Ofcom exposes true mobile coverage with new tool

UK regulator, Ofcom, launched a mobile coverage tool it said offers greater accuracy than coverage checkers provided by the country's mobile operators.

Ofcom's Mobile Coverage Checker utilises data provided by EE, O2 UK, Three UK and Vodafone UK to enable consumers and business users to zoom to specific locations on a UK map, or enter a place name or postcode, to receive data on coverage for each mobile network to an accuracy of 100 square metres.

The Telegraph reported that Ofcom said its tool is more accurate than the assessment offered on individual mobile providers' own websites because it uses "higher thresholds" when determining whether people can receive and make phone calls.

For instance, the map also takes into account the difference that internal aerials used in the vast majority of smartphones make to mobile service.

According to Ofcom, consumers increasingly expect a reliable mobile service and the new map shows where reliable coverage is likely to be available, whatever type of handset is used, based on new research by Ofcom into the signal strength needed to provide a good consumer experience.

Ofcom CTO Steve Unger said: "Access to reliable mobile phone coverage used to be a 'nice to have'. Now it's essential to many people's lives. We believe our map is the most comprehensive tool available to consumers and businesses to check mobile coverage. We're encouraging people to feed back after using the map, so we can continue to improve its accuracy."

The map shows: voice and data coverage by mobile operator; coverage inside and outside of buildings; and topographical information allowing users to identify areas where there are natural obstructions to coverage, such as valleys and hills.

Ofcom stated: "Helping to improve mobile coverage and quality of service are priority areas for Ofcom. The new map is designed to support consumers in choosing a service that best suits their needs, while promoting competition between mobile operators."

The regulator is asking users of the map to leave feedback on their experience to help refine the tool. The information will be used to publish a new map in autumn.

Last week Ofcom announced in its 2015 Communications Market Report that two thirds of people in the UK now own a smartphone and use it for nearly two hours every day. This has been accompanied by a rapid rise in 4G subscriptions, which increased from 2.7 million at the end of 2013 to 23.6 million at the end of 2014. That means the proportion of total mobile subscriptions that were 4G increased to 28 per cent at the end of 2014, compared to just 3 per cent at the end of 2013.

For more:
- see this Ofcom release
- see this Ofcom mobile coverage checker
- see this Ofcom note on mobile switching
- see this Telegraph article

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