/ Technology

No service: is mobile coverage meeting your expectations?

Most of us are increasingly dependent on our mobile phones – Ofcom has found that 78% of us could not live without our smartphone, but is the signal you’re getting good enough?

We want to have good quality mobile coverage wherever we are, at home, work, outside, or on the move.

While the coverage of 4G mobile networks has increased over the past year, there are still many areas of the UK that experience no coverage, or only have coverage from some (not all) of the mobile network operators.

As you’d expect, it is a particular issue in rural areas and while on the move, but it can also prove to be a problem in some urban areas.

Ofcom plans

Ofcom is looking at measures to improve coverage in those areas that don’t have mobile coverage. However, these measures will only go so far to address the issue. It will be up to the government to decide what further steps should be taken to achieve near-universal mobile coverage across the UK.

When we have a connection, the quality of it is important too, so that we can quickly and easily send messages, stream music and watch videos on the move – this can often become a problem when many users try to use the network at the same time, such as when you’re at a busy train station.

Network congestion

This network congestion means that we can experience slower data speeds, meaning it takes longer to upload Instagram photos or download emails.

We’d like to hear your experiences ahead of Ofcom’s consultations; have you experienced problems when you are using your phone, such as being unable to make calls, send texts or emails, or make use of apps such as Facebook or Instagram?

How did the problem affect you – for example, did it stop you getting in contact with family and friends, or being able to work on the move?

Please do not post your exact address or full postcode when commenting. Thanks.


“Ofcom has found that 78% of us could not live without our smartphone”

Seems a more humane remedy than lethal injection, at any rate.

bella leather says:
2 December 2018

Heh, but not humane when the rest of us get dirty tech’s Radiation spewing upon us. What’s amazing is that the Radiation from this technology is causing adverse health problems in every single person, man, woman, child, baby it hits, even if they can’t feel it happening. But people are so addicted to their Digital He r 0 1n, they’re not bothered.

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Our mobile phone signal has improved immensely. We can actually use them indoors as long as we hug the windows at the front of the house. Some windows work better than others although only one window works on a bad day.

The first item with any service call……. The signal is rather bad, can you take my number to call me back in case we get cut off please?

Still, it beats having to walk around the garden for a signal as we used to do.

Incidentally, mobile phone signal maps show us as having a good signal on all networks, but other network users would disagree.

We have no mobile ‘phone signals at all in the mountains. Which is one reason why, if you’re going mountain walking, you shouldn’t rely on your ‘phone. But, like Alfa, very occasionally a signal sneaks in through the large windows on the West side. Thankfully, our provider (2) also works though our router, so we can make calls that way, if we need to.

On another note, my Samsung S7 Edge was recently repaired with a new main board.

Before it broke, my phone did what I wanted it to and I had the home screens arranged how I wanted them. It had very few apps as I just didn’t need them.

Now I have the phone back, it is no longer mine. It has been taken over by Google, and a new app I haven’t seen before Samsung Pay stares at me from the home screen.

Now, I think I should have been asked and given my permission before my phone was bombarded with apps and news I don’t want and certainly didn’t ask for. What if this phone belonged to a child?

I need to spend some time setting it up again the way I want it, but smartphones are designed to make it difficult to find control options.

At least I have got rid of the front page ribbon that says ‘Say “Ok” Google’ 🙂

alfa – I agree that android smartphones are difficult to set up and control.

This is something that I’m content to tolerate with cheap (~£25) smartphones but if I was prepared to put in more time and/or money, I’d probably look into the benefits of rooting the phone and/or moving it away from Google’s ecosystem.

When I’m out and about, I like to be able to use web browsing and maps on my smartphone. For greater functionality, I can also use the phone as a portable modem and then use a proper PC, where I can have a lot more control over what apps do.

It is possible that there may even be a market for “off the shelf” smart phones that will be properly user controllable. Purism certainly think so, see:


Thanks for the link Derek.

Purism manufactures premium-quality laptops and phones, creating beautiful and powerful devices meant to protect users’ digital lives without requiring a compromise on ease of use.

