/ 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.

Chandra says:
3 December 2018

Net work is ok, but could be better. slow speeds is problem sometimes

Lesley Williams says:
3 December 2018

my network is fine in places I’ve been this year, all around England & southern Scotland

Rocky says:
3 December 2018

Only 1 network has any signal in my house. It is only 3G. The others have no coverage. Infuriating – but at least one works. Coverage outside is very mixed and often poor.

Clive says:
3 December 2018

We have no mobile signal at home (Wrestlingworth Bedfordshire 12 miles from Hi Tec Cambridge) and have to rely on using O2 internet connected booster, as we have to register each of our phones on it with O2 visitors cannot receive or make calls. This ties us to O2 (we only got this as we had a business account)

HI Clive, it sounds very frustrating to have such a weak phone signal. I work on Which?’s Freedom to Pay campaign and am trying to find out if people with low mobile signal also struggle to use online banking, or receive texts to authorise payments etc. Is that the case for you? Morgan

John Woodward says:
3 December 2018

My neighbours know when I am expecting a contact with my bank or trying to send a message. Yes, you are correct, It’s John the idiot, wandering around in the road trying to get a connection with “3” who claim to have 93% coverage!! It is not as if I live in the sticks. On top of highest land for some distance, 400m from the main London Birmingham railway and less than a mile from M40.
Still, it is only 21st Century Britain.

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Hi John, This sounds shocking considering your location. I work on Which?’s Freedom to Pay campaign and am trying to find out if people with low mobile signal also struggle to use online banking, or receive texts to authorise payments etc. Is that the case for you? Morgan

Martin Edward Winterbottom says:
3 December 2018

No service in the house – have to go outside or stand in window. Makes two stage security with mobile phone a real nuisance and text access codes nearly impossible.

Hi Martin, really interested to read your comment on receiving two stage security codes. I work on Which?’s Freedom to Pay campaign and am trying to find out if people with low mobile signal also struggle to use online banking, or receive texts to authorise payments etc. It sounds like that is the case for you? Morgan

David Dennison says:
3 December 2018

The BT mobile signal in the Sharman Park & Road area of Belfast where I live is totally unsatisfactory.
From speaking to users of other netwoks they find the situation no better

I have no signal in my house yet live close to the centre of Glasgow. The Internet connection is very poor outwits cities in Scotland

I have very intermittent mobile signal in my house. I can use Wi-Fi calling to make calls but can’t use it to send or receive texts (despite my provider telling me that it could when I signed up, apparently it’s coming…didn’t say when though…). Sometime a text makes it through but normally I have to go outside to get a decent enough signal. This becomes even more infuriating when my own mobile service provider wants me to use two-step security and text messages with access codes despite being aware that the signal is poor!!

three has a no signal IG8

No reception whatsoever (location South of Lancaster – Lancashire) inside or outside the house. I can use Wi-Fi calling to make calls but can’t use it to send or receive texts! Were told sometime ago that the provider was working on a new way to allow its subscribers to be able to send and receive texts, when they discontinued the earlier service called “TO GO”. I have to drive up to the hill, about 3/4 mile when I am dealing with two-step security and text messages with access codes. This is frustrating, when I am working at the computer at late night.

Anne Sinclair says:
3 December 2018

Reception here with 3 (Central/East Scotland) is patchy at best ~ non existent when it’s foggy or heavy cloud (which is pretty regular as you can imagine!!)

Heather says:
3 December 2018

I live near Stroud, Glos and am often trying to get a signal on my smartphone. Broadband speed seems quite slow a lot of the time too

I live in in Fulham, London SW6.

The coverage for my smart phone is pretty good; it also works well in Brighton where I spend a lot of time.

But I have quite alot of trouble with wi-fi for my Macbook. It is always going off

Jean Campbell says:
3 December 2018

When I am at home it is not bad, However when I visit my sons there is no signal at all.

