a landline without the call getting blocked or dropped during the second half of 2017 were T-Mobile and AT&T and with scores of 99.6 and 98.8, respectively.

RootMetrics representatives drove 784 miles in the valley and tested phones in 47 indoor locations between Aug. 14 and Aug. 19 to create the rankings.

Verizon received a score of 97.7. Sprint received a score of 96.6.

Millions of cellphones with the downloaded OpenSignal app feed data to the London-based company’s online map showing cellphone performance worldwide.

The company issued reports in January and August for the best cellphone companies in various metropolitan areas.

For Las Vegas, T-Mobile ranked first in January for how often people can make a call or access data with 4G technology, currently the highest standard of cellphone technology. The next standard, 5G, is expected around 2020.

In Las Vegas, T-Mobile customers could make a call or access data on the 4G network 95 percent of the time.

Verizon’s 4G network was available 94 percent of the time, AT&T was available about 91 percent of the time and Sprint was available about 90 percent of the time.

In August, Verizon and T-Mobile’s 4G networks were available about 92 percent of the time. AT&T’s network was available 88 percent of the time. Sprint’s was available 87 percent of the time.

The four major cellphone companies’ availability had increased nationwide for four consecutive reports, suggesting investment in supporting more callers and cellphone users.

Though OpenSignal only looked at 4G network availability in Las Vegas and the other 32 largest U.S. markets, a good deal of phone calls are still made on the older 3G network and the even older 2G network, OpenSignal spokeswoman Martha Oliver said.

The company declined to say how many people feed them data from the Las Vegas area.

Obstacles to overcome

More issues exist beside which phone company you choose.

Billy Zarn Jr., a Phoenix-based business development director for network infrastructure provider SAC Wireless, has been in telecommunications for about 20 years. He’s worked so long that he can’t help but notice the trees that block local cell towers when he visits a city.

Cell phone signal dead spots Map Las Vegas Review-Journal

But if natural trees weren’t enough for someone like Zarn to worry about, a recent trend of city officials and community leaders’ demand to disguise cell towers to look like palm trees, cactuses or even church crosses is trouble.

Masked cell sites may look better than a tower, but disguises can add another obstacle for making and receiving calls, he said.

Marlon Hogains, president of Tucson, Arizona-based Cell Trees, denied that the company’s disguises affect radiofrequency, or RF.

“All of Cell Trees Inc.’s branches and antenna covers are made up of RF-friendly material,” Hogains said in a statement.

Zarn also finds himself constantly educating residents on the safety of radio frequency at regulatory meetings to get approval for a new cell tower.

He tells concerned residents that builders prevent everyday people from getting too close to a radiating antenna. To someone standing outside those barriers, exposure is harmless, he said.

“The RF exposure is no greater than the electromagnetic energy created from your home’s microwave or Wi-Fi router,” he said.

Zarn’s colleagues warn cellphone companies that a new cell site in places like Las Vegas and some cities in California can take up to 12 months because of regulatory hurdles and the time needed for utility hookups.

Plans in other states

New cell sites aren’t cheap. A rule of thumb for a site built from vacant land is $100,000 for every 10 feet, Zarn said.

Permits, design drawings and acquiring the an existing site runs between $15,000 and $30,000. Construction can cost at least $20,000 depending on the scope, structure type and area, with materials costing at least another $15,000.

Each carrier has about 700 sites in the Las Vegas area, he said.

“The things that make the price more are the area the work is being performed,” Zarn said. “Structure type, specialty materials, stealthing, special access requirements such as closing down roads, lifting equipment onto buildings or mountains, and so many other little things.”

Hardware costs have dropped in the past few years, Khanifar said. Permitting, connecting towers to the internet and leasing space are also factors that can raise the cost.

Smaller, harder to see cell sites have eased the conversation with government bodies when it comes to increasing cellphone carrier presence, said Daniel Schweizer, regional director of government relations for cell tower builder Crown Castle.

The company has used small cell sites — little boxes that attach to street lights and other existing structures — for about 10 years, Schweizer said.

The more a population grows, the more need for the small cell site for photo and video downloads as well as offloading call volumes from existing cell towers, he said.

In the past few years, 13 states have enacted laws to accelerate small cell building to improve cellphone use. In the West, both Arizona and Colorado have laws. New Mexico, Washington and Hawaii are considering bills. Schweizer said he wasn’t aware of any bills in Nevada, leaving different rules city to city and county to county.

Convenience or aesthetics?

Joel Just understands the cell site debate from both sides.

The former electrical engineer is CEO of Complete Association Management Co., a locally based manager of more than 300 homeowners associations in Nevada.

Some communities ban cell towers inside their borders, Just said. Ones without express rules leave new sites to the discretion of community boards.