Librem 5, the world’s first ethical, user-controlled smartphone…

Shouldn’t all phones and digital devices be like that? If we buy and own them, then surely it should be our right to decide and control what is installed on them and who can keep tabs on us.

Oh wait…….. wasn’t GDPR supposed to give us control over our personal information?

Why hasn’t there been a convo on GDPR yet @patrick, @katebevan ?

A statement from Purism:
We believe in users’ rights. We believe you should not be monitored, nor recorded, without your consent. We believe you should not surrender your freedom and your information to corporations for their profit. Here at Purism, we work with hardware manufactures and the free software community to build high quality hardware that respects your digital life.

Back up your phones, then when an issue such as this happens you can just “restore” it to how it was before. Android is very flexible, you can always either “delete” an App or “move” it into a folder (I call mine “unused” and disable it in App Settings.

Here’s my somewhat naughty precis of the lead article:

“78% of us could not live without our smartphone, so that we can quickly and easily stream music and watch videos on the move”

I guess I must be one of the 22% that has a life.

Indeed. The iPad has a much better screen size…

…so too does a humble Chromebook, or any decent ultra-portable PC. iPads are nice though 🙂

I am not a typical smart phone customer, but I have found that the weak and variable signal I was getting two years ago, has stabilised and strengthened, and most places I go to can now be phoned from. This also means that text messages can be sent reliably. I don’t have a phone contract so streaming from anything but WIFI is prohibitively expensive at £2 for 50 MB. I can do this for free on my laptops which I also use as sole providers of E-mail delivery and reception. It would seem that I am not as well connected as most of you out there, but when out and about, there are things to be done, and this is not the time to watch films or listen to music on the move, outside the car. In the car I have eleven days of music in store and more than enough choice to bop happily along the motorway without streaming or dreaming. My phone talks to the car so I can deal with incoming calls. I never make any on the move. I also don’t like the idea of headphones on a train, so there’s always something to read in the backpack. My electronic life is compartmentalised but I do sympathise with those who need to know, chat and stream as part of their busy routines and who find that their provider doesn’t provide. I also understand that such connection is important for the country and for that reason it is vital that we have an efficient communication service that provides for all work and pleasure needs.

Is the “78% of us” –
(a) the percentage of smartphone ‘owners’ who would die if they didn’t have their phone, or
(b) 78% of the total number of mobile phone ‘owners’ [including all the unsmart ones], or is it
(c) 78% of the adult population who could afford to have a smart phone, or
(d) 78% of the entire population, or what ?

I am in Vynor’s camp. I do have a smart phone but I happily live without using it. But then doing something else while “on the move” – like eating, interrupting people with a phone call, taking a phone call, watching videos, listening to music, getting in other people’s way, and getting run over – do not appeal to me.

I just love not having to be “on the move” all the time. I always assumed that was for important people but the opposite applies nowadays.

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I don’t think Which? are out of date on this, Duncan.

The intro gave Ofcom as the source for the statistic – that 78% of us cannot live without our smart phone. It was published by Ofcom on 2 August 2018 so is probably the latest info.

At least Ofcom answers my question set out above: it appears to be (c) – the percentage of adults – but is probably (a) – the percentage of smartphone ‘owners’. Here is their report: “Seventy-two per cent of adults say their smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet, 71% say they never turn off their phone, and 78% say they could not live without it“. That can only apply to people who have a smartphone.

The first two links you gave were mainly about market penetration. Ofcom’s analysis was more granular and looked at people’s attitudes to different technologies.

I cannot seem to disaggregate the number of smartphone ‘owners’ from the total statistics for “mobiles and smartphones”. I still see quite a number of people with just a mobile phone although as a percentage this is probably diminishing as the devices get cheaper, the coverage improves and the signal strengthens.

It’s me who is out of date: my PC and laptop are the only devices I use to access the internet.

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I think the percentage of smartphone owners will continue creeping up to around 95% by 2022 even if many only use them for the odd phone call and texts.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage without a device that will receive texts nowadays and if you’re going to get a portable phone it might as well be a smart one. Texts have become the taken-for-granted way of confirming deliveries, sending codes for authorising payments, getting travel information, and smart phones are increasingly used for bus and train tickets, reservations, etc.

