Cell Phone Problems on Boeing 787? Here’s Why…

If you’ve ever flown on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, you may have noticed that your cell phone suddenly loses signal as you board the plane. No, it’s not something you do, and it’s not your imagination… it’s real.

The Boeing 787 often blocks cell phone signals

In general, mobile phone data around airports is often not great. However, there is an additional issue specific to the Boeing 787 that I know confuses a lot of people.

Once you board a Boeing 787, you may notice that your signal suddenly becomes much worse, or even disappears altogether. Let me be clear: this isn’t always the case, and many times you’ll still get a signal. However, it happens far more often than on other aircraft, and it’s due to something specific to this popular wide-body jet (and this is something that Boeing engineers have even confirmed).

This can be frustrating, of course. Many people are still trying to do something while boarding, whether it’s sending emails from your phone, making a phone call or tethering to your laptop.

So, what is causing this problem, and why is it specific to the Boeing 787? I’m really bad at science, but let me explain what I understand from the “reliable” theories I’ve heard.

The first explanation I ever heard for this is that it’s because the Boeing 787 is made of composite materials, so it uses wire mesh for structural integrity. That mesh apparently interferes with cell signals on the plane.

But then I heard other experts say that that wasn’t quite right, and that the copper mesh that’s incorporated into the carbon fiber composite creates a Faraday cage. That copper mesh is necessary so that if lightning strikes the plane, there’s no hole in the carbon fiber.

Then there is another explanation that I often hear. It has to do with the power windows and the fact that they have transparent electrodes that let light through, but not radio frequencies. This makes the reception of mobile phones poor.

To be honest, I don’t know which of the three explanations is correct, or if the truth is a combination of several of those factors. What I do know is that this is very real.

Does this have to do with the hull? Or with the windows?

What explains this inconsistency?

Okay, while I can’t even explain exactly what causes this problem, what I find even more puzzling is what explains the massive inconsistency. Sometimes I have a Boeing 787 flight where I have zero data issues, and sometimes I have a 787 flight where I have zero data on the ground for an hour.

Would anyone like to take a stab at what explains this variance? Is it a function of where you are sitting on the plane? Is it that at airports with weak signals, the signal in the 787 is just weaker?

I’m not sure what explains the inconsistency

In short

In the Boeing 787, it is normal to lose your cell phone signal as soon as you board the plane. This is a common problem that has to do with the fuselage of the jet, or the windows, or a combination of both. What I still haven’t been able to figure out is what is causing the inconsistency.

Have you noticed the mobile phone data issue on Boeing 787?

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