Outdoor 3G/4G coverage in Europe: still much to do

I read this week that Vodafone has introduced a new 30-day "try before you buy" option for potential customers, saying that the "Vodafone 30-day network guarantee gives you the freedom to experience the strength and quality of our network before you commit."

Certainly, Vodafone's reputation with mobile consumers in the UK could well do with a shot in arm: according to Ofcom, it was the most complained about operator with regard to pay monthly contracts in the final quarter of 2015.

Trial promotions such as these are a good idea as long as operators meet their commitments to cancel contracts within the specified number of days as promised. Indeed, operators all over Europe offer similar 14-day or 30-day money-back guarantees on a range of services and network offerings.

Vodafone UK's move also signals the company's growing confidence that it is starting to resolve issues around mobile broadband connectivity -- which remains an ongoing problem, with mobile "not spots" still too much in evidence.

However, geographical outdoor mobile broadband coverage remains a huge concern, as illustrated by the experiences of one small business I spoke to this week.

This company, which provides a web-based management tool, is now being forced to find ways to work around the lack of 3G and 4G coverage in parts of the UK to enable its users to store data while out and about. Go to Devon, for example, and GPRS is likely to still be your only option for checking emails. Accessing and managing a complex web-based tool while on the road is completely impossible.

It's just one example, but indicates that 4G network expansion still has a long way to go to ensure that web-based services such as these are not tripped up by lack of coverage. Consumers are angry when they cannot get a signal, but for small business users that are making the most of the opportunities offered to them by the Internet and the digitisation of their industries, the availability of 4G or even just 3G coverage can be a matter of survival.--Anne