/ Technology

Why is mobile phone coverage still so bad?

Do you struggle to get enough reception just to receive the odd text or call?

It seems incredible, but many of us still have to put up with terrible phone coverage – although you might not think this from a first glance at official figures.

More than 99% of UK premises can receive a 2G or 3G service, according to telecoms regulator, Ofcom. Well that sounds all right doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t tell the whole story.

That figure is properties that get a signal from any network – far fewer get coverage from all four of them (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone).

In rural areas the situation is even worse. Only 72% of premises actually get a 2G or 3G signal from all four networks.

And believe it or not, that 72% is just for outdoors – fine if you’re happy to take all your calls in the garden, less so if a winter sprint outside to get a signal doesn’t appeal.

In fact only 31% of rural properties have indoor 2G or 3G coverage from every network – a far cry from the 99% you might expect from the headline figure.

What’s being done to improve coverage?

The government has in recent years tried to tackle ‘not-spots’ (areas with no coverage) and ‘partial not-spots’ (areas that have coverage from some, but not all, of the networks). But progress is slow.

To tackle partial not-spots, it got networks to agree to invest £5bn to improve their infrastructure.

And Ofcom designed the 4G auction so that one licence – won by O2 – requires it to offer 98% indoor coverage by the end of 2017 (new licences are likely to have similar requirements).

In 2013 the government set aside up to £150m to improve coverage in not-spot regions.

This was meant to find 600 potential sites for new mobile masts and to build as many as possible. By February 2016, only 16 had been completed.

The minister for culture and the digital economy at the time, Ed Vaizey, was pretty blunt when he admitted in parliament:

I don’t think the programme has been a success.

Why aren’t more masts being built?

The government scheme ran in to many of the problems networks face. Planning laws, combined with objections from local communities, often make it difficult to put up masts.

The effect, when combined with the restrictions on mast heights (typically 10 metres shorter than those in Europe), have left some areas without adequate coverage.

Meanwhile the difficulties in negotiating with landlords can badly delay necessary upgrades to existing sites.

The networks are hopeful that the government’s plans to reform the planning system should make things easier but some landowners have expressed concerns.

What do you think? Would you be happy to see more phone masts, including much taller structures, if it meant better mobile coverage – especially in rural areas?

Comments
Member

Complaints are levied at BT for their equivalent roll out of fibre coverage but their problems arent mentioned a lot in the media which are the same as the Cell-Net operators in that in places like Wales a lot of the land is in private ownership and the owners are -off-shore investors , if you know what I mean. This has hit many places there holding up installation of fibre but BT get blamed but when it comes to other private communications companies a different set of rules seem to apply . I am all for expansion of mobile signals and have commented on this on Which and would go along with non-intrusive towers but when you reach country areas a decision has to be made just like wind generated power masts as to whether land scape is “damaged ” . I know there are powerful bodies on both side of the fence in this issue and I am sure a hot debate will be forthcoming but keep in mind the amount of money and the number of towers that could be built still wont cover all areas just like the fibre debate so I hope this isnt being used as an excuse to hide this fact ?

Member

Sharing masts – just like the railways used to share tracks and apportion revenue – can surely not be a difficult solution, and would help establish more uniform coverage.

As far as cost goes, I don’t see that this should fall on the taxpayer. Let the mobile phone industry fund it.

For “not spots”, as duncan says, many of these might be in remote areas with little traffic and where a mast might be intrusive. We have to balance the environment with other demands.

Member

I was astonished to learn that only 16 out of a proposed 600 new mast sites had been completed since 2013. “Not a success” must be the understatement of the year. “Not trying hard enough” more like it. So many excuses.

I have no objection in principle to taller masts or towers so long as the mast-providers enable as many networks as possible to use them or, as Malcolm says, to share transmitters in order to keep down the amount of clutter on each tower. Obviously the mast has to have power supplies and back-up as well as facilities for both receiving and transmitting signals for each network plus service and emergency communications, and it is this proliferation of apparatus that gives rise to environmental objections. The other issue is radiation risk, but in sparsely populated lightly trafficked areas [which is where the not-spots etc usually are] this should be less of a concern. There is no reason why the telecom mast providing companies cannot design sensitive installations [and I don’t mean an Angel of the North on every hilltop]; if one tall tower can provide enough service coverage for five shorter ones that is better than having a multitude of projections dotting the landscape and probably more economical operationally.

