back to article Ofcom checks up on mobile coverage

According to Ofcom's latest intervention in the sticky world of mobile phone operators, coverage checkers are generally fairly accurate but the regulator would like to see integrated mapping and point-of-sale checks. It seems that only 30 per cent of us even know that coverage maps exist, with the rest still trusting to luck …

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disingenuous

"...Ofcom reckons that's not fair as it makes direct comparisons between networks more difficult."

If Ofcom gave even half a sh*t about this then why are mobile operators allowed to have such complex tariffs that make comparisons almost impossible?

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Facepalm

SiteFinder

A local firm that installs vending machines uses SiteFinder when deciding which mobile operator to go with at a particular location. These machines automatically send out refill requests when the stock drops below a certain level, and at least one is installed very close to an Orange base station, but connects to a more distant Vodafone one.

Is there a marketing version of the Darwin Awards?

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Bronze badge

No change there then

When I worked at What Mobile magazine we lab tested 40 phones. We generally found that the cheaper phones had better RF than more expensive ones. This was about 15 years ago so before 3G and smartphones.

We also found that the same phone behaved dramatically differently on different operators networks.

In those days operators testing departments had a lot more clout in the purchasing decision.

Today it's driven more by features, brand and ARPU potential. To my mind this is a mistake because a phone which might have great browsing and good email, but which has rubbish messaging protocols which then drain the battery and consume a lot of network resources becomes so expensive to run for the network and poor for lucrative voice traffic that while it increases the revenue per user it doesn't do much for the profit per user.

To my mind the 'old guard' of Nokia/Motorola/(Sony) Ericsson and Samsung will give better radio performance than HTC/Apple/Blackberry. Indeed I know someone who sold RF chipsets to one of the new boys and was told "we are buying yours instead of TI because, although we know it's not as good it's cheaper".

It's because I want something that's good as a phone that I'd like to swap my 9800 Torch for a Nokia E7.

Simon

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Some are good...

...and some are not. Nokias I mean. A few years back I was investigating various phones with QWERTY keyboards, I looked at some of the Nokia E7x series, and the one that seemed to have the best features was shown to have a dreadful reputation for poor signals.

To be honest, one reason for that is that instead of operators building a network that provides the specified reference sensitivity signal level (about -102dBm) they have made use of the extra sensitivity that most phones have to reduce the number of base stations outside urban areas. This then means that a phone that doesn't exceed the guaranteed spec by as much struggling to hold on to a signal. And that;s made even worse if the software stack doesn't cope well with handovers.

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t-orange

why dont they allow that info out? is it because they are located in schools and other sensitive areas? hmmmm or am i over thinking it?

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Orange...

around here are disguised as telephone poles and pine trees.

One village fought to not have a mast installed, to find that orange already had one there, and it had been there for a few years !

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Uninterrupted service would be nice

I'm getting fed up of my iPhone constantly swapping between Orange and Orange-T Mobile signals depending where I am in my house/what direction the phone is pointing. Even sometimes loses all service as soon as I pick it up.

Coverage maps don't really tell that kind of story.

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lock to one half

Can't you lock it to one network?

If roaming is enabled, then it will attempt to connect to the strongest signal it can find. This can be handy when you are abroad, but locking the phone to your home network's preferred partner can be cheaper. When at home roaming is a moot point as the phone is normally only allowed to connect to your own network. Apart from orange/t-mobile when it can roam between them.

Of course, this does suck if the other half of t-orange is better when you are out-and-about.

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At least

your iphone has a signal to switch between.....mine has a choice of low or no signal, everywhere.

Even when it gets a signal it frequently disappears halfway through a call.

I won't even bother taking it to Norfolk again......

O2....you listening ?

3G ?

Where exactly, other than city centres.

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Silver badge

Sometimes invalid assumptions

O2 offered to check coverage in my house when I bought a 3G modem. Only problem is that inside my house is the one place where I won't be using it as I have their much faster ADSL Broadband service there.

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Silver badge
Facepalm

Can't they collect real stats?

If only there was a portable RF device, possibly even hand-held that and could report its location and signal strength back to a base station? They could use the real-world data to build a map of actual coverage.

Or do they never wonder why no one ever makes calls from <insert rural town name here>?

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Boffin

@Red Bren

Yes there are a variety of products that will do that, in the old days a phone with modded SW would be used to report signal level and quality back via SMS, a variety of fancy tools available these days, for example:-

http://www2.rohde-schwarz.com/product/romes.html

The Ericsson (now Ascom) TEMS system has been a commonly used tool for yonks:-

http://www.cn.ascom.com/cn/scanning-technical.pdf

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Holmes

lies, lies and network coverage maps....

