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UPD BBC Publishes Map of Street Level UK Mobile 2G and 3G Operator Coverage

Posted: 24th Aug, 2011 By: MarkJ
bbc mobile uk coverage map mobile reception barsThe BBC has today published the results of their crowd-sourced project to map the coverage of UK mobile networks. The data reveals significant differences in coverage between operators, huge "Not Spots" outside of cities and found that the testers only received a 3G ( Mobile Broadband ) signal 75% of the time (many operators claim to have 90% coverage of 3G).

The information itself was gathered by asking thousands of volunteers to install a special monitoring app on their Android based Smartphones (some 270 models or variants of different phones and tablets were used in the study). This managed to collect a staggering 1.7 million hours worth of data.

Gavin John, CEO of Epitiro, said:

"The BBC has undertaken a crowd-sourcing survey that is well beyond any scale seen by the mobile industry in this country or any other. Over 44,000 volunteers from the Shetland Islands to the Isles of Scilly participated with 42 million locations tested from every county in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For the first time consumers have the means to see 3G coverage precisely where they live, work and travel."

It is important to note that not all mobile operators received the same level of representation because of different customer numbers and market shares. Likewise the test itself is described as merely being a "snapshot of coverage rather than a scientific test".
Volume of Test Data Gathered by UK Mobile Operator
1. Orange - 24%
2. Vodafone - 22%
3. T-Mobile - 19%
4. O2 - 21%
5. Three (3) - 14%
Few people will be surprised to learn that the coverage outside of cities was incredibly poor, with many people in rural areas being forced to fall back on either 2G (voice and slow GPRS data) or no service at all. Many main roads (e.g. the A3) and rail networks also suffer from similar problems.

Earlier this year Ofcom published its first research into the country's national Mobile Broadband speeds (here) and discovered that the average mobile internet download speed is just 1.5Mbps (Megabits per second), which rises to 2.1Mbps in areas of "good 3G coverage". Hard luck if you can't get good 3G.
The BBC's Interactive UK Mobile Coverage Map
Separately another site, Opensignalmaps (OSM), has done something similar to the BBC with 30,000 users and 10 million locations mapped. The results from that survey suggest that 3G is only available 48% of the time and North Humberside is said to have the country's worst coverage of all.
Opensignalmaps - UK Mobile-Broadband Speeds by Operator
1. Vodafone - (Download 2.20Mbps) (Upload 0.63Mbps)
2. O2 - (Download 2.02Mbps) (Upload 0.43Mbps)
3. Three (3) - (Download 1.85Mbps) (Upload 0.40Mbps)
4. T-Mobile - (Download 1.14Mbps) (Upload 0.31Mbps)
5. Orange - (Download 1.03Mbps) (Upload 0.24Mbps)
It's important to mention that mobile coverage isn't just about the operator's network. Many lower cost phones and USB Modems (Dongles) come with cheap receivers that result in poor performance and it's often wise to spend a little bit more to get a better piece of kit.
Related ISPreview.co.uk Guides
* Top Tips for Improving Mobile-Broadband Performance
* WiBE UK Mobile-Broadband Signal Booster REVIEW
* How to Use Mobile-Broadband
* Broadband Solutions for Remote and Rural UK Communities
UPDATE 10:18am

The UK Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) has added a comment.

Communications Consumer Panel Member, Colin Browne, said:

"Today’s mobile coverage survey results from the BBC reinforce the Panel’s views about the extent of the coverage problems experienced by people in the UK on a day-to-day basis. These coverage issues also cause significant disadvantage to small businesses.

The forthcoming spectrum auction offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to resolve the persistent problem of inadequate mobile coverage. Effective mobile communication is essential, and we need intervention to improve services. The decision by tens of thousands of people to take part in the survey demonstrates how significant coverage is to people’s everyday lives."
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