Member

We should note that a farmer can put up the most hideous metal shed or cluster of feed silos in the most sensitive area of outstanding natural beauty without any need to jump the planning hurdles that seem to lie in the path of essential communications equipment.

Now that we know that UK mast heights are ten metres lower than on the continent it would be useful to know what the continental height limits are. I have never felt that communication masts have looked intrusive when I have been abroad. The UK does not have a monopoly of sensitive landscapes by any means.

P.S. The UK will always be part of Europe, Jon – it’s just not on the continent.

Member

Has Which? written a paper on this?

I ask as two options are given – apparently higher masts or more masts – but no information as to trade-off between the two. I would hate to give a view on such scant information.

Incidentally has anyone considered that with so many wind turbines in existence one might look to the use of them, or a dummy one in each array? Simply not enough information available.

Member

John- many towers are needed because they are only operational over a short distance and interconnect with each other to supply a continuous signal over the area covered by them . The frequency range is around –900 Mhz — 2000 Mhz (APPROX ) the draw back of those very high frequencies is that due to the earth,s surface -it curves , UHF frequencies fall off very quickly with distance the higher the frequency the shorter the distance . They are also badly effected by trees/hills etc som it isnt only a case of a bigger output power . As far as radiation is concerned this type is RF radiation that has NOT shown to effect the DNA of human being or to have ill effects due to the very low wattage of transmission , many scientific tests have been performed worldwide BUT do not apply this to actual mobile phones themselves which might ( depending on your thinking here ) might be a different situation . RF energy ,as I am sure wavechange will agree is NON -ionizing unlike x-radiation etc which is harmful to humans . If we bring the military Defence into the situation , think about radar , its transmitted at UHF,s and therefore has to be lifted higher for longer reception -ie- US spy planes with rotating radar and pickup built in to cover a very wideband of frequencies and the UK versions . Thats why I go on about Russia and OHR ( over the horizon radar ) .the latest NOT using UHF but the frequency range 1 Mhz up to 30 Mhz which is the RF frequency of short wave radio because they can bounce it off the ionosphere . I dont want to go on as there is a lot of other defense frequencies like submarine VLF transmission and NO just because of satellites being easy to attack it is not obsolete.

Member

As you say, Duncan, the radiation emitted by mobile phone masts is non-ionising. In science it can be easy to demonstrate a harmful effect but very difficult to prove that something is not harmful. Another problem is that introduction of mobile phones and phone masts are among many other changes that have taken place over the years.

There is a great deal of literature about the possibility that phones and mast could cause cancer but CR UK does not seem concerned and they have an interest in the subject: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/cancer-controversies/mobile-phones-wifi-and-power-lines

I still have the government’s leaflet giving advice on the possible risk of using mobile phones, but phone masts were not mentioned.

Member

The leaflet I mentioned above is available online: liverpool.ac.uk/media/livacuk/radiation/pdf/mobilephone.pdf

The advice dates from 2000.

Member

Thank you, Duncan, although I have to admit that I don’t understand most of what you have written. The Intro gave the impression that there was a choice between more of the standard UK masts or a fewer number of higher masts. I am not particularly interested in the technicalities of transmission but if there is such a choice – which you suggest is possibly not the case – then I would opt for higher masts in fewer locations. In fact, from a landscape point of view I would say the higher the better. Even the highest hills and mountains in the UK are not Alpine in scale.

I mentioned concern about radiation because it always comes up when local communities are consulted on the installation of another mast. If they are wrong, it hasn’t registered.

Member

For years, calls from mobiles to the emergency services have been automatically routed via another mobile network even if the callers phone shows ‘No service’. I have never called the emergency services until recently and ended up making six 999 calls in one afternoon to provide updates and receive advice on management of a potentially serious health problem. I wondered why I was not given an alternative number, but with hindsight it would have been useless because neither of my mobiles had a signal.

I would like to see mobile networks sharing networks for standard calls and this would remove a great deal of frustration. If banks can share ATMs and presumably the costs of providing them, surely the mobile phone networks can do the same.

Member
Alan Boyland says:
25 July 2016

Perhaps there should be a requirement to open networks to sharing/roaming where coverage falls below a reasonable threshold.

Member

Good in idealist terms Alan but not likely to happen as to increased cost of multiple mobile companies using their own digital communication methods, meaning cell net masts would cost more due to increased equipment needed on them . And then you have private enterprise each selling its own facilities to attract the public. Socialism in the cell-net industry wouldnt be popular for BB.

