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GWS Find Improving 4G Mobile Network Signals on UK Motorways

Thursday, Dec 20th, 2018 (12:15 pm) - Score 1,908

A new report from Global Wireless Solutions has noted that mobile operators (O2, EE, Vodafone and Three UK) have “turbo boosted” their 4G coverage across major motorways in the UK since 2017, with the M6 seeing double what it had over a year and a half ago.

GWS conducted a series of tests to evaluate mobile network performance. Just over 2.6 million data and voice task tests were conducted to evaluate the primary operators in 38 major cities and towns during 2018. The tests were run using the GWS OneMeasure App running on iPhone devices, Rohde & Schwarz’s Freerider using Samsung Galaxy devices, and the GWS Mobistat data evaluation and reporting platform.

The testing didn’t just look at motorways and also gauged performance across various cities and towns. Overall O2 came top here in 17 markets tested, followed by Three UK. Meanwhile Vodafone improved their ranking over the course of the year and now shares third place with EE, who lost pole positions in Manchester, Leicester and Leeds to O2 and Three UK.

The results are interesting because they’re quite different from all of the other studies (using different methods) that we’ve seen from RootMetrics (here), OpenSignal (here), Tutela (here) and P3 (here) etc. In most of those O2 are definitely not a front runner and EE tends to fair the best, while in this case it’s the opposite. If anything this just goes to show that such reports are far from perfect, no matter how they’re conducted.

Elsewhere the change in motorway coverage has been significant. For example, the worst motorway in 2018 was the M23 with 90% 4G signal availability, whereas in early 2017 the best motorway on test was the M60 with only 82% 4G availability.

4G Coverage on Major UK Motorways 2018

Motorway 4G %
M60 100%
M1 98%
M4 98%
M62 98%
M11 97%
M25 96%
M2 94%
M6 94%
M3 92%
M27 92%
M23 90%

GWS Reliability OneScore Winners by Market 

Market Winner
Antrim O2
Armagh Three
Belfast Three
Birmingham Vodafone
Bradford O2
Carmarthen O2
Chichester Three
Durham O2
Edinburgh O2
Glasgow O2
Hull EE
Leeds Three
Leicester O2
Lincoln O2
Liverpool O2
London Three
Manchester O2
Newcastle O2
Norwich Three
Nottingham O2
Oxford O2
Reading O2
Southampton Three
Stafford O2
Sunderland O2
Warwick Three
Winchester Three
Worchester O2
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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10 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    I’m on Three. Over the last 14 months I’ve been able to stream audio [over TuneIn app – based on 128kbps] on the M4 from Cardiff to London with no break in the stream. That’s between 3G-HSPA+, LTE, VoLTE/’Supervoice’. A definite improvement.

    1. Avatar photo TheMatt says:

      that’s quite neat. I wish it were the same on the M1. Above it says 98% coverage but i must travel on the 2% that isn’t. I like to stream LBC radio and I pretty much cannot do it on my journey on the M1 and can do it reasonably well when I hit the M25. Let’s just say im dubious of that 98% figure for the M1 perhaps they could expand the data a bit further instead of “yep 4G” .. what speed? how reliable ? etc.

    2. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Does your device support 800Mh LTE band?

      Also I don’t know how well the LBC app has been made to handle connection loss (ie: with a audio buffer).

    3. Avatar photo Michael V says:

      @TheMatt LBC is on D1 Multiplex. Do I have DAB coverage around there? Also maybe Tune In app might manage moments of lost signal as the settings can be set for up to 30mins. But I’ve only seen up to 5mins buffering. [Based on places around Wales]

    4. Avatar photo TheMatt says:

      Michael V, I have no DAB in my car although the headunit does support it i’m not really interested in broadcast radio. Only LBC the rest I just listen to either the music on the head unit memory card or stream it from Amazon music (it’s an android head unit).

      @Mike, yes according to gsmarena at least … bands 19 and 20 at 800MHz are listed

  2. Avatar photo TheMatt says:

    Here’s a good one. Try installing some masts.

    On the train journey from Bedford to London (which mainly shadows the M1 motorway), I loose signal a total of 17 times. It’s the same in the car too and then the passengers can’t use my in-car WiFi nor can the GPS get traffic info since there’s no internet for most of the time even when you have a signal you won’t have internet. The train even has wifi (hahah) but I presume it’s also mobile since it also doesn’t work when I loose signal on my handset.

    So yeah, how do we do it ? try building an infrastructure.
    It beggars belief that the government can say hmm what’s wrong with the state of our (insert technology name here) when they don’t spend any money on it. Why don’t we have fibre like Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Romainia etc etc? because the UK government won’t invest in it.

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      It’s not the government’s job to do that, if they weren’t strangling the private sector they could do it.

    2. Avatar photo Web Dude says:

      @ Mike – if they weren’t wasting tens of billions on HS2 vanity rail project they could afford to cover fibre to 99.99999 % of homes and have cash to spare for more masts for all mobile networks to share (and with fibre costs from all masts covered too).

    3. Avatar photo TheMatt says:

      @Mike, yes it isn’t the governments job. However, if we look at other countries (the ones who have better infrastructure than we do) you will see that all the telco’s have been subsidised to build their fibre / mobile networks. Look at Telia in Sweden. They got given billions to build a fibre infrastructure. The UK government thinks .. meh .. we’ll let the private companies deal with it … of course then they won’t deliver something expensive they will keep trying to find stopgap solutions until they are all exhausted.

      The government is under no obligation to help, but they should be and they should realise it. They do subsidise some fast internet .. so why not mobile coverage too ?

  3. Avatar photo Rob says:

    The operators should build on government / highways infrastructure.

Comments are closed

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