back to article The 3G coverage picture that can't be published

Today's victory for mobile operator Three against Orange in their advertising spat shouldn't obscure a bigger problem - we don't know the true extent of mobile coverage. Ofcom knows, but won't say. 3G coverage is increasingly important now, with mobile broadband dongles affordable and ubiquitous, and thanks to the iPhone, mobile …

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Silver badge

Oh PLEASE

Mobile users were making use of 3G internet access before the iPhone.

Mobile users were making use of 3G internet access while Apple still hadn't worked out how to do 3G and so were flogging 2G kit.

iPhones might be popular, they might even be good, but they hardly invented mobile data.

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WTF?

@Dazed and really didn't read the article

Slow down there D&C. The article said that the iPhone really started the big trend of data rich applications on the 3G network by mobile devices. If you'll read any mobile web report, it'll show that the iPhone started the trend.

It says nothing else, stop trying to find an enemy or criminal where none exist.

There isn't a lurking iPhone or Apple fan around every corner or down every dark alley waiting to deride your less than stylish device in your pocket, so stop looking, ffs.

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Hmm....

"iPhones might be popular, they might even be good, but they hardly invented mobile data."

I don't think anyone said they did, but they've certainly increased its use -- apps downloads, streaming video, etc etc. They've also made it more mainstream and less geeky.

The iPhone may be all hype, but the hype is working and placing a load on the networks....

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who claimed they did?

i think the point here is that a lot more people are using the 3G network, as opposed to just GSM. this is a question of carrier capacity, not "who invented mobile browsing?" we need to know which carriers have the best coverage (and thus network capacity) so we can make an informed decision based on facts as opposed to the network's marketing bullshit.

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Gold badge

Maybe

But they weren't downloading apps, music etc so much.

I remember Windows Mobile software requiring ActiveSync and a PC to install it. Ok, there were some applications that were in cab form. But you still had to go on the hunt for it and download it with the pathetic Pocket IE.

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Anonymous Coward

Consumer friendly ?

Which consumer ?

The end-user consumer or the service-provider consumer ?

And why exactly do we need ofcom to survive the tories ?

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Anonymous Coward

Pay attention.

"And why exactly do we need ofcom to survive the tories ?"

Ofcom was crippled under New Labour and is about to be castrated by the Tories. If you really need to ask this question it suggests that you have not been paying attention to recent events.

As a consequence of the last government's policy of deregulation, light-touch regulation, and sweet fuck-all-regulation in the financial sector we are now living through the worst economic crisis for decades.

The Tories are going to be as business-friendly and obliging as their predecessors so Ofcom will be replaced by a clueless, self-serving bunch of muppets and the communications industry will be able to exceed even their current levels of ripping off the consumer.

That's why!

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We don't care.

But OFCOM obviously wants to survive.

The ConDems have already shown that they'll happily sink any quango they don't think is worth bothering with - so the quangos know that they need to prove that they are worth keeping, and some of them are distinctly worried.

Whether that is by being genuinely useful or by other means remains to be seen.

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Bronze badge

Wasn't there a time

That mobile companies used to boast about their coverage, and print nice big, relatively accurate, coverage maps for their networks.

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Actually thanks to the iPhone people are NOT using data rich applications

Plus, I hate ofcom, what's that an acronym for anyway? Off Comody? Pffft. Useless waste of space. Govt may as well issue them with a tin can 2 foot length of string and they STILL won't know to do.

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Govt may as well issue them with a tin can 2 foot length of string and they STILL won't know to do.

OOh!! Tin cans and string? Can you run Flash on that device? No? About as useful on the internet as a Jobsworth, then.

(C'mon, downvoters, I await ya!)

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Silver badge

Flash...

Provided you remember to remove the label from the tin can, it's a relatively shiny one and the sun is visible then yes, you can have flash. It provides a fall-back communication mechanism in case the string breaks.

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Coat

jobsworth

How much is Steve Jobs worth?

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Anonymous Coward

$1 per year apparently

Read somewhere that's all he pays himself in salary.

I don't consider myself a vindictive man, but i will laugh when everyone falls out of love with apple and his stock options are worth squat.

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Badgers

I'd like them all to...

