How to Boost Your Mobile Internet Speed in the Car

Whether you use your phone or a dedicated mobile hotspot to provide Internet access in your car, you’ve probably run into reception or speed problems at one point or another. The big-name cellular networks have really built out their infrastructure over the last few decades, and mobile connectivity and speeds are a whole lot better than they ever used to be, but the situation is still far from perfect. And in a world where you can still run into dead zones or poor cellular connectivity in your home or office, it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise when you run into even worse problems while driving around in your car.

In some situations, depending on factors like cell tower placement and coverage, it may not be possible to do anything about that. But if you’re lucky, one or more of these ways to boost your mobile internet speed may pay off.

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Ditch Your Fancy Phone Case

Cell phone being used in a car

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It’s a cold, hard fact that not all phones are created equal, and a big part of that is that nearly all modern cell phones use internal antennas. This is a good thing in terms of aesthetics, but it can cause huge problems when it comes to reception, and you don’t have to look any further than the initial launch of the iPhone 4 for evidence of that. In that instance, the counterintuitive fix was to put a case between the external antenna ring and your hand.

In virtually every other situation, the opposite is true: remove your case, and there’s a pretty good chance that your cellular reception (and your Internet connectivity) will improve.

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Reposition Your Phone or Hotspot

Phone on center console

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When you’re driving around in your car, the position of your phone or hotspot will naturally change as you move from place to place, which can result in dropped calls and poor Internet connectivity depending on the local cellular coverage. There isn’t a lot you can do about that, but changing the position of your phone or hotspot inside your car can actually help a lot.

If you have connection problems, and your phone or hotspot is stowed in a glove compartment or center console, pull it out and try placing it on the dash or windshield — if that’s legal where you are — with an appropriate holder that doesn’t further obstruct the antenna.

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Try a Cell Phone Signal Booster

Signal boost

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Cellular signal boosters are devices that consist of an antenna that you mount outside your vehicle, a base station inside your vehicle, and another antenna inside your vehicle. These devices don’t always work, but they are definitely an option that’s worth exploring if you live and drive in an area with spotty cellular coverage, or you drive a vehicle that obstructs an otherwise decent signal, and repositioning your phone doesn’t work.

Due to the way that cellular signal boosters work, you can only use one that’s specifically designed to work with your cellular provider’s network.

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Try a Speed-Boosting App

Mobile internet

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Most apps that claim to boost your Internet connection speed are more placebo than anything else, but there are a few exceptions, and it doesn’t hurt to try. In particular, if you have a rooted Android phone, you can install an app that will modify the phone’s TCP/IP settings and improve your connection speed. This won’t do anything if your problem has more to do with poor coverage than a slow connection speed, but it’s worth a shot if your connection is solid already.

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Trade Quantity for Quality

Man poking phone

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If your provider offers 4G data, and your phone supports it, then it might seem counterintuitive to shut it off. However, doing so might actually result in a slower, yet rock-solid, data connection. This is particularly true if you live in an area where the local 4G network infrastructure can’t handle the workload imposed by the number of people trying to use it.

Since 3G is often perfectly serviceable for activities like streaming music, this may be your best option if you live in an area with spotty 4G infrastructure.

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Upgrade Your Hardware

Old phone new phone

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In stark contrast to the previous option, which involved oversaturated current-gen networks, your problem may actually be your hardware. If you’re using a phone or hotspot that’s starting to get a little long in the tooth — which can happen disturbingly fast in the world of mobile phones — then an upgrade may be in the cards. You may even be eligible for a freebie.

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Switch to a Different Carrier

Fork in the road

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Sometimes the simple truth is that your carrier is the source of all your problems. If their local cellular network infrastructure isn’t up to snuff, or they just haven’t built out their high-speed infrastructure enough, then a switch may be in order. In some cases, if you live in a large metropolitan area, you may find that switching from a large carrier to a small carrier — on a different network — will result in less congestion and solve your problem.

You may even find that if you live in a rural area, a small, local carrier can best meet your needs. In other situations, if you live in an area not serviced by small or local carriers, or if you travel a lot, then the big guys, with their expansive networks, are the only way to go. 

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