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FAQ: Translating BlackBerry Signal Bars to Numbers

Many BlackBerry users know that they can use the shortcut ALT+NMLL to show the signal strength of their BlackBerry in numbers instead of bars. On the other hand it does not look all that pretty. RIM was kind enough to offer a translation chart between the numbers and the bars on your BlackBerry in a current knowledge base article. Keep in mind that as the number goes further into the negative your signal strength is getting worse.  This is because the better the signal the less power your BlackBerry has to use to send and receive data thus saving battery life.

Signal Bar Strength Indicators RSSI Indicators
5 bars (optimal strength) -77 or higher
4 bars -78 to 86
3 bars -87 to -92
2 bars -93 to -101
1 bar -102 or lower

The problem I still have is that these RSSI numbers are a vendor independent standard. Which means that they mean something different from each vendor compared to the standard dBm’s. Anybody found a way to convert them?

8 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Those RSSI indicators look like they’re the actual dBm values.

  2. Just being a stickler here but it’s not really true that the lower the number the better. Those of us who are mathematically inclined will see that -77 is a HIGHER number -102.

    By the way, can anyone point me to a resource listing all of those nifty shortcuts like Alt+NMLL, and the View Source shortcut, etc?

    • You are 100% right since they are negative numbers. It just looks like lower numbers which is how I think about it. But as I said you are right 🙂
      I will post a list of the shortcuts soon remind me if I dont

  3. In regards to RSSI numbers and the number of bars that represents each respective tier, I wrote an article concerning Apple and AT&T in particular accusing them of fixing said bars. It’s all explained and shown in pictures at the link below.


    • It’s not fixing, on a CDMA system, RSSI is not as important as Ec/N0, such to the point as Ec/N0 is used for cell selection in (W)CDMA vs RSSI on GSM.

      I dont have a iphone, but many phones use a smoothed Ec/N0 for a more accurate strength indicator. The downside is that Ec/N0 can vary highly over time. (Similarly, iDEN uses signal quality, SQE, instead of RSSI for its bars)

  4. it will probably be less confusing to say, the more negative it is the worst your signal and the less negative the better your signal instead of saying lower or higher as it can be confusing and tricky since we are dealing with negative numbers.

  5. So how do we change it from the bars to the RSSI indicator?

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