Wired has an interesting piece on what goes on inside your mobile phone when you switch it back on after a flight. If you think about it at all, you think that it’s just sometimes a pain waiting for it to find a carrier. But according to Wired, it’s a street fight:
The average mobile phone is programmed to search out the five closest antenna signals. When you’re driving in your car this system lets you switch from antenna to antenna — usually without losing your connection. But in an airport, things can go haywire, especially as you’re switching from the powerful outdoor “macro” antennas that you’ve connected to on the tarmac to the smaller indoor devices that AT&T has tucked all over the airport.
For travelers, that means that the moments after you walk inside an airport are where you’re most likely to have a dropped call.
The full piece has a little interview with someone whose job it is to see that your phone wins the fight.