Member
Robert says:
21 July 2016

Everyone wants to be able to use their mobile phone when ever were ever including those living in rural areas but the not in my back yard syndrome kicks in when it comes to the installation of masts.

As regards the height of the transmitters only the engineers who specialise in RF can answer, I don’t want to see beautiful views spoiled by ugly masts, wind turbines or any other clutter but surely locations close to electricity pylons and or discreetly placed in/on disused buildings such follies would be good as the revenue raised from leasing the space would help finance the upkeep of these old buildings.

Member

Robert 15 metres is the standard height , a Macrocell base has the biggest range and has an output power of of a few 10,s of watts (RF) . But even here they must be positioned clear of any obstruction terrain/buildings etc to have the ability to relay the signal as they operate – 900Mhz to 2000Mhz DIRECT -line of sight as at that frequency they do not have the ability to bounce off the ionosphere , there are smaller stations with reduced coverage . Each cell can only support a limited number of calls , if more customers then more intermediate cell towers are required and if many operators are on the same tower then higher towers are required . While not comprehensive I hope this answers some of your questions.

Member

So the proposed higher towers, if approved, would be 25 metres tall [around eight feet]. That does not seem too bad, especially if one high tower can substitute for a number of standard mast. taking a cue from Robert above, we could even build new follies in especially sensitive landscapes to incorporate transmitters. Most landscapes are fairly ordinary and the Victorians had no hesitation in covering them with windmills, chimney stacks, viaducts and gasometers.

Member

Just noticed an error and too late to edit: I meant to write “eighty feet” in the first line of my 13:36 post above.

Member
Robert says:
21 July 2016

A few years ago I moved into a lovely flat and the phone signal was excellent, after a couple of years the signal suddenly went from full strength to practically non existent. After a couple of weeks I contacted my mobile provider who claimed that according to their system reception was good to which I informed them that the system was incorrect.

Approximately six months later while dealing with a small issue regarding my phone I again commented on the lack of signal at home, the person dealing with the other issue checked the system and informed me that the mast had been deactivated due to pressure from local parents as it was located near to not next to a school.

The stupid thing is that the same parents give the children mobile phones to microwave their brains and then moan because they don’t have a signal to make calls. So now a huge area of properties has next to no signal and residents complain but it is their own fault.

Member

Your right Robert there is little chance of cancer inducing radiation from the mast but a verified chance of “frying ” your child,s brain with a cell-net phone stuck to its ear 24/7 .

Member
Bill Anderson says:
21 July 2016

Perhaps my comment is in the wrong forum but I feel that it is very relevant to the mobile phone signal debate. Earlier this year I took up the option to have a smart electrical meter installed and all looked well until the engineer pulled out his mobile phone signal meter to see if the signal was strong enough to allow the meter to be installed. Now apparently all smart meters are now fitted with a Vodafone SIM card, they apparently have an exclusive contract, and lo and behold the signal at the meter was below the admissible level to allow the smart meter to be installed, although two other networks signal was strong enough. This is apparently a known issue both with the smart meter installers and Vodafone but doesn’t help me to get a new smart meter to help with reducing my energy costs. There are several issues here:
1. The largest one being why is the Government pushing so hard to get these meters installed when poor network signals are a known issue and there appears to be no action being taken to resolve the issue.
2. Why are engineers visiting houses in areas when it is known that there is a poor signal.
3. Why are the smart meter installation company lettering people inviting them to have a smart meter installed knowing it might not be possible.
4. Why was a contract given to one mobile network and not left open for the engineer to install a SIM for whichever network has the strongest at the location of the meter.
5. Why was one mobile phone network company allowed an exclusive contract when there are know ‘dead’ spots for each network across the company.
6. Why is one utility currently able to offer, on a selective, basis free power on either Saturday or Sunday knowing that smart meters cannot currently be installed in many houses across the UK.
I realise that this post is primarily aimed at voice and text users but why not join these arguments together to put more pressure on the Government and mobile network companies to advance the speed at which coverage is being improved/extended.

Member
Ian says:
21 July 2016

Competition hasn’t worked, and couldn’t possibly work, to improve coverage. Providers will concentrate on covering areas where population density is high and avoid areas where the masts would lose money.

