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back to article BBC crowdsourced mobile map: A bit quirky, but useful

The Beeb has released its long-expected crowdsourced map of UK mobile coverage. Altogether 44,600 volunteers have been running Epitiro's Android-based connection monitor, at the BBC's behest, contributing a mass of data showing where the client thought it got a decent connection. That data has been put together into an …

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OpenSignalMaps

Instead of fragmenting the groups of people willing to run these (inevitably battery draining) signal mapping tools, couldn't the BBC have rebranded the OpenSignalMaps application for the purposes of this survey?

At least they give a nod to the project in their write-up so perhaps more people will take part.

Myself I installed the BBC app then forgot about it, but now the results are in I'm probably going to remove it for the sake of improved battery power.

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Go

Title

How expensive can it be to send out a bunch of blokes with known reliable 3G phones from each operator and a tablet to record signal bars and connection type? Google did it with camera cars for StreetView... some private organisation could do it with phones. Their resultant data could be

(a) presented for free in the form of a map (NOT a postcode search but an overall map) and

(b) sold to network operators to help them plan network improvements and/or sales initiatives (where for instance provider A was better than provider B, Provider A could concentrate their sales effort).

I reckon some organisation or other could make a right killing here - the aggregated data would be useful to individuals on the map, and invaluable to operators in data form.

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Roads?

Where we're going, we don't need roads..

How expensive would it be to figure out the overall map of the country? Effin' expensive I'd wager, and for little ROI. Presenting it for free speaks for itself, and the network operators are already pretty confident of their provision - as mentioned they use calculated maps that are broadly accurate - bear in mind they use these same calculations to establish the optimal places to site masts.

Besides, they'd only ever be able to (easily) cover the roads in the UK, which gives you very little in terms of a coverage map, as this crowdsourced effort shows.

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Postcode - agree

It has always bemused me why operators always want to know the postcode when you call them about a problem. The idea of a mobile phone is you can use it away from a base, so you may not have any idea what the postcode is.

I called once whilst away because I had a problem with data - and three could not help without the postcode, even though I had no idea, and no reason to know it.

Perhaps mobiles should be limited to known postcodes, perhaps Rabit was not such a bad idea!

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Facepalm

BBC Deserves a Slap

for wasting license fee money on this project. Had they never heard of OpenSignalMaps.com?

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Mmm

Yes, and they worked together to get the data. The exposure the BBC have given to the project has worked.

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I wonder about the specifics of how the data was filtered?

I ran the app since it was announced, and was anticipating seeing the map. I noticed a few little quirks. I can see a single spot of 2G centred on home in on our part of town which is otherwise 3g. I'm guessing that's due to the app logging a 2g signal when I'm home (in fact most of the time the phone is roaming from t-mob to orange at home).

Also, areas where I had driven (Strines Road from Penistone in particular), show no data, yet I'd driven that route twice since installing the app, so I'm wondering if they filter out values unless there's a enough points. Annoying in rural areas, where there haven't been that many data points logged, as even some data is better than nothing.

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FAIL

Where am I?

Hmm. I put in my postcode (Craigavon in Northern Ireland) and it shows me the coverage in a rural part of North Wales.

Not really what I needed to know.

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Boffin

I know why that happened

Grid references in NI are based on the Irish map grid, which has a different origin from the UK one, and Irish Grid North is in a slightly different direction from British Grid North.

If you fail to take this into account, then Ireland will appear approximately 170km. East and 130km. South of its true location -- where parts of NI would overlap with parts of Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales -- and twisted off its axis by a degree or so.

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Happy

it isnt perfect either

I think the app was android only. It states that in my road we are in a 2g only area with a bit of no signal. I get HSDPA no problem on my omni pro (orange) but 2g only on my desire Z (tmobile). The wife gets HSDPA on her desire HD (3). Never had an issue connecting whilst walking about our area so I wouldnt take the map as gospel.

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Facepalm

Ofcom

Theoretically they're supposed to serve the public, not the phone companies.

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Pirate

These turn up in the Highlands of Scotland

>.....bereft of the infrastructure needed to get a 3G signal

...I'd check that one with Lewis.

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Useless, unfortunately

I've extensive experience of O2 and Vodafone coverage in the area where I work, and this map completely contradicts what I know to be the case.

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See also...

...http://opensignalmaps.com

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What about wifi?

I tried this app, but as I spent the majority of my day using wifi + 2G, I suspect I've created two non-3G spots where my home and office are.

