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The Project Using Twitter to Map UK 4G, 5G Mobile Hotspots

Monday, August 26th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 3,018
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A new UK Government funded project called NoServiceHere is hoping, among other things, to harness the power of the Twitter community in order to help identify areas (rural and urban) of poor mobile signal by curating geospatial data, which can then be used to help focus the rollout of 3G, 4G and future 5G networks.

NoServiceHere is a joint industry-academia research project that actually involves three different programmes, although in this case we’re more focused upon the £210,000 government funded (i.e. Cabinet Office) COCKPIT-5G (Crowd blackspot intelligence for 5G rollout) project; let’s just call that C5G for short. Network planning company Ranplan and the University of Warwick (UW) are also supporting the effort.

The project was officially announced in April 2019 and since then they have established their own website under NoServiceHere. The original press release was quite vague and merely talked about “using real-time machines” to help identify “black-spots” in mobile network coverage but we now know much more about it.

According to the project site, which is being led by Dr Weisi Guo (School of Engineering) and Prof Rob Procter (Dept. of Computer Science), they “want people to proactively Tweet issues they have, and show us the location of the problem by turning on their geo-location or tagging the location where the problem occurred.”

Dr. Sarunkorn Chotvijit, Research Fellow at the UW, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Eventually, we want to make the UK a better connected UK. My intention is not to expose the users’ location or privacy, but to help leverage mobile provision and connectivity that lead to better user experience.”

A number of past studies have shown that social media activity (i.e. Tweets) can be used to do things like accurately predict the long-term data traffic demand for both the uplink and downlink channels, which is why the project team are now trying to raise awareness of their efforts and get people tweeting.

In short, they’re asking Twitter users to help by using geo-tagging and adding the #NoServiceHere hashtag (or #NoSignalHere) “whenever they want to complain or report about the problem of mobile services they encounter (indoor/outdoor) regardless of the mobile carriers,” said Dr. Sarunkorn.

One issue here is that people rarely tweet with a geotag (only 1% of Twitter users make use of it) and that’s because, by default, Twitter turns location information off, although it can be enabled in the settings under ‘Privacy and safety‘. Once enabled Twitter will collect, store, and use your precise location, such as GPS information (location info. is then added to your tweets). Of course not everybody will want to do this.

The other problem for the project is that in June 2019 Twitter announced that they were going to remove precise geotagging, except on photos (here). “Most people don’t tag their precise location in Tweets, so we’re removing this ability to simplify your Tweeting experience. You’ll still be able to tag your precise location in Tweets through our updated camera. It’s helpful when sharing on-the-ground moments,” said the network.

However after a rush of complaints Twitter was later forced to clarify that they “haven’t changed general location tagging. You’ll still be able to add a location to all Tweets (like a city or a restaurant). It’s the precise location feature that’s been removed from Tweets.” This does make the project’s job harder but still viable, if enough people participate. Of course that’s the next challenge, getting the word out.

Dr. Sarunkorn told us that they collect data from Twitter just like the normal process of data retrieval (API request), although he acknowledges that the accuracy can be varied depending on the users’ input and how “honest they are” as they can manually tag the location they prefer. “That’s why we try to inform them that if they do it correctly, this will help and impact not just in their community but at the national level,” said the Doctor.

NOTE: Obviously a manual geotag is something you’ll only be able to submit to Twitter once back within reach of internet connectivity.

So if you’re in an area of poor or no mobile signal and happen to have a twitter account, then please do try to help the team by tagging where those locations are (both indoor and outdoor). You can also view the teams Twitter Account.

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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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44 Responses
  1. Avatar Ash

    This sounds like reinventing the wheel a bit… Couldn’t they just use https://www.opensignal.com/ ??

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Hi Ash, our objective is to spread the word and remind people to help us and the government to enhance the connectivity in poor service area in the future. By reporting, this has nothing to do about phone carrier or the performance of each carrier. We, also, do not require people to download, install or register on anything. Once we do further stuff with the data, we will keep update and post on our website and the official Twitter account. Hope this answers your question.