For new communities under construction in the valley, companies are better off negotiating with the developers or trying to lease space outside the subdivision, Just said.

While that can be frustrating, he agrees cell towers are unsightly. At a previous subdivision he called home, Just complained about an antenna attached to a light pole in his yard.

Though more small cell sites are needed to match the power of a cell tower, they are easier on the eyes as a resident, he said.

At his current home in the Inspirada community of Henderson, he’s forced to make phone calls off an internet connection. When he leaves his house, it’s two blocks until he can make and receive calls.

Just’s calls should improve once a new small cell site hidden in a decorative sign nearby becomes operational, he said.

“If I hadn’t watched the construction, I’d have no idea it was a cell site,” he said.

Charvez Foger, the ombudsman for owners in common-interest communities and condominium hotels, part of the state’s Department of Business and Industry, said the only complaint he could find about cell sites was in 2010.

Members of Las Prados, which today has about 1,400 homes, complained about the community association’s decision to enter a 99-year contract to lease space to a cell phone tower.

The members complained about the looks, safety and fear a tower would decrease property values, Foger said.

Nevada’s Real Estate Division investigated the complaint and consulted with the Office of the Attorney General. The association’s governing documents were clear — No need for member approval. Case closed.

Rochelle Bogle, community manager of Anthem, said the community has no policy on cell towers in its borders and hasn’t been asked to erect a cell tower.

Mountain’s Edge Master Association has not dealt with cell sites, community manager Gary McClain said.

Kim Kallfelz of HOA Management, a local company that manages multiple community associations, said her company doesn’t get involved with issues involving cell sites.

Representatives of Summerlin could not be reached for comment about why their community is home to some clusters where making and taking phone calls is difficult.

Resident opposition to an 80-foot cell tower caught attention in 2013 when Linda Winslow and others in a northwest valley neighborhood collected 300 signatures.

A few months ago, she finally lost her fight when the tower got built, Winslow said.

“I thought it would have an impact on housing values and desirability,” she said. “With the current market, it does not seem to be a deterrent”

As for Steve Greenberg, the local who works from home importing firearm accessories under the name BullsEye Fiber, he hopes something happens so that he can make cellphone calls from home.

Luckily for Greenberg, he said his Chinese contacts are used to speaking on cellphone apps that make calls through the internet.

He recently moved his laptop and home office into the den. The reception, he said, is slightly better.