The only solution is for there to be ONE physical network upon which any number of providers then offer their services to the paying public. With one physical network, you could be guaranteed that every provider will be available in every location there’s a signal.

It would also be much easier for the regulator to dictate far higher levels of coverage than currently seen.

Member

Thanks Ian. That surely is the answer. It works for gas and electricity so why not do it for phones? There could still be regional franchises to preserve an element of competition, or at least to enable efficiency and performance comparisons.

Member

While I quite agree with both John and Ian , watch out TM wont like the industrial socialism and I am sure many of her followers (privatize everything ) wont like it too . Nevertheless its worth a ” I agree ” from me Ian. By the way if there was only one provider that would mean one standard signal and no drop-outs due to mast transmitting another companies signal.

Member

We’ve got the worst of all worlds at the moment – token privatisation of a nationally vital infrastructure [the mobile phone signal network] with service providers cherry-picking and squabbling over their access and coverage. Result > communications failure. As I said above the, network does not have to be state-run any more than the electricity grid is but it should at least serve the people. What is there for TM not to like about that? The national carrier need not be restricted to one signal bandwidth – they could still have separate packets for each service provider’s traffic. That would help with measuring and charging anyway.

Member

One of the benefits of having a common carrier company operating the transmitter masts and carrying signals for any mobile service provider would be to lower the barriers to entry to the mobile phone services market and thereby increase potential competition. The Big Four would not want that so they will stick out for keeping their own masts for their own traffic and not sharing with anyone else, thus leaving big gaps in territorial coverage. So much for customer service.

Windydick [further down] has highlighted the problems brilliantly.

Member
bsg017 says:
21 July 2016

Your feature writer sayd, “Most of us expect to be able to use our mobiles whenever and wherever we want”. What world does he live in, and who are his friends? Certainly not my world where I have a weak O2 signal in and outside my home in a large village.
However, it is worth mentioning that the ability to use wifi signals from ones broadband router does allow web use indoors and sms messages come and go too.

Member

The feature writer obviously lives in London, for their sins!

Member
Andrew says:
22 July 2016

Just read of using Mobile over internet. Thought what a great idea, but foiled by O2! You cant sign up for their O2TU app without a mobile signal> Kafka would have been proud of them.

Member

Three network is the same, I understand from the app reviews. Might not be too much of a problem if you only had to register once, but apparently Three insists you log on repeatedly – over the mobile network. You couldn’t make it up.

Member
windydick says:
22 July 2016

There is an essential feature of cellphone technology that affect signal and causes variability.
We all know that each network covers the country with cells, centred on masts, that reuse the relatively small number of available channels over and over again. Cell size will depend on user density – more users, smaller cells. Ideally coverage will be pretty comprehensive, apart from sparsely populated or difficult terrain.
When usage in any given cell increases that cell may run out of available channels, causing problems. To get round this the network can reduce the effective size of the cell by the simple expedient of reducing mast transmitter power. Users bumped off the edge of the now smaller virtual cell will be seemlessly served by adjacent cells, the system morphing flexibly best to use available resources.
When I first read of this innovation a couple of decades ago I marvelled at its simplicity, its elegance and effectiveness. Except that it doesn’t really work. If one cell is getting overloaded, say at 10 am on a Monday morning, the chances are its neighbours will be feeling the strain as well. Poor sops in the gaps, as in our semi-rural Cambridgeshire village, will be left with “No Network Coverage” just when they most want it! At the dead of night I have 3 bars signal downstairs in the kitchen. At peak times I’m lucky to get a fleeting service upstairs at the other end of the house, line of sight to the mast two miles away.
I believe that it is this unreliability, the capricious nature of mobile coverage that is most infuriating. And of course it is always the same mugs, those distant from several masts, who suffer. This also explains why coverage gets worse – more users, smaller virtual cells, more gaps.
I know what causes this, though I don’t know if that makes me feel any better! However, I think that attempts to improve signal mapping, however big the “crowd”, will be of limited use if this essential system characteristic is not taken into account.

Member

I take with a pinch of salt any assertion by an operator that a mast has been de-commissioned as a result of public pressure. Most such removals from service have been a result of network amalgamations and consequent removal of “duplicate” masts – saving costs! Of course, service to individual users inevitably suffers.