    • Avatar SimonR

      @NoServiceHere

      “We, also, do not require people to download, install or register on anything.”

      Assuming they have a twitter account and the twitter app is installed, and are in a legal position to compose a tweet when they are in a no coverage area.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Worrying that you state ‘Once we do further stuff with the data,…’ Is this a serious description of the project?

      Is this just an academic project with no real future, how will the mobile companies use your data? If you don’t know which network has poor coverage at a particular location how can it be improved?

      Who in government is funding you?

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      By stating ‘Once we do further stuff with the data,…’ we meant once we preprocess, analysing or produce any results with the data, we will keep that posted so you all know what are the findings and end product with the Tweet you posted.

      We might know which network provide poor coverage, this is totally based on the person who Tweet his/her complaint. The purpose of us promoting this project is to encourage you to help other people who may have difficulties to access the internet at the poor signal spots.

  2. Avatar Michael V

    I already let some apps run in background. OpenSignal, RootMetrics – that ones my fav! Meteor app from OpenSignal. i also run data testing in RootMetrics often. [I have All You Can Eat Data]

    I’d rather stick with the big companies that share data with us & the Operators.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      The data will be publicly opened and available for everyone to retrieve and download. Our focus is to remind people to not forget to report the problem of the signal. The more you report, the more we all can improve service coverage (either to the rural area, shopping centre, train station, etc.) regardless of the mobile carrier.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      How can ‘we’ improve coverage? Why would the mobile companies look at the data if it does identify the network.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Should say:

      How can ‘we’ improve coverage? Why would the mobile companies look at the data if it does not identify the network.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Please refer to our previous comment. Thank you.

  3. Avatar Mr Angry

    How do you send to Twitter without an internet connection? Do you have to keep them and send them later, when you do?

  4. Avatar dave

    So they want people to tweet when they have no service… err hows that going to work? What a load of f***ing d***heads.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      We want to inform people to not forget to Tweet the problem once they have access to the internet. Keep them in cache and Tweet later. Hope this help Dave.

    • Avatar SimonM

      NoServiceHere, that doesn’t work on mobile web twitter, I’d not be able to ge to the page to tweet and you can’t save them to tweet later.

      Also what happens for someone that is moving such as on a bus or train, by the time they have sent (cached?) their tweet their location will differ from the place they had no service?

      And what stops someone from saying “no service” or “no signal” in a place that does? AND how do you know what network it is being sent from to be able to have any useful information about the real signal issues? One network may be great another not…

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Thank you for pointing out some very useful questions Simon.

      1. Please check again about this as we have tested it and this seems to work fine in the mobile app.

      2. For the geotag, even though you are not at the exact location, you can edit and change the location to be the one that you would like to report the problem.

      3. We do aware of this situation when some people report on the good signal spot. However, this is an uncontrollable situation. That’s why we encourage you to only report once you encounter the poor signal spot. We are doing this to mainly for your future mobile experience and the infrastructure of the wireless network at the national level.

      4. We won’t be able to know your mobile carrier. This project help improves overall service provision regardless of the mobile carrier and, again, we develop this campaign for Twitter users to help shape the future of UK mobile service (either 3G, 4G, or 5G) as this could be an alternative option for us to reach more blind spot areas.

      5. The data will be available on Twitter anyway, this is public and available for everyone to download, retrieve and develop on.

    • Avatar SimonM

      1. Mobile web, not Mobile app. I don’t have the Twitter ‘app’ on my phone as it consumes too much data is bad signal areas, and I need to ensure only one ‘app’ is using data at any one time rather than all competing for a very small amount of bandwidth (if any at all)

      What you are suggesting does not work on Twitter’s website on a mobile when it has no signal/no service. But for that matter, I’m not even sure you can geo-tag a tweet on the mobile website.

  5. Avatar Michael V

    How often would the data be passed back to the operators? Thinking about it, it’s a good idea, I may use it.

    It’s easy people. Type the tweet, with location, postcode, village name, or whatever. Save it, send it later.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Thank you very much Michael, we are very appreciated.