... publish decent usable maps - down to a reasonable scale where they're useful say 1:50k (or 1:25k). OFCOM have the data, they have the access to the OS base mapping data, just do it or release the data so someone can mash it up.

Also to publish their plans for expansion - because trying to find out when my particular white space will be filled in by any network is harder than brain surgery.

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@ JasonW

Perhaps they are trying to cover up just how patchy the coverage is?

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Thumb Down

3G?

Orange haven't a clue, or are employing clueless staff. One of their staff in their Orange store in Shrewsbury has been selling 3G/3GS iPhones to people in mid-Wales claiming that there's good 3G coverage in the various towns and villages there when, one town excepted, there actually isn't!

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Megaphone

Phone up Google?

Maybe time to contact Google and ask them to release the 3G coverage data they probably have from trawling around the UK with their car?

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Can't Google do it?

Send the street view cars out again, with a handful of 3G dongles per car. How could the telcos stop that being published? The telcos wouldn't want to argue with Google's lawyers (they know they can win against Ofcon).

Something like Netstumbler modernised, but for 3G.

Actually there's probably already code to do it in Google Maps for Mobile, maybe it already is doing it each time it phones home...

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Go

Vodaphone

Have an online map service where customers can report their own reception results for both voice and 3G comms directly back to them. The web link is here:

http://online.vodafone.co.uk/mobile_services/mobile_network_coverage/Coverage_map_signal_strength_tester

But I'm sure there was also a better version that used Google maps.

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Vodafone

Funny, I'm on Vodafone, in the middle of a city, where you'd expect decent coverage. Their map claims I should get excellent indoor 3G signal. Several of us with different phones on Vodafone don't get any 3G signal at all, indoors or out.

Whether that's due to the number of tall buildings interfering or just the number of people fighting for signal I don't know, but regardless of what their model says I should receive, I'm not...

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Anonymous Coward

Complexity

It probably is the buildings, but mobile signals are very complex to model in complex environments.

For a background, may I suggest the entertaining read "The Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin" by Francis Spufford.

It covers several engineering topics but the relevant chapter is the one on how a young upstart comms company (Racal), found a way to break into mobile comms. It covers the modelling of mobile phone cells.

Racal's comms business became Vodafone.

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Go

OpenStreetMap?

How about putting it on openstreetmap.org?

In fact, it might be a good place to put all sorts of publicly discoverable information that the goverment and its friends choose not to publish.

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Thumb Down

Hilarious!!

Three complain about Orange to Ofcom, and you can't even use a Three handset inside a building. Three are awful. I live in Milton Keynes, covered by the Three turbo network, apparently, and my phone only works outdoors. Soon got rid of that one!!

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WTF?

Title Required

Three are a lot better these days - well apart from their call centre but those are all much of a muchness.

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MK is in the stoneage for comms

3G coverage is shite here on all the networks, the city centre has a WiFi network that no one can use and the cable network is crapola.

Truly the city of the future.

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Go

3

3 are fine in Penrith. O2 is off, orange is 3g only not HSDPA and tmobile are HSDPA but you wouldnt think it with the (lack of) raw speed.

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@Mike Richards

But it is the city of the future.

Unfortunately it's closer to the Blade Runner/Ridley Scott dystopian one than the Star Trek/Gene Roddenberry shiny happy one.

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WTF?

So by your logic then...

...just because YOU can't get reception, the whole network is crap?

I could say the same about Vodaphone, I can't get any reception where I live, so the entire network is crap.

Erm... no, there's bound to be areas where you get patchy reception. Not to mention it's not always the network, it could be the hardware. I used to be on Virgin Mobile with a Samsung phone, couldn't get any reception in my house whereas my wife on the same network with a different model Samsung phone got full reception.

At the end of the day it happens, doesn't mean it's a crap network, just might be a case of some networks having better coverage in some areas than others. We'd probably have much better coverage in our area if the bloody campaigners round here didn't campaign against a mobile phone mast (chances are they'd be the first to complain about the lack of reception!).

Back on topic, I think Ofcom should make the information available, but hey since when have Ofcom actually thought of the consumer. They're nearly as bad as Oftel before them.

Rob

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Thumb Up

Great

Thats why I got my wife one - keeps her quiet, and the bills down.