Member

As Robert and Duncan point out, little Johnny’s (or, more likely, Joanna’s) brain is at far greater risk of frying from the mobile phone than the base station. But phones automatically crank up the power the weaker the base station signal, ie the further away it is. So, logically, the best way to protect our kids from fried brain syndrome would be to put a weak base station on the roof of the school. try running that past the PTA!

Member

What I find most depressing about this subject is that all the networks do pretty well the same thing. In a good, if not perfect, world I would hope for some synergy, complementarity, between the networks. But no, they are all chasing the same market with very similar coverages – and the same gaps!

Member

I am reading in the August magazine about what Which? is calling a ‘femotocell’ . I now live in a village where there is no signal from any network.
I tried the Three InTouch app on my iPhone 6, but it is a long way from being of much use. However, I got a Three Home signal box (femotocell) from Three a couple of months ago (foc) and it works perfectly.
On the other hand, my daughter, in the same village, uses the EE native wifi system on her iPhone, but that is a much more expensive network to use, especially if you use your phone abroad a lot, as I do.

Member

Snowball thats actually a good idea using broadband locally connected to your line via your router/modem although the actual transmission range is severely limited to 10/15 feet or so . Yes well posted . The only criticism could be you are paying extra for this facility and that you are saving the “face ” of cell-net operators who wont pay out for additional towers to be built , still good practical advice where you have zero signal .

Member
Alan Boyland says:
25 July 2016

I understand that percentage figures given for mobile coverage relate to population. 98% for example, which of course still leaves over a million people without a signal, but also huge swathes of the country.

Member
Alan Boyland says:
25 July 2016

The TU app offered by O2 does offer a good service for texts and outgoing calls using wifi when there’s no signal, but I have yet to manage to answer an incoming call using it. It rings just once then cuts off. Is it just me, or do others have the same problem?

Member

Alan-The majority consensus by O2 users – good app BUT incoming calls dont ring or you have to get the app up to see if you have missed calls , also some tried bring the app to the forefront to see if it made a difference but others complain about leaving it there. O2 as of this date dont have an answer.

Member

Its interesting ,while checking out Alan,s problem a poster said -why cant the UK be like Slovenia ? . Well I am sure that country isnt the first one that would spring to mind as far as good mobile Internet connections are available but seemingly you can create mobile hotspots -quote- almost anywhere , anytime . One company is offering basic access to mobile Internet with— 99 % coverage of the Slovenian territory / 95 % coverage of broadband Internet with speeds equal or greater than 42Mbps . By selecting a suitable subscription you can – their words – surf the Internet with your smartphone , laptop ,even PC if they enable wireless connection to their mobile without worries . Now think of the GDP of Slovenia and that of Britain , one of the worlds richest countries

Member
Joyce Matthews says:
28 July 2016

I read with excitement Which report on mobile phone reception. I thought the ‘free’ Signal Box’ from EE would allow my family to be able to use our mobile phones at home (we have no mobile signal from any provider at home). I looked into it further and was so disappointed. Firstly, I have a Sim only contract with EE and therefore would have to pay £90 for the Box rather than it being free. Secondly, there are minimum internet requirements for the box to work (2Mbps upload and 5Mbps download). Our internet speeds do not come anywhere near those values. The very people who are most likely to need this service due to poor mobile reception, usually the rural community, are the same people who have pitiful broadband speeds so the rural community are no better off.

Member

Joyce -as you are not the first to comment on this there is a “solution” (well not really ) .You could buy a mobile signal repeater , now it is NOT illegal to BUY one in this country it is illegal to use it . I wont go into the technicalities and I am certainly not recommending you do get one and set it up ,but you get an external aerial , a signal amplifier and an internal re-broadcast aerial . Does it work ?? yes but its illegal to use there is one official version but EE and the rest can turn it off any time they want–and they do. anybody wanting the technicalities can find them their-selves as I dont want to be accused of assisting a criminal action.

Member
mike says:
29 July 2016

duncan lucas is quite correct in his appraisal of repeater/amplifier devices. They are illegal to use (but not merely to own) in the UK. However the one legal device he mentions does work (presumably the Nextivity Cel-Fi). I have been using one (bought second hand on ebay for £120) for more than a year now and this provides me with a 5 bar EE signal indoors from an outdoors 1 bar signal. It works for 3G data, voice and SMS and although apparently EE are able to remotely disable it, so far they have not one so and I do not see why they should ever want to as it is built so as not to cause the same interference as repeater/amplifiers can cause. This is why they are legal to use. In fact the latest Cel-Fi version does work with 4G but is very expensive as new and very rarely available second hand on ebay. Incidentally I have no financial interest in promoting Cel-Fi devices but make these comments so as to provide a remedy of sorts for others who, like me, live in a rural location which will probably never get fibre boadband and so for whom the mobile over internet devices/ software will never work well.

