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EE Calls for Clarity on Geographic UK Mobile Network Coverage

Wednesday, Nov 23rd, 2016 (12:08 pm) - Score 1,551

Mobile network operator EE (BT) has today called on the market to get “Clear on Coverage” by making geographic coverage the default industry standard measurement, as opposed to the traditional and more optimistic use of population cover. Mind you EE does have a big advantage here.

At present EE’s 4G network can reach 98% of the United Kingdom when using “population coverage“, but this drops to just 70% for “geographic coverage” (landmass). However the operator aims to improve geographic coverage to 92% by September 2017, followed by 95% by the end of December 2020.


Similarly adopting geographic coverage as the standard measure is an awful lot easier to do when you also happen to own 45% of all the available mobile spectrum (here), which is more than Vodafone on 28%, not to mention O2’s 15% and Three UK on just 12%.

As part of EE’s promise to get ‘Clear on Coverage’, EE will:

· Stop using population coverage measurements in isolation when communicating with customers

· Publish regular updates on geographic coverage and data speed by county and by major roads

· Work with Ofcom to provide consumer advice on the role of devices in network experience

· Meet with Ofcom and all operator CEOs to agree next steps on how to get ‘Clear on Coverage’

Results from ICM survey of 4,000 consumers, which found that:

1. Based on current advertised population metrics (i.e. based on network provider telling UK mobile users they have 99% population coverage), 50% of consumers expect to have mobile signal wherever they go in the UK.

2. Nearly half of all UK mobile users don’t know what coverage measurement to look for when choosing a mobile network provider, despite rating network coverage as one of their most important considerations.

3. A third of all UK mobile users are least satisfied with their mobile network coverage when travelling.

4. The area where UK mobile users are least satisfied about their mobile coverage is when they are travelling in rural areas.

EE’s CEO is now pledging to report all coverage in geographic terms from January 2017 and they clearly have an advantage to be able to do that. For example, 4G from EE is now available in more places than any 3G network. The operator has also launched a new Network Status Checker tool, to provide real-time and personal updates to customers about network performance.

Marc Allera, CEO of EE, said:

“From streaming music to making video calls, our customers use their smartphones wherever they go and tell us loud and clear that a 4G signal is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a ‘must have’. Today, people think they will get mobile coverage absolutely everywhere, because as an industry we’ve talked about coverage with confusing population metrics, and language that sets the wrong expectations. Too often, the customer experience has been very different from the marketing. That has to stop.

We’re asking our peers and the mobile industry to get ‘Clear on Coverage’. All operators should publish clearer geographic coverage information, and we’re seeking support from Ofcom as the independent source of information on mobile coverage and quality. We want to make it easier and clearer for consumers to know where they will and won’t get coverage, and which network is the right one for them.”

The adoption of a stronger coverage gauge is perhaps a good path for the market to pursue, although it may initially result in some confusion for consumers who are use to being told that mobile coverage is nearly universal (even though we all experience something rather different in the real-world).

Elsewhere EE confirmed that it had today switched on their low frequency 800MHz spectrum at 700 sites across the country, filling in 5,000 square kilometres of 4G not spots and improving indoor signal in around 500,000 homes. Parts of Shropshire, Somerset, Snowdonia, Oban, Glasgow, Berkshire and Derbyshire are among those getting 4G for the first time thanks to the effort. A further 3,000 sites will be equipped with the low frequency spectrum before the end of 2017.


However customers will need a supporting “4G Calling” phone in order to use the new low frequency signal, which are available via EE’s various mobile plans and the majority of their devices. Separately EE aims to complete its commitment to answer all customer service calls in the UK and Ireland by the end of December 2016.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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