BBC 3G coverage map goes live

Auntie's smartphone survey via app tries to build up a 3G picture of the UK
Kerry Butters

August 24, 2011

The BBC has completed its 3G coverage survey, and the results show that the UK still has a long way to go before it offers widespread coverage across the country.

The survey began last month when the Beeb asked smartphone users to participate by downloading an app to their device which tracked their mobile coverage as they went about their daily business.

It was found that despite claims by operators that 90% of the country is covered, many not-spots still exist even in major towns and cities. Train lines and motorways were found to be the worst for mobile black spots.

3G signals were only receivable by testers 75% of the time and often users had to fall back on the older and slower 2G technology.

“The BBC has undertaken a crowd-sourcing survey that is well beyond any scale seen by the mobile industry in this country or any other,” Gavin John, chief executive of Epitiro told the BBC.

“Over 44,000 volunteers from the Shetland Islands to the Isles of Scilly participated with 42 million locations tested from every county in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

“For the first time consumers have the means to see 3G coverage precisely where they live, work and travel,” he added.

Operators welcomed the news, and O2 said that it would like more detailed information about signal quality.

The map is available here and can be searched by postcode to show coverage in your area. 42 million locations have been recorded and the map is divided into colour-coded sections.

White space represents areas where no tests have been conducted, whilst green means that handsets in that area spent most of their time on 3G, and purple indicates 2G.

Everything Everywhere - the parent company of Orange and T-Mobile - said it “was a step in the right direction” for offering consumers transparent information about coverage.

“It is a little too early to tell how much it tallies with our own maps or how we would use the information,” James Hattam, director of service management at Everything Everywhere told the BBC.

However, Three expressed concern that the map reflected the amount of people using each operator as much as actual coverage. It argued this as the company claims to have the largest 3G network in the UK but fewer customers, and this meant that its network was poorly represented.

The results of the survey show that operator performance varies enormously from region to region and the service in general varies widely depending on where you live.


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