I have had a discount off my mobile phone tariff across 3 handsets because of poor network coverage.

the map says I will get good coverage indoors and out.. but once I go indoors there is no signal at all.

I finally negotiated a discount of 27.5% until the end of the contract...

the problem i have is i don't know if any of the other networks are any better, its not like you can trust the coverage maps...

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Go

@ A.C. lies, lies and network coverage maps

> the problem i have is i don't know if any of the other networks are any better, its not like you can trust the coverage maps...

The first mobile I had, over 10 years ago, was a secondhand Bosch 509e. It had a network-scan function, and would show you the "bars" of signal for each network it found.

Several newer phones I've had will do a scan, but they don't show you the signal strengths.

Of course with the right AT commands it might be possible to hack a USB- or Bluetooth-connected mobile or dongle to read out the information?

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@AC

Go to your local pound shop.

They have SIMs of most networks there. Pop one of each in your phone and test the network strength?

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UMA (Orange only)

if you got no signal but have access to at least 128kb internet or higher (think it only needs about 32kb or 3KB/s bandwidth when in phone call, but make sure your not uploading or downloading at Full speed on an computer at the time when in call or it get choppy voice)

if you got BT broadband it works 99% of the time (if the below is done), it may work with your band of router at all wifi will connect but UMA will not switch on (not with my edimax cable router but i can See the 3g tower from my window so coverage is not an issue for me at my house)

switch the wifi off and on the phone if it does not connect to UMA (my BB 8520 was quite reliable at UMA, not so much 9870 ok once you get the UMA connection working aka switching the wifi off/on from the phone menu),

set wifi to channel say 1, 6 or 11 and Set wifi mode to b\g Only, that is best compatibility mode(other option to set to WPA2 only if all your devices support it but make sure you copy the key down and paste it back in, if you do change the WPA2 password change the SSID as well so it forces you to reconnect all your devices or you have issues with other devices)

wifi b\g\n mode on the BT home hubs are bit flaky (and some other routers as well) and does not work very well with blackberry phones or laptops or iphones (or most wifi products even BT disable it when they connect to it) as it can drop the connection or have packet loss every 10-30 secs

as i had one customer who was on three and they let him cancel his contract for free even thought he was inside the 24 month part (only did 7 months) got an orange blackberry same one i had with me that i tested on his hub he can now walk into the house and it just switches form GPRS to UMA on the fly when he gets close to his house,when he comes out it switches back to GPRS, (this is also in an phone call as well but does not always work)

The phone Has to Be Orange Branded blackberry (any with wifi) or android (that supports it) to have the UMA, if its an unlocked blackberry phone that was not on orange UMA will be disabled on the phone

the UMA is not perfect, if the voice keeps on repeating or you get call failed after 5 seconds your router is not allowing packets throw correctly (like the edimax 6574n) or the ISP your using is lame (Sky routers)

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Anonymous Coward

The way Vodafone got started

Though they were called Racal then. was in finding a rough and ready formula to guesstimate signal strength in various areas (built up, suburban, fields etc).

You'd think the system would be more effective by now.

(can't remember which chapter in The Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin by Francis Spufford)

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Bronze badge

Ofcom lacks lateral thinking

"Everything Everywhere is still refusing to tell the regulator's SiteFinder service where its cell towers are, fighting in the European courts to keep the information from the public "

The information on physical mast locations is available via local authority planning departments, so Ofcom could legally obtain this data. Okay this doesn't give the details that SiteFinder gives. However cross this with an enhanced version of the opensignalmaps App that reports base station id etc. and website and you get a very informative heat map. Add in a little of the wigle.net spirit to encourage war driving ...

But then other than Wifi base stations, does Google Streetview also capture mobile masts/base stations...

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3g, where!

Only in city centers! Went to Finland a couple of years ago, we were staying in the middle of nowhere. drove all over the place and never saw anything except 3g coverage on my phone!

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Facepalm

Coverage lies by staff

A while ago when I was looking for a new smartphone, I had a chat with a sales droid from Shrewsbury's Orange shop. He was adamant that my home town had Orange 3G coverage, even though I know for a fact that it doesn't. And how did he know? Because he'd sold many iPhone 3GS to people from the town, and they didn't report any problem with coverage. Cretin.

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