Member

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cel-Fi

Seems good.

Member

I’m on O2 using a the latest Sony Xperia Z5 Compact smartphone. I have 4G capability but rarely have the opportunity to use it.

I have been stuck at home and the local area for several weeks now having had a very traumatic triple heart bypass which I am now convalescing from. My wife has been looking after my needs but she needs to go out occasionally to shop, walk the dog and do her own thing, if only for a short while or she’ll go crazy!

My wife is on Tesco Mobile PAYG. her phone isn’t smart. Tesco Mobile uses the O2 network so she is in the same boat as me.

Neither us have a signal at home. Even when we go outside we still find in certain areas close to home we are still devoid of signal. We don’t live in the back of beyond, we live in a coastal village between Conwy and Bangor, both of these areas enjoy 4G. In fact if I go down to the promenade about half a mile away, I can get a 4G signal, but not up the hill where I live.

Obviously whilst I have been recovering from my operation, this has been worrying. I can’t contact my wife when she goes out locally. If she goes to Conwy, Llandudno, Bangor or Colwyn Bay then I can get her but it has to be by TuGo, (voice over internet using our wifi router). Because my wife neither has a smartphone or a monthly contract she can’t use TuGo, but that’s only of any use if you next to a wifi router anyway.

I have complained bitterly to O2 but they insist that there’s either nothing they can do or that nothing is at fault. O2 claim that they mast sharing with Vodaphone but this seems to make no difference.

When I was in hospital in Liverpool awaiting my procedure, I tried to phone my wife. You would have thought that from a major city from within a hospital, there would be no problem but I couldn’t get a peep out O2. No signal whatsoever and messages telling me “No network coverage”. Yet the guy next to me was happily chatting on his Samsung. I asked him what network he was on and he replied, “Vodaphone and I’ve got 4G”. So this mast sharing statement is absolute rubbish!

Because my operation was largely unscheduled and things did not go smoothly, I was kept in for a fortnight. I had little or no signal whilst laying on my back unable to move for the best part of that fortnight not being able to phone my wife or anybody. It added to my anxiety that put me there in the first place!

I have gotten nowhere on the O2 chatline/email/messaging. When I am feeling better, I off to the shop where I did the deal and I’m really going to complain bitterly. The least I’ll demand is a reduction in my monthly charge.

Member

Brian extremely sorry to hear about you major illness and as someone looking after a severely handicapped wife i can appreciate your wife wanting to take her mind off it by getting out the house. But an answer is posted above . I hinted at it and Mike actually posted the solutions name – get in touch with Cel-Fi they are online and yes they do O2 . It will cost though but it is a solution in YOUR particular case . My sympathies are with you good luck for the future !

Member
mike says:
1 August 2016

brian123, So sorry to hear of your current distressing health problems (hopefully soon to be a thing of the past for you and your wife). For what it’s worth , my advice would be to forget 4G (I’m assuming that you do not really need this for data as you mention only voice – and clearly your wife doesn’t, using a non smartphone) and concentrate on getting your wife’s phone unlocked from the Tesco(o2) network (maybe subject to a small charge) and then using it to test which network gives you the best 2G/3G service both in your home and where ever else you regularly visit, by obtaining PAYG SIM cards from each network (often available free), putting each in your wife’s phone to test which does give the strongest signal. Incidentally, I would expect it to be EE but in advance you can never be sure. Then, when you know which network is best for you, do your best to cajole the store which sold you an unsuitable expensive smartphone contract to unlock the phone for free ( Sorry to say but I doubt you will have any success in negotiating anything more, sadly it’s a sellers market) thus enabling you to use the best performing network PAYG SIM in it instead of the o2 SIM. You will still have to continue to pay for the o2 contact until it runs out but think of this as installments for the purchase of the phone itself. An added benefit, if I’m right about EE turning out best, then with them you will get 4G as well , if it’s available, at no extra cost.
As regards the use of a Cel-Fi device, a word of caution here. In spite of my praise of these devices in my earlier post, I do not think it is cost effective ( some £700 ) as a way for you to get an o2 4G service in your home. A second hand unit for 2G/3G only (say £150) is perhaps a viable option but only if you can get at least a single bar 2G/3G service somewhere in your home for it to amplify. Obviously even it could not amplify a non existant signal.
Good luck for the future.