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

Local Videos
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (pullout)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids Read Books To Dogs At The Animal Foundation In Las Vegas
Kids from local Las Vegas elementary schools took part, Thursday, in a program at the Animal Foundation, where they read books to dogs. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Pioneer Trail highlights historic locations in West Las Vegas
The Pioneer Trail, a 16-site route of historically significant locations in Las Vegas, starts at the Springs Preserve and snakes east until it reaches above the brim of downtown. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutefsya
Vegas Warm Weather Hits Las Vegas Valley
Between Feb. 20-21, parts of the Las Vegas Valley were hit with 7.5" of snow. Less than a week later, it was sunny with temperatures in the 70s. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest at the VA Hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II Army veteran, was arrested in November after he caused a ruckus at the VA Hospital in North Las Vegas and stole his driver's car keys. He was arraigned on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, and the charges will be dropped after 60 days. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Claytee White talks about Black History Month
An interview with Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Reflecting on the Moulin Rouge and a segregated Vegas
Former employees of the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated hotel-casino in Nevada, talk about what it was like in the brief six months the casino was open. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices
Home prices rose in every ZIP code in the Las Vegas Valley in 2018 for the second year in a row, according to SalesTraq. Prices grew fastest in older, more centrally located areas. But prices were highest in the suburbs. The top three ZIP codes for price growth were 89119 (29.8%), 89146 (25%) and 89030 (24.6%). The top three ZIP codes for median sales prices were 89138 ($464,500), 89135 ($420,500) and 89052 ($370,000).
Wagonwheel Drive overpass reopens after ice closure
Overpass at Wagonwheel Drive reopens after ice on the onramp caused the ramp to be shut down, Feb. 22, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Keeping warm at the city of Las Vegas’ homeless courtyard
With help from the city of Las Vegas, a Salvation Army shelter stays open during the day Thursday and Friday, offering a safe place for the homeless to find respite from freezing temperatures and snow. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sloppy, Slushy Road Conditions Lead to Slow Traffic
Traffic slowed to a crawl on Jones are near Russell as conditions worsened Thursday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Winter storm blankets west side of Las Vegas Valley
On Wednesday evening through early Thursday a winter storm dumped more than 7 1/2 inches of snow on some parts of the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas snow day for children
Las Vegas kids play in the snow that fell on Feb. 21, 2019. (Belinda Englman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow closes Red Rock Canyon, residents enjoy rare snowfall
The greater Las Vegas area was hit with snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2019. This video shows the areas surrounding Red Rock Canyon and the Summerlin community. Video by: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas kids attend school in the snow
Las Vegas children attend school during a rare snowstorm on Feb. 21, 2019. Staton Elementary School and other CCSD schools remained open. (Glenn Cook/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People enjoying the snow in Summerlin
Fox Hill Park in Summerlin was busy Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019, with people enjoying the rare snow that fell overnight. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP advises motorists to take caution during Las Vegas snowstorm
NHP advised motorists to take caution during the snowstorm in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Business Videos
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA/Boring Company Press Conference
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced a collaboration with Elon Musk's The Boring Company to develop and operate an autonomous people mover system for the Las Vegas Convention Center District.
International Pizza Expo includes green and gluten free
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included companies focused on vegan and gluten free, and plant-based pizza boxes. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo kicks off in Las Vegas
The first day of the International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center is everything Pizza. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
T-Mobile program aids guests with sensory needs
A program at T-Mobile Arena is designed to provide a more sensory friendly experience for guests.
Photo Booth Expo
Danielle May talks about how Simple Booth transformed her Volkswagen bus into a business.
Nevada Gaming Commission's highest fines
The highest fines assessed by the Nevada Gaming Commission, according to commission Chairman Tony Alamo: 1) Wynn Resorts Ltd., $20 million, 2019 2) CG Technology (then known as Cantor G&W Holdings), $5.5 million, 2014 3) The Mirage, $5 million ($3 million fine, $2 million compensatory payment), 2003 4) Stardust, $3 million, 1985 5) Santa Fe Station, $2.2 million ($1.5 million fine, $700,000 compensatory payment), 2005 6) Las Vegas Sands, $2 million, 2016 7) CG Technology, $1.75 million, 2018 8) CG Technology, $1.5 million (also $25,000 in escrow for underpaid patrons), 2016 9) Caesars Entertainment, $1.5 million, 2015 10) Imperial Palace, $1.5 million, 1989 11) Peppermill Casinos, $1 million, 2014
Tiny Pipe Home vs Shipping Crate
A Tiny pipe home was displayed at the International Builders Show this week in Las Vegas.
Auto repair shortage affects Las Vegas
The auto repair industry is facing a national shortage of workers.
Franchising industry booming
Experts say Las Vegas is a hotbed for the franchise industry.
Africa Love owner talks about his store in Las Vegas
Mara Diakhate, owner of Africa Love, gift and decor store, talks about his store in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Developer gets approval to build homes at Bonnie Springs
The Clark County Planning Commission has approved a plan to build 20 homes on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dig This opens new location In Las Vegas
Remember when you were a kid and played with construction toys in the sand box? Dig This Las Vegas has the same idea, except instead of toy bulldozers, you get to play with the real thing. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Town Square developer Jim Stuart building again in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ real estate bubble took developers on a wild ride, something Jim Stuart knows all too well. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Salon opens at Veterans Village
T.H.E. Salon, owned by Nicole Christie, celebrated their opening at the Veterans Village with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Southwest Airlines considering Las Vegas-Hawaii flights
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says the airline is "very focused" on Hawaii. Hawaiians have a strong presence in Las Vegas.The city’s unofficial status is “Hawaii’s ninth island.” In 2018, at least 2,958 people from Hawaii moved to Nevada. Of those, 88.7 percent moved into Clark County, according to driver license surrender data. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 310,249 people came to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2018.
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day. About 1.2 million Nevadans are expected to celebrate this year, a 5 percent drop from 2018. A growing number of people consider Valentine’s Day over-commercialized. Others weren’t interested in the holiday or had nobody to celebrate with. But spending is expected to rise. Those who do celebrate are buying for more people. The average American is expected to spend about $162 this year for Valentine’s Day, a 57 percent jump from a decade prior. Katherine Cullen, director of industry and consumer insights at NRF
Foreclosures of mansions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas was ground zero for America's foreclosure crisis after the housing bubble burst. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Helfenbein talks about the impact of tariffs on the clothing industry
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Air flight attendants learn how to handle a water landing
Field instructor Ashleigh Markel talks about training prospective flight attendants for Allegiant Air getting live training with a raft for a water landing at the Heritage Park Aquatic Complex in Henderson on Monday. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery talks about Las Vegas return
Michael Feighery, CEO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, discusses the restaurant's upcoming return to the Las Vegas Strip.
Apartments to Come to Hughes Center
Developer Eric Cohen discusses his current building project at the Hughes Center office park in Las Vegas, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stratosphere to rebrand to The STRAT
The Stratosphere, a 1,150-foot-tall property in Las Vegas will be renamed The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod.
Home Front Page Footer Listing