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Coat

Is Orange correct?

I thought it was pronounced "zero Range"

Mines the one with the secret coverage map in the pocket

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Well the answer is easy!

Why would Offcom formally put out the figures and make them official when they could just be taking back handers off of the lower3Grated mobile operators to NOT publish the data and give hard evidence for the poor schmo who cant get 3G data so they can cancel their contract?

The lower3Grated mobile operators would rather someone blindly buys their contract instead of being informed enough to make the best decision.

Conspiracy Theories FTW.

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Crowdsourcing

Someone write a simple app for the iPhone/Android that checks 3G signal power and sends it along with GPS location data up to some server which compiles maps from that data then. Should be easy to do and you'd get better and more honest data than you'll ever get from the carriers.

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Unhappy

3G Pah! 2G or any service would be good!

Hi

I live about 10 miles south of Reading, this is not the middle of the Sahara, but as far as mobile coverage it is a desert,

I can just get a signal if I stand out in the drive, between the gate posts, and do not wave the phone about.

This is because a few years ago, the Nimbys in the village managed to get a local cell site abandoned. The operators wanted to stick the antenna on the local water tower. Since then our village is "The Village of the Damned"!

cheers

Yours with 2 tins and a piece of string.

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Gates Horns

Freedom of Information

what happened to the freedom of information act, or doesn't it apply to Ofcom?

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FOI

Section 43 of the FOI Act exempts from its provisions information the release of which might prejudice someone's commercial interests (it's bound to prejudice someone's). Admittedly there is a public interest clause to set against this, but you're starting uphill.

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Paris Hilton

Dongles

I can't for a moment believe that the majority of 3G data isn't from dongles. As whizzy as the iPhone is these were well on the rise before the iPhone popularised smartphone 3G data use.

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Waste of Money

I wouldn't buy a dongle until there's decent coverage to go with it. It's a lot of money to be tied up in something that's useless most of the time around here. No, I don't have an iPhone either, an E71 works just fine for me.

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@uhuznaa

Well, that would work, unless the data cam from iPhone4 users who haven't had the operation to remove the offending part of their hand that touches The antenna.

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Thumb Up

Excellent article...

... factual, informative and rational and no personal attacks.

Perhaps someday all El Reg articles will be written this way...

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You get data as well?

My 3GS struggles to keep a phone connection let alone a data connection. O2 coverage near where I live is not good at all.

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Thumb Up

Yup we need an app for that!

Real people recording real results to throw back at the networks.

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Happy

I challenge El Reg!

Make us an Android app and run a database for it to connect to, oh and if you could do some jazzy google map shading effect that would be nice, and bit-torrent distribution for the raw data?

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Anonymous Coward

3G coverage maps.

Go to the Site Finder site and fill in their enquiry form, asking them why they will not publish "our" data in a usable form.

Don't complain to The Reg, complain to Ofcom.

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JBH

As an Orange customer, I'm already aware of how patchy their network is.

To be fair, reception is actually pretty good around London, but back home in Nottingham I often struggle to get a good 3G signal. It seems to depend which way the wind's blowing!

Nottingham? It's hardly the middle of nowhere... is it?

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Joke

No...

...but some might suggest it should re-located there post-haste.

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Not a defence but..

WCDMA cells coverage change as they get busier. This is known as breathing. But of course the networks know exactly what their coverage is, if only from knowing when they drop a call.

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FAIL

"No Service Please: We're British"

Here in Finland all the three network operators have a very usable websites that show the coverage in minute detail (at least compared to the laughable Ofcom picture), including 2G, Edge, 3G (900&2100MHz). Judge for yourself, the URL's are below.

In fact, the coverage information is a good sales tool - are the providers too thick to understand that?

http://kuuluvuus.dna.fi/Peittokartta_en/ (<- English version)

http://www.sonera.fi/asiakastuki/matkapuhelin/kuuluvuuskartta

http://www.elisa.fi/kuuluvuus/

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Joke

yes

but it all the reindeer with their big antenna arrays on their heads you would surely get a better (albeit migratory) signal.

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Go

Right,

Sent a request to my MP to look in to it... so lets see what happens.

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