    • Avatar SimonR

      As I understand it, they have no mechanism to feed this back to the operator in question, as they have stated several times they don’t collect that.

  6. Avatar Mike

    Perhaps the government could remove the fibre tax and make it less burdensome to expand coverage into such areas…

  7. Avatar CarlT

    Decent idea though it does involve using the cesspit of trolls, cretins and morons that is Twitter.

    I suppose as long as you’ve good block lists you’re good to go.

  8. Avatar SimonM

    Noservicehere, you appear to be lacking a privacy policy on your website and details of how you are going to process data from people (which will be personally identifiable as you know their twitter handle), why is this, why are you not being clear about your data processing, storage, analysis and privacy?

    • Avatar SimonM

      Also your website front page is just under 6MB, that’s huge for such a simple site – imagine how bad it’d be for people trying to access it on their phones in poor signal areas!? Especially for users who have a data cap on their mobile service and may pay per MB.

      It gets a “D-“ pagespeed score and “E” yslow score. Work to be done!

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      For the website, we have this for people to understand more about us and what we are doing with the project. The privacy policy does not require on our website as we do not require you to register or complete anything within the site. Once we do anything with the data (either pre-process, store or produce results), this will be reported and posted on both the website and our official Twitter account which are public to everyone.

      Thank you for your comments about the performance of our website, we will work on this and improve for better usability and user-friendly version so that all people from all the area of UK can access without any problem.

    • Avatar SimonM

      “The privacy policy does not require on our website as we do not require you to register or complete anything within the site. Once we do anything with the data (either pre-process, store or produce results)”

      I’d suggest you seek advice before going further. In the meantime, here is the UK’s ICO guide to the current regulations which you are bound by: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/

    • Avatar gerarda

      I agree with Simon that the website seems to have been designed by someone one who has never suffered from a poor/no signal. Those areas are likely to coincide with poor fixed broadband, and I suspect you will get very little response from the worst areas.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Thank you for your comment Gerarda. We will try to improve it and make it more user-friendly so that everyone can access it without a problem.

  9. Avatar Mr Neutron

    “…to help focus the rollout of 3G, 4G and future 5G networks”

    Err, didn’t I read somewhere that the 3G band is going to be re-engineered to improve 5G coverage, so there will be little of that spectrum remaining for 3G?

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Thank you for pointing this out. The statement is meant to be “…to help improve the existing 3G and 4G services and future of the recent rollout of 5G networks”.

  10. Avatar SimonR

    Interesting concept, but I’ve got a few concerns…

    – You have to have a twitter account and the app installed. This rules out a lot of people already (I use social media via the browser, and rarely use twitter). You’ve also got to remember the hashtag, which after a few days I won’t have
    – It sounds like a lot of manual tidying will be required for your results if they’re coming in free text format
    – Most of the time I noticeably lose a signal is when I’m driving (internet radio drops out). There is no way that can be legally reported, and hence you’ll be missing out on a lot of data
    – I don’t get why you don’t want provider information. Network A may have coverage, whilst Network B may not. It’d be reported, but you’d have no way to discern which network it’s from. The end result will be a map of dark spots, but you’d have to reprocess each one to establish which network it’s from.. I may be missing something here though
    – I may not realise that I’m in a black spot. Others might though
    – As others have mentioned, a background app automatically reporting anonymous signal strength data would get much more accurate and reliable data that couldn’t be trolled, is in a consistent format and includes spots where the user is unable to report or unware. You’d also have the benefit of breaking down by provider and displaying high/low/none signal stats

    Like I say, interesting, but I’m not likely to stop what I’m doing, open twitter and write to you when I don’t have a signal. But if I could leave something running in the background I’d gladly do it. Sorry.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Hi Simon,

      Yes, we do agree that the geotagging only works with the mobile app version. To make geotag available in the browser version, this is somehow out of our control and scope of this project. We do assume that many people use Twitter with the application installed on their phone already.

