Mobile coverage: An operator or smartphone issue?

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Despite operator claims, frustrated subscribers frequently lambast their mobile service provider for not providing connectivity where they live, with a reliable 3G service being something that remains a wishful dream for many.

While friends will frequently delight in showing me their latest smartphone and apps, I'm then also lambasted for not being able to answer why their shiny handset isn't able to make a connection while in the pub.

However, perhaps new research from Strand Consult can provide insight into this problem, instead of my stock reply of, "buy me another pint and I'll try to explain."

Strand references data from the Danish Telecommunications Industry Association that 16 per cent of smartphone owners experienced connection problems at least once a week when making a call from home. When using a feature phone from the same location, this figure dropped to 8 per cent.

When travelling, these same smartphone users suffered even more, with 27 per cent having connection problems once a week. Only 7 per cent of feature-phone owners experienced this issue in the same circumstance.

Finally, 10 per cent of all Danish smartphone owners claimed their mobile coverage had deteriorated in the last two years.

Strand Consult believes this issue of "smartphone black holes" is not due to operators' negligence regarding their network coverage, but more about the growing complexity of smartphones and vendors pushing them into the market before they're fully ready.

The firm claims that smartphone vendors are correcting problems with software updates by placing some of the burden on operators and customers to "field test" their latest devices and decrease their R&D costs.

Those are fighting words, indeed, but possibly with a grain of truth given the open and bloody warfare underway for supremacy in the smartphone segment.

If you accept the reasoning, why are operators not making public that some connectivity issues are due to these "under-developed" smartphones, and not their expensive networks?

Perhaps the answer is that these operators want to ensure early access to the latest and greatest smartphones, and any criticism would see them slip down the shipment priority list.

The rampant success of the iPhone has proved to operators worldwide that access to the right device at the right time can bring rewards beyond their wildest dreams.

Meanwhile, I'll still be explaining the intricacies of network design, handset antennae, signal paths, etc., while watching the proud--but dissatisfied--smartphone owner retreat in confusion--often without providing the requested pint.--Paul