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BBC finds 3G coverage in UK isn't as operators claim

On average Brits get 3G for 75% of the time

3G coverage in the UK is "nothing like as uniform as the picture painted in the coverage map issued by the mobile operators", says the BBC.

In July this year, the broadcaster unveiled an app for mobile phones running Google Android that was designed to map the 2G and 3G coverage across the UK. The app recorded data on 3G network coverage from the 44,000 devices it was installed on for over a month. The data was then sent to Epitiro, the firm that helped Ofcom chart mobile broadband speeds across the UK earlier this year and developed the app on behalf of the BBC, where it will be collated into a map that is searchable by postcode.

The research revealed that overall Brits are getting 3G about 75 percent of the time they use their handset.

"Most of a city will have excellent coverage but there will be certain places even quite near the centre where some if not all the networks are just not providing a data connection," the BBC said.

"Many people - from priests to plumbers to paediatricians - now see a mobile phone with a data connection as essential to their working lives."

The BBC has used the data to create a 3G coverage map that can be searched by postcode and even broken down to show data from specific mobile operators.

The broadcaster was also given access to data from OpenSignalMaps, another firm that has been mapping 3G coverage in the UK from around 30,000 users.

The data from OpenSignalMaps revealed 22,000 locations, mostly rural, where 3G signal is not available. The worst affected areas were Gwynedd in North Wales, closely followed by Cumbria. However, the firm said on average Brits only get 3G signal 58 percent of the time they use their mobile phone.

"Let's hope the map will be useful not just to consumers, but to mobile operators trying to make sure that the notspots get ever smaller," the BBC added.

Stephen Rayment, CTO, BelAir Networks revealed that while it's helpful to gauge the extent of 3G vs 2G coverage available in the UK, the results only partially reflect the problems that users are experiencing on mobile networks.

"With more people using their smartphones, tablets and laptops to access the internet while on the move, a clear pattern of service-affecting congestion has emerged in the high street and other busy areas. These areas may show up as offering 3G services in tests, but the user may not actually be getting the true mobile broadband experience, due to the high number of users vying for the finite bandwidth available. So, it's not just about signal strength and coverage issues, it's also about capacity," he said.

"To get a more accurate measurement of the user experience, speed tests along with identifying Wi-Fi availability need to be included. Given that even the new 4G LTE technologies will not be able to handle the current growth rate of mobile data traffic, any study of mobile broadband availability needs to look at measuring capacity as well as coverage."


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