      Yes, we will need to process the information before we are able to produce any result.

      This is what our goal is, to remind you to complain and tag that location once you are at the location where you have internet access, especially while it is not in the middle of driving.

      We do not want the provider information, as we are trying to enhance overall mobile signal network and coverage instead. Regardless of the carrier, it is necessary for people to have mobile signal and internet access almost everywhere they are in the country.

      We will consider that as our future plan.

      Thank you for your comments Simon, many of them are very useful and we notice your feedback and that will help improve our future plan and manipulation.

  11. Avatar TheFacts

    I do not turn GPS on to save battery life.

    The comments here suggest this project has not been thought through enough. What do the mobile companies know about their coverage?

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Thank you for your concern and comment.

      What you can do is you can report (Tweet) at home using the Twitter mobile app and geotag the place that really happens to have a poor mobile signal.

      We think that even though some carriers claim the signal strength is good in a particular area, there are still numbers of complaints about the service coverage, especially the rural part of the country. We, therefore, approach this problem with an alternative method by promoting such a campaign to raise awareness of how poor the mobile signal is and, in order to make the change happen, this requires a little support from everyone.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NSH – why can’t I just click on a location on a map on your website?

  12. Avatar TheFacts

    This project has so many flaws in it that ‘we’ need to contact whoever is funding it and ask them to put it on hold until it is clear what it is intended to achieve, and how other than keeping 5 academics, who are out of touch with the real world, in jobs it will achieve.

    • Avatar GNewton

      You are wrong here. This is a useful project. If you don’t like it, nobody stops you from staying away from it, especially not since you don’t appear to have issues with no-spots locally.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Useful for who, how will the data be useful for mobile company coverage planning?

  13. Avatar TheFacts

    No replies says it all about this scheme.

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      We are sorry to hear that we might misunderstand you in some way. The purpose of creating this project is to see the engagement of people from social media to help with the existing mobile services and the future fully roll-out of 5G service. We are now at the beginning phase of the project of promoting the campaign. We use Twitter to promote and think that the platform itself also still have some rooms of improvement (from the fact that only around 1% of all Tweets have been geotagged), even though Twitter has pulled its precise location feature out and lower the priority of geo-location in its application.

      We acknowledge the idea of us providing the map for you to click on our website. This can be an alternative method of the way we collect the data, but the current purpose we would like to focus on Twitter first. Thank you very much for your contact. Your feedback will help improve our future plan and manipulation of the website.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Thanks, please explain why you are not identifying the mobile operator. If a not-spot is identified what do you expect to happen next for current and future coverage.

      All the mobile operators have coverage maps, are they wrong?

  14. Avatar TheFacts

    As an example if I tell you there is no mobile coverage in the Tesco car park in Watford what do you do, in detail please? And what would anyone else do with this information?

    • Avatar NoServiceHere

      Once people report, we are going to retrieve the data from Twitter API, in which this is open to everyone who is interested in obtaining the information about Tweet. You don’t have to do anything, just help us spread the word about this campaign. As we are focusing on the experience of the users with the mobile phone signal, how the service has affected them, and what is their reaction towards the service. We are consumer and end user-centric – human behaviour, and our data is actually represented human experience expression as a text. We would like to know how come lots of people still complain about the problem of their phone connectivity, even though the mobile operation says the signal is good in a particular area. We do not say the operators are wrong, we just want to understand more about what happens behind this problem. We believe that using this approach can improve our understanding of mobile users regardless of the operator they use.

      The retrieved data will be processed and analysed by our team. The result and finding will be updated on our website regularly. The data will only be used for the purpose of research and study. You don’t need to do anything, just help us spread the word and let other people recognise to report to us on Twitter.

      How should you report
      1. Tweet and complain about the signal strength
      2. How has it affected you and your user experience
      3. provide geotag of that blind spot
      4. add hashtag #NoServiceHere (this can let us target our campaign a lot easier)

      Hope this answer your questions

  15. Avatar TheFacts

    Interesting, appears to use roaming?

    https://honestmobile.co.uk/

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