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Ofcom Launch Basic UK Mobile and Fixed Broadband Coverage Checker

Thursday, March 31st, 2016 (12:32 pm) - Score 1,533

The national telecoms regulator has today launched a new tool that aims to give consumers a better idea about the performance and coverage of local mobile (2G, 3G and 4G) and fixed line broadband services. But it only uses data from the “major communications providers” and is very basic.

According to Ofcom, the major mobile network providers (EE, Three UK, O2 and Vodafone) and fixed line ISPs (i.e. BTOpenreach’s and Virgin Media’s national networks) have provided them with key coverage, availability and performance (estimated service speeds) data and this has allowed the them to produce a very rough Mobile and Broadband Coverage Checker.

The checker itself is incredibly basic and only allows consumers to test their area by postcode, which as we know can lead to some very unreliable results (testing with location specific phone numbers or a full address is usually the better course).

Furthermore the checker also fails to display details about the available connection types for fixed line services and instead lists estimated speeds under the ambiguous headings of “standard broadband” or “superfast broadband“, which makes it difficult to know which operators or technologies provide the service.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s CEO, said:

This interactive map is part of our work to arm people and businesses with high-quality, accessible information, helping them make informed decisions about their communications services.”

The regulator claims that data like this has not been “readily accessible to consumers and businesses before,” which is not entirely true as a number of sites provide availability checkers for multiple network operators and indeed individual ISPs also offer their own checkers.

However Ofcom clarified to ISPreview.co.uk that their checker shows the actual average line speeds of the connections that “real consumers” have purchased in each postcode; so they are not dependent on the estimate that ISPs give at point of sale. Some other sites publish actual speeds based on speed tests run by consumers, but these are limited by how many people have chosen to run the tests and Ofcom’s data is based on information supplied by ISPs.

Likewise this only covers the bigger ISPs, which means that coverage from Gigaclear, B4RN or Hyperoptic’s FTTH/P networks (three examples of many) hasn’t been considered and that’s a big oversight. Similarly you won’t find fixed wireless providers being mentioned or any of the other altnets dotted around the UK.

In addition, the coverage of mobile networks should always be taken with a big pinch of salt as real-world network availability is very tricky to pin down and can be affected by all sorts of environmental and other factors, such as new buildings being constructed.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark

    I’d love to see some definition of “standard broadband”. Where my parents live everyone has cable. Speed test maps are a sea of red Virgin Media dots. So, 50Mbps+ is standard broadband there, right? 😉

    Looking at the map, it’s not far off for the mobile providers (I can see that the Three mast was moved, the data has been refreshed), it says standard broadband is 3Mbps which would be ADSL speeds and is optimistic, and superfast broadband is not available which is probably right as VDSL estimates are 11 to 29 Meg (1.3km cable length). So in terms of data it seems accurate.

    However one of the major failings in the BDUK scheme is that alt-nets aren’t generally or well represented in coverage maps. So if the objective is to provide a “one stop shop” to show coverage, as the article says, it falls well short and will continue to tell people they can only have “standard” broadband when they might be able to avail themselves of 1Gbps FTTP or 50Mbps wireless. In that respect it’s a fail and such a coverage map is yet to be constructed.

  2. Avatar Phil Coates

    Perfectly accurate for me.

    800kbps fixed line BB.

    Mobile signal – zero.

    Its 2016 after all.

  3. Avatar Al

    The next step now that Ofcom has all this information is to actually do something with it, but Ofcom are utterly useless. They allow rip-off prices on Marekt A exchanges those that are left will likely never be unbundled. The whole BDUK project has been a farce buy targeting coverage first rather than speed, the areas with the slowest speed are often the areas with the worst mobile coverage as well.

  4. Avatar TheFacts

    Says superfast not available here. Wrong.

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