Steve says:
3 December 2018

Not brilliant Vodafone say their coverage is 99% 4G this is definitely not the case when travelling to and from London from Guildford. There’s a dead zone around worplesdon where the phone signal even goes and there’s not 4G all the way to London.

Be aware that coverage figures are percentage of population, not percentage of land.

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In Haworth (Bronte Country) well on my street it’s only o2 with 4G service. My partner is on EE and get no service or limited 3G preventing her from texting or calling.

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Just to be clear, Duncan, nowhere have I suggested that the public are to blame for the present situation with mobile phone signal coverage.

And far from saying that Brexit is a satisfactory excuse for putting this issue on the back-burner, I would assert that Brexit adds enormously to the argument for doing something about it.

There are four major operators but none of them has a monopoly so the government cannot “do a BT”, as you put it, and command them to invest where they see no commercial justification. As I said earlier, the only way to achieve that is for the government to take over control of the companies, effectively through nationalisation.

As Ofcom has realised, if the terms of operating licences are too onerous in terms of coverage requirements, no companies would bid for them and the situation would be worse.

I am not supporting or advocating this approach but the government probably says to itself – “Why should we tell mobile phone companies what to do to satisfy their customers; that’s up to the market. No one tells television manufacturers what sort of sets to produce, or motor manufacturers what the top speed of their cars should be, or bakeries what sort of bread to make. What’s so special about mobile phone services?” Indeed, what is so special about mobile phone services that many billions of pounds should be spent connecting every remote or vacant part of the landmass so that people can make or receive an occasional phone call wherever they happen to be?

One justification for some direct government intervention, whether by subsidy or through public provision, is that UK business increasingly relies on mobile connectivity and is seriously hampered if reliable connections cannot be made. Work does not only happen in offices with telephone systems and switchboards; it goes on in the field, at other sites, on the move, in the train, late at night, wherever the need arises; and it is not just voice communication that is required but the whole menu of interaction. If we are not to slip further down the international league table for business efficiency then this must be addressed.

Personally, I think this is all under the wrong government department. Instead of coming under the Department for Business Enterprise and industrial Strategy [BEIS], which would make logical sense, it has been attached to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS] which is a ragbag of unrelated functions with no particular focus. I am not saying that changing the brass plate of the door will make much difference overnight but it would be a step in the right direction.

As it happens, I believe the evidence is there that the public are fully aware that no single mobile phone company offers, or promises, full UK-wide coverage or is generally deceiving customers over what they can realistically expect [although I concede they come close to that], but being aware does not make consumers happy with the situation. The problem we have to face is where is the [up to] £6 billion coming from and who is going to control where it goes. Ofcom has, understandably, thrown its hands up in the air and said “Don’t look at us – we can’t make these companies do what their customers won’t pay for”.

The search continues . . . .

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Point taken, Duncan.

The present government has only been in office since 2015. It can’t be held responsible for government failures thirty years or more ago when mobile phone technology and connectivity, and the industry generally, were in their infancy. This was not a public sector industry that got privatised – it grew up on its own and then needed to be regulated to provide common standards, prevent commercial abuse, and protect customers from exploitation. Ensuring total coverage was never part of the plan and each company was left to make up its own mind on how far it wanted [or could afford] to develop.

All the different generations of mobile phone technology were developed within the industry and I think we should grateful that the government did not step in and impose all sorts of obligations or restrictions on the emerging technology or we would have been stuck with 2G for decades.

Or it could have been even worse with the location-specific telepoint services like Rabbit and Zonephone where you had to be within close range of a transmitter. Rabbit eventually became Orange and the rest is history. The technology has progressed rapidly creating an enormous demand for coverage that was never anticipated.

Given a choice between coverage and communication sophistication [including broadband access] I guess most consumers would choose the latter.

Jenny says:
4 December 2018

I live in a village near Tamworth, I’m om EE and twice in the last year they have worked on the local mast but have made no difference at all. Coverage is mostly very poor to nothing at all