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Sudden Lack of Signal

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"Well, I have no idea where I'm at. Maybe if I check Google Maps quickly and then I can... WHAT? NO SIGNAL?!"

You've suddenly been transported to an unfamiliar place. You don't recognize anything about the landscape, and the sky... is unlike any sky you've seen before. Troubled, you pull out a cell phone to call for help — but even though your phone is working fine and you're in an open area, there is no signal. Your GPS isn't working, either; it claims that no satellites can be detected. Yup, definitely not in Kansas anymore.

In today's era, when nearly everyone carries a cell phone on a regular basis, the sudden, initially inexplicable lack of signal can serve as an early tip-off that our characters have become Trapped in Another World. Maybe they're on an alien planet, an alternate universe, or have time-travelled into the past — in any case, there are no communication towers anywhere. This can also happen with other communication devices such as radios, the Internet, GPS etc.

In such a situation, obviously, Cell Phones Are Useless. Contrast The Web Always Existed and Super Cell Reception.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Cross Ange, when Ange and Tusk accidentally warp to the original, After the End Earth, the first weird thing they notice (apart from the ruins) is a complete radio silence all around them.
  • In SD Gundam Force episode 11, the first thing Shute tries when he and the rest of the Force are transported to Lacroa is his phone. Naturally, it doesn't work. He lampshades this when he tries to contact Captain after they get separated in the following episode;
    Shute: Aww, it's not use! We're in the wrong dimension at the bottom of a pit! I guess that qualifies as "out of range"!

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Doctor Dinosaur, Robo gets teleported through time into the 19th century. He tries contacting base by radio nothing. He tries to establish his position by GPS nothing. Then he realizes that he can't detect any radio signals of any kind...
  • A Donald Duck comic story, "Outlanders", has Uncle Scrooge transported to an alternate Steampunk universe. His first reaction upon finding himself in a desolate wasteland is to get his cell phone and be confused by the lack of signal.

    Fan Works 
  • In Rocketship Voyager the Delaney twins are involved in an experiment in using Twin Telepathy to communicate with deep space vessels, with Jenny Delaney on Voyager and Megan Delaney on Mars. Tom Paris begins to suspect they're a very long way from home when Jenny tells him she can no longer "hear" her sister.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • 1632: The radio and the phones in Grantville stop working when the town gets transported to the Thirty Years' War era.
  • In the Polish novel, when an entire modern military unit gets transported to the World War II era, the communication specialists are initially baffled by all their GPS devices failing before they realize what's going on.
  • The Archonate: When Hapthorn travels into the future, one of the first things he and his familiar check is whether they can access the Connectivity. They can't.
  • In Michael Z. Williamson's A Long Time Until Now, ten modern-day soldiers end up abruptly transported to the Stone Age. Naturally, before they figure out what's happening, one of the first things they do is trying to radio other units and failing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The End of the World", Rose's cell phone initially does not work after travelling billions of years into the future. The Doctor mods her phone so she can still call her mother, who's still in the present day.
    • "Rise of the Cybermen": Mickey and Rose are on an alternate Earth and their cell phones don't work on the network there. Good thing too, since everyone who has a phone (i.e, everyone) gets turned into a Cyberman.
  • Supernatural. Dean travels back in time to the United States during WW2 and is mistaken for a spy, partly because he's carrying a strange device displaying the words NO SIGNAL.
  • Happens a lot on Haven, whenever anything odd starts happening with the Troubles—though it rarely has anything to do with the Troubles, and more to do with the fact the show is set in Maine.

    Video Games 
  • In Devil Survivor, one of the first signs that something has gone horribly wrong is that every person's cellphone begins showing no signal. In this case, the government is trying to hide the existence of demons from everyone not trapped in Tokyo.
  • In Toby Fox's Deltarune, Kris will have a cell phone in their inventory from the beginning of the game. It works in the normal world, but after being transported into the Dark World, attempting to use the phone will only result in a creepy distorted sound effect being played. This sound effect is heavily associated with the enigmatic character of W.D.Gaster from Fox's previous game, Undertale, and is far from the only reference to him in Deltarune chapter 1, leading to fan speculation of his greater involvement in the new game's story
  • The Dead Mines: The player's radio connection to the surface cuts off almost mid-conversation as the player progresses deeper into the mines.
  • In Super Lesbian Animal RPG, all electronic communications such as phones and the internet become unusable due to electromagnetic interference as soon as Javis sets his sinister plans in motion and the Reality Scrambler machines come online.

  • In Deverish Also, when Finn accidentally goes through Rekkoran's portal, it begins to sink in that he's in another world when his cell phone and GPS both get no signal. Later on, when a friendly mage demonstrates a portal spell, he knows it's the same thing because he gets a cell phone signal through it.
  • With Galaxion technology levels, communications range does not extend to twenty one (and a half) parsecs. On the plus side, they are in the same universe.
  • Averted and pointed out in Homestuck, when after being transported into another world, John's house still has electricity and Internet connectivity... even as John inspects the power cables and find them severed during the teleportation.
  • Surviving Romance features a variation. Once the zombie outbreak begins in the school all signals going in or out of it are blocked. Messaging between people inside of the school are still working though.

    Web Original 
  • In The Backrooms, the first sign that you have glitched out from reality into the Backrooms is having no phone signal. There are, however, some wifi routers strewn across the Backrooms, sometimes with access to the outside world's internet.
  • City of Lost Characters: Several people experience loss of connectivity upon being brought into the titular city.
    "Those from universes advanced enough were mostly taking out their personal communication devices and trying to use them fruitlessly."
  • The Massive Multi-Fandom RPG season 3.5: Batman's first act upon his sudden arrival into the extradimensional city is trying to contact the Batcave. Upon finding that it is out of reach (which is stated to be "impossible"), he immediately realizes the situation isn't normal.
  • Discussed in the Terrible Writing Advice episode on the Isekai genre. If the protagonist happens to have his cell phone with him when he's whisked into another world, it won't help.
    "Man, reception is terrible in fantasy land!"
  • Averted in Welcome to Night Vale: in the desert otherworld, cell phones have signal and even permanently full batteries.

    Western Animation 
  • Miraculous Ladybug, "Pixelator": Phones don't work for people trapped inside Pixelator's pictures.
  • In an episode of Teen Titans (2003), Cyborg, Beast Boy and Robin are pulled into an alternate dimension for a "tournament of heroes". Cyborg is suspicious and tries to call Starfire and Raven. When he can't get through, he uses this as evidence to Robin that they are in a trap. Robin sarcastically points out that Cyborg's phone plan probably doesn't include alternate dimensions.