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.

New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like