/ Technology

Do you live in a mobile ‘not-spot’?

Woman on mobile broken down in rural area

Should more be done to improve the UK’s mobile coverage? A recent Ofcom report suggests there aren’t many people living in ‘not-spots’ – so does lack of coverage in those areas really matter?

We live in a mobile age, where increasing numbers of us are casting off the curly-wired shackles of landlines in favour of flexible mobile communications.

In fact, my colleague Ben Stevens spent a good 400+ words arguing that, in his opinion, landlines are archaic and virtually obsolete.

I, like many of you, disagree with him. Indeed, a number of you made the very valid point that mobiles are little more than a useless ornament in parts of the UK that lack signal.

Commenter Kevin Thomas has suffered from this very problem, ‘I live in an area where there is very limited mobile coverage (a friend of mine has found a “Magic Window” in the local pub where he can leave his mobile to receive texts).’ And so does Charlie Bucket, ‘Would love to ditch my landline but can’t as coverage in my house is worse than on the moon (apparently!).’

Ofcom’s recently-released mobile ‘not-spot’ report reinforces this argument. There’s still 3% of the UK population, or 9% of the country by landmass, that can’t get a basic 2G mobile signal from any operator. And large parts of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have drawn the short straw.

As for mobile broadband, 3G mobile coverage is even less extensive, being out of rearch for 24% of the country.

There are more mobile coverage issues

But complete geographical not-spots are only part of the picture. Other mobile coverage issues arise across the UK, even in parts of heavily-populated areas like London, and include:

  • Lack of provider choice in areas that are only served by one or two operators.
  • What Ofcom calls ‘Interrupted coverage on the move’, such as drop-outs when travelling by train.
  • Dodgy indoor coverage, where the signal is fine outside a building but drops away when you go inside.

Ofcom says that mobile not-spots are high on its priority list and that it’s working to improve matters where it can. But to a certain extent its hands are tied since it has no direct power to make mobile operators increase their coverage.

Plus, new mobile base stations don’t come cheap, so you can understand operators’ reluctance to build them in remote areas where return on investment will be poor.

Could you live without mobile coverage?

It may take direct government intervention to bring about 100% UK mobile coverage. Given the high costs involved that’s unlikely to happen unless there’s a risk of huge consumer detriment if it doesn’t.

So to all those mobile not-spotters out there, is complete mobile coverage a vital investment for the UK’s future, or could you quite happily live your life without ever owning a mobile phone?

Marjie C says:
13 November 2010

I live in a small village with no mobile signal anywhere. As I’m at home most of the day caring for my disabled husband it means that my mobile is almost obsolete. There isn’t any point in any tariff other than pay as you go. But what do we do when we lose power? My land line phone sits on a base that has to be plugged in,and, when the base is off I have no phone! There is no public phone. So we have no emergency back up of any sort. I did speak to my mobile provider, but they aren’t really interested in the fact that a few hundred people have no signal.
Along with this we don’t have a digital TV signal either, even though the area is now fully digital.
We don’t live on the moon, just a few miles from Lockerbie and a major motorway.

I really recommend you get a old fashioned corded phone, which you can plug into the same socket as your cordless phone [a 2 way adapter is very cheap], and then you’ll always have access to a landline [unless the BT line is down!]. It used to be that BT wouldn’t allow customers to use a cordless as their only phone – for this very good reason!

We are in a similar situation. I use the mobile when out, but at home, no way.

Sorry to hear about the TV. Again we have the same problem, but have “Freesat fron Sky” which costs us no monthly subscription, but gives us access to all Free to Air satellite channels – hundreds of them!! Initial cost, £150, so a chunk to find, I’m afraid.
Hope this helps a bit.

Actually I think we could do with Which? investigating drop out and no coverage further -I really don’t know where Ofcom get their high figures from! I live in a large city where due to companies ‘upgrading’ their systems to 4G and joining forces with another company they decided to take down masks all over the country -there are many people complaining about this. Unfortunately for me they took down two masks close to me -rendering my signal for phone calls from 3-5 bars to 0. They didn’t tell me this was the problem for 6 months despite repeat phone calls form me and had me running in circles changing phones and upgrading -actually they had effectively withdrawn their service. I have got some money back but am still out of pocket by three months. The maps that Ofcom refer you to are far from helpful as in my area i was supposed to have good to excellent signal with this company. Really? in fact it was zero bars for a good mile!
I have reported this to Ofcom but I did not get the feeling they were terrible interested -putting the ownership back onto me -well if it is my responsibility to check signal coverage then surely it is the company’s responsibility and Ofcoms to ensure that the consumers have maps that reflect the true level of signal! Equally if they decide to change coverage in your area mid flow of my contract then they should either do something about it or inform me and allow me to leave them without penalties -none of this happened in my case without a huge fight.

Please Which? investigate what is going on with mobile phone company services -we the consumer find ourselves tied into contract where we have been hoodwinked over services or they change during our contracts and currently it is very hard to fight them.
My answer to this is that i am becoming once more a fan of the landline -at least i know that power cuts aside ( which I rarely have ) i can reliably make phone calls without drop out and know that people can hear me clearly. Are land-line days over -definitely not! not until mobile phone companies can give a much better service and can offer a high level of consistency -all my complaints to this mobile phone company had to be conducted via my landline…..I rest my case!!!!

A corded landline phone will work fine during power cuts. Every home should have one.

Mary Godfrey says:
20 May 2016

We live in a mobile phone nearly spot. I look on to a mobile phone mast and still don’t get a good signal, Why? because ee switched it off. This should NOT be allowed. Nor should mobile phone masts in the country be unavailable to all networks. When I was in Northern Ireland a few years ago the network changed as we moved about the country. I heard that Europe did the same. Why are we not getting this here?