Member

Terrible signal at home.
Download a wifi app from your provider we are told in the august magazine ( page 21) Nope that’s only if you bought an EE phone they told me in the shop…but you did not sell this one and I have had your sim on payg for many years….Sorry can’t help EE say.

Hold on here these mobile phone people are wanting our money but can’t give us a reliable proper signal ! Can they really not get together and sort this out? Where is the Regulator in all this ? Doing nothing it seems.

Member

Leafy get up the opensignal website and home in on your location . You will be astonished to see even round London there are many red areas of weak signal . If there is a cellnet tower not more than a mile from you there is not much chance of all the companies installing another tower locally . Even in America there are large areas of zero cover -why ? , well as usual , American companies are refreshingly more honest than UK ones and the condensed answer is—NO profit, and they come out with a whole page of why they will never install one , including country areas with just farmers and cows – high land and a whole host of other excuses including paying for patches of land . But then you have the fact the cellnet signal are easily blocked by obstructions this isnt BBC radio its 700Mhz up to 1700+ Mhz which is line of sight transmission .

Member
Valerie Thurlow says:
10 August 2016

A new mast for us wouldn’t do any good as we back onto a wood. We cannot have a dish for the TV either as no signal can get past the trees. I feel that something could be done like putting a small mast on the street lamps. We were paying the TV licence and could not get any programs, thank goodness for Virgin. My wish would be that they could install a gadget to get a signal for our mobiles.

Member
Steve Trueman says:
11 August 2016

hello, At last someone is speaking out regarding mobile phone coverage, wish I’d have know this piece was coming I would have willingly contributed towards it!
I have been with o2 for over 10 years and found their service great and would have happily recommended them to anyone, that is until recently.
about 2 years ago I started to notice that the phone signal was getting worse, this combined with the onward progress of the likes of 4g etc.
Today I sit at home with 2 o2 phones (one for my partner and my own) both with no signal, sometimes there is one bar on the meter but for the most of the time there is none.
I have checked with open signal app and there is a mast very close, less than half a mile.
I have checked with neighbours and they too report poor signal using o2.
I spoke to o2 about this and they suggested turning off 4g and also to use the tu go app, this did very little as most phone calls were laggy and poor quality(I do have very fast broadband)
I suggested they come to the location to test for themselves as they say there is no problem with their signal(they probably have a quick look at open signal too!) so, after the usual procedure of letters and replies now we are at the deadlock stage.
To conclude, what is the point of having a “mobile” phone if you can’t receive calls!
I have taken o2 to the ombudsman, I don’t want compensation, just an explanation as to why and maybe a fix, It’s so frustrating when all you get fro o2 customer services is the standard “it says it ok here” response,
The case is ongoing and expect a response within a few months.
update: today my partner received a text that I had sent at 21;35 on Tuesday, she received it 12.58 Wednesday!

Member

Steve the problem with cell-net masts is that they have a range of approx 1 mile and form a “Cell ” but that cell has to be line of sight due to the very high frequencies used any obstruction and the signal is weakened . Now if your view has not been changed (new buildings / trees growing etc ) then , as you point out the signal started off okay then that points to a lot more users of cell-net in your area and ,as you say , 4G being used by others . This is down to bandwidth and could be upgraded but there is a limit on the signal strength allowed . You could use an external aerial but if it is registering no bars it would need to be moved to a point where at least one bar was constant. I would be interested in what O2 have to say technically on the subject.

Member
Peter Bradbury says:
16 August 2016

I took out a contract with O2 involving a new mobile phone. It became apparent that the signal in my home was very weak. I entered into discussion with O2 both by phone and email. O2 were not exactly sympathetic at first and suggested I downloaded their app which might help. It didn’t. Eventually I wrote a formal letter (using wording from the Which? website sample letters) clearly stating that I considered O2 to be in breach of contract by failing to provide me with a service based on reasonable care and skill. In the meantime, my wife, who was using EE as her provider, complained about her lack of signal and was immediately provided with a ‘booster box’ which works extremely well. The service received from EE was excellent (though customer service is not highly rated by CA members). I asked O2 for a similar device. O2 said it didn’t supply them (unlike several other providers).
My letter, however, seemed to get a reasonable result. I was allowed to keep my phone and my contract was cancelled. In addition, I was offered compensation which I accepted. I now use EE and both my wife and I enjoy a full signal 24/7. Incidentally, so does any visitor to my home who uses EE or any of its associated providers.