I still consider phones a primitive way of accessing the internet, however.

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I think the cost of communications is already ridiculous but we have become inured to it. I question whether we can continue junking existing infrastructure just because some want greater capacity or higher speed at other people’s expense. The cost of carrying legacy systems also has to be borne since not everybody will convert to the latest technology simultaneously.

The LEO Musk-inspired Sat system might be part of a solution, Duncan, but it’s by no means the entire thing. The biggest issue facing all modes of communication is capacity. “Build it and they will come” has never been truer than with Fibre Optic cabling; and while I agree that you’re probably right about it replacing every other medium for communication in time, I also think low-cost, 5G repeaters will become commonplace for more rural areas.

The other snag, of course, is that pesky speed of light thing. Roll on the advent of sub-space…

Mobile phone coverage has improved greatly over the years, though there are still plenty of rural places where the phone shows ‘No service’. What is annoying is that sometimes this happens in places where there is usually a signal, so I presume that weather is a factor.

Soon after I moved home in 2016, a new mast was erected nearby and provided me with a decent 4G service, where there had been a poor and unreliable signal beforehand.

Being able to use WiFi to get my laptop online when staying with friends means that struggling with tethering in weak signal areas is less of a problem.

One of three reasons that I switched from giffgaff to Three is because Three provides wifi calling to all of its customers, unlike the likes of Vodafone who are unreasonably selective about which customers can use it. Wifi calling means that your phone will connect to the mobile network via wifi over the internet instead of over GSM transmitters. This means that you receive all calls (and also make calls) whenever you have a wifi connection, even if there’s no mobile signal. In London, this benefits me mainly in Tube stations. Wifi calling is a basic modern element of coverage provision by a mobile network. If your mobile network doesn’t provide it to you, then its coverage is deficient.

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Thank you to everyone who’s shared their experiences so far – our policy team are reading with interest ahead of the Ofcom consultation.

Maryann Hindmarch says:
28 November 2018

I b
I have O2 I live In Verwood Dorset and haven’t had any problems with my mobile phone except at the local Hub leisure centre.

William says:
28 November 2018

Thankfully my service is very good

The signal in my house varies from ok i can send it if i stand outside to – no signal at all. The same for the broadband. Even our TV drops out. (Talk Talk)

When I was on Vodafone, it didn’t seem to matter where I was, the coverage was, poor to absolutely DIRE, I complained and complained and complained to Vodafone about this, I was once refunded a few £ for the problems caused!!!!! I became so utterly sickened by Vodafone and their complete lack of caring / empathy, that I changed to E.E & never looked back ….

Fiona says:
28 November 2018

I do not have a mobile phone. A lot of people do not. Not a smart phone nor a non-smart phone. I have a landline and that suits me fine.

My mobile phone is a DORO clamshell type, so it does not have internet access. I find it annoying when they signal goes down when shopping when I want to check on an item,,and when the doctors use a signal jammer to stop you using your phone while there. On average my signal is usually quite good and it only seems to go down when the weather is bad,,I am on EE. I only use my phone for calls and text messages, like they were intended for.

No problem with the signal in Norwich.

penny says:
28 November 2018

Well our coverage is non – existent and the mobile company seems not interested at all. It makes it particularly difficult because a lot of companies, banks etc are using texting to assure security. This doesn’t work.

There is little to no coverage for my pathetic old phone, which runs on 3G. I moved to Three from Tesco (o2) hoping to save money. Tesco worked very well, and charged £9.95 pcm. With Three, I am now losing money, as clients cannot call or text me, and there is virtually no coverage at home, and very low elsewhere. I had a text from them the other day, telling me that they had ‘fixed the problem’. No they hadn’t. Very dissatisfied, and feel they should not be able to sell a PAYG without proper coverage.

Melville McDonald says:
28 November 2018

In Buckie in Moray we got an excellent phone signal when we first purchased our Tesco smartphones. The reception and signal has deteriorated markedly in the last 12 months.