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Peter-Vodafone and O2 share masts (not equipment ) to save money , if the O2 signal is not good usually neither will the Vodafone one . EE is now part of the BT group which has its own masts and structures which are quite vast so the EE signal is coming from a mast that has a better line of sight from the O2 one or O2 have too many subscribers for the strength of signal/equipment capacity.

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I do find it difficult to come to terms with the complaints about lack of coverage and the refusal of people to accept the requirement for a mast.

Masts of up to 15 metres high are permitted development – except in Conservation Areas, AONB or National Parks. People have already commented on favourable planning terms for farmers and wind farms – which stand a good chance of being in an AONB or a National Park.

There is still great opposition to putting masts up because of the danger to health, especially childrens’. Yet there is a huge demand, especially from the young, to have the latest mobile phone.

Unless there is leap into some, as yet, undiscovered technology to replace mobile phones we are stuck with masts. I think it is worth noting that we build roads and railways throughout all areas of the country. Vehicle also kill and maim a lot of people,but there is nowhere near the opposition to this technology.

Member

I agree Martin. I thought it was the radiation from mobile phones held next to users’ heads that was more hazardous than any from masts, so the opposition to masts is not rational. Modern masts do not look much worse than some street lighting columns [and many times better than old telegraph poles with five cross-arms and thirty insulators plus thirty cables strung between them]. In many places the transmitters are sited on tall buildings, water towers, church spires, etc.

It looks like the government is getting tough with the mobile phone companies to make sure they deliver full coverage to 90% of the UK by the end of 2017 in accordance with their network commitments. Ofcom will be empowered to fine companies that fail to comply so I expect there will be cooperation between companies to enable capacity sharing and joint provision of masts and towers with external companies being contracted to provide and manage the infrastructure in many cases.

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Big problem John , in relation to radiated signal ,its line of sight plus, because of the very high frequency and limited radiation allowed the actual distance between each part of a “CELL ” is very short .Add into that the number of users growing by the minute which reduces power on congested masts , its straight line technology and because of the frequency used penetration through objects is very weak. Like when you up your modem frequency to the new frequency you will find it faster only in a shorter range and less able to penetrate walls. So we are talking more masts , basically, thats loss of profit for companies . There is a solution John — Satellite phone —BUT ! have you seen the price of the phones and equipment and calls ? So what Ofcom are getting at are doing a ” BT ” where fibre is being extended to cover a larger area of Britain so cell-net coverage is being extended but the cost of a mast is still cheaper than supplying fibre to a large area.

Member

That’s right Duncan, the present priority is to get mobile phone signals to nearly all the not-spots. These will largely be in under-populated rural areas where line-of-sight will not be so much of a problem as in built-up areas; I presume that radiation will also be a lesser issue over tracts of open country. I suspect the number of users in these districts will be fairly stable for the foreseeable future so network congestion is unlikely to be a factor. It would appear that the fibre broadband roll-out to most parts of the UK is still very important but not the top priority.

Member

A friend who lives in a rural area struggles with mobiles on two networks. He has a landline but prefers to use the mobiles because he is away from home so much. He has replaced one of the mobiles with one that supports Wi-Fi calling, making use of his landline broadband to make calls, so that he can at least make and receive calls at home.

I have a decent mobile signal at home but thought I would look at Wi-Fi calling so that I could make calls when there is no signal but I have access to free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, my iPhone 5S does not seem to support Wi-Fi calling. The cheaper 5C model that was on sale at the time does support it. 🙁

Member

Wavechange Its because it doesnt have VoLTE a wi-fi protocol which was installed on the firmware from iPhone 6 onwards. Voice over the LTE –many complaints in the US too. .

Member

Thanks for the explanation, Duncan. I managed to find why this feature works on the cheaper 5C model. I won’t be changing my phone but I can see that Wi-Fi calling could be very useful to some people.

Member

Wise move Wavechange, Apple iPhone , even with the Israeli “interference ” is still a lot more secure from hackers than Android but guess who owns Android ?– one of the biggest Internet trackers on the planet- Google .