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WTF did they measure? Cant have been throughput

I looked at my local map and it doesn't match what I see. What they're measuring doesn't seem to be much use in guessing what coverage is really like.

According to this I have full O2 3G coverage everywhere in the city. What they've not managed to notice, in my city the O2 3G is so poor it doesn't work at all inside 90% of city buildings, in many cases I can't get any signal indoors, not even voice. I've sat in pubs next to a street window and seen zero bars, its that bad.

So poor even standing in the streets I have a 50:50 chance of seeing 3G. So overloaded and lacking in backhaul that actual throughput rarely climbs about GPRS rates, whatever the connection type.

Have to conclude they measured the wrong thing.

The only believable result is confirmation that there are few "3" users near me ;)

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Megaphone

bemused

I was a bit baffled why the BBC seemed to be claiming it as the first ever vendor neutral map using apps on phones to report status in their initial article about it, yet in the same article contain a link to http://opensignalmaps.com/ which appears to do exactly the same thing, has been around for about 9 months and seems to have better usability, as well as being global. The only difference I can see is that the BBC one distinguishes between no signal and no data.

Why did they spend effort re-inventing the wheel in a 1 month survey rather than just raise awareness of the existing one and have a big push to get people using it?

Either way, both confirm that the measured coverage where I am shows a marked difference to what Vodafone claim on their website. And no, buying a flipping SureSignal box won't help me get a data signal when I'm away from home or office when I have wifi anyway so stop suggesting it every time I complain.

Steve.

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WTF?

Why the Beeb?

I like the principle of the idea and the data collected will have its uses... but why the Beeb??

This is something that should be funded by either Ofcom or the operators themselves. Perhaps i've missed something but all i see is another misplaced reason i've been stitched out of proper F1 coverage next year.

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Maybe I'm cynical

The BBC did say on the news that they hoped the data would help improve coverage in villages. Hardly the job of the BBC, and not really what I hoped my licence fee would be used for.

Perhaps someone high up in the BBC lives in such a village?

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Mushroom

Need to know basis?

Up here in the North East, we're seeing regular dips in coverage due to scallys vandalising the base stations for copper cables and such. Publishing the locations of every base station would likely make this even worse, so I'm with Everything Everywhere on this one - we don't need to know.

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Well, how about fitting the base station with cameras and remote alarms?

If someone tries to molest the equipment, take pictures (yeah, balaclavas, so use infra-red) , sound an alarm at the police station, and sniff the hooligans' IMEI.

These are communications stations!

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WTF?

The snag in your reasoning....

....is that when you walk up to the equipment cabinet at each BTS site it tells you what it is, who it belongs to and has a site ID (not universal but decided by the operator) right there so anyone can find them and either steal the copper or create a Google map of their locations. Since you will have found this information yourself, no one will be able to tell you to remove it.

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Google and Apple

Of course, the people who know a huge amount about the mobile network are Google and Apple. The location service automatically sends this data back to them so maybe they're the people to ask.

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Mushroom

More likely the empty squares are really where there's no reception

2 Things from this, how is it supposed to report no reception when there is no reception. That always thwarts my ability to call my rubbish service provider to complain about the frequent drop outs and zero reception areas - I live within zone 2 London - it's a joke. - Yes, that's you O2.

Second, the report notes that the worst reception is along many main roads and rail routes - Again, this is exaclty when I /need/ my phone to be working. I frequently travel for business and I have to be able to hold a conference call without having to call back in 10 times in 30 minutes.

Hopefully this will encourage some improvement....? Well here's hoping.

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With local experience...

The maps locally are mostly white--nobody has used an an Android phone with the software--though the pattern along the local motorway looks consistent with my experience.

I know where the local transmitters are, as there is a cluster of transmitter masts, and the signal drop-outs are consistent with that being the site.

The patterns do suggest that people with Android phones don't live or work in rural England. I would guess that a lot of the blanks would be a green fill, depending on the landscape. But nobody goes to the middle of a field to check.

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Ofcom have a transmitter site map already for you

No need to make your own Google map of transmitter locations, just go to http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/

It's quite good, enter a town name and you see pushpins of all the transmitters (expcept "E-E"), click on one for info.

And that OpenSignalMaps isn't as great as some of you are making it out to be. It only really tells you if the area isn't covered by 3G, it doesn't tell you however if it at least covered by 2G or no signal at all or there is simply no info for the area. At least the BBC's map distinguishes between 3G, 2G, no signal and no info.

Both apps could be improved but they are both on the right track.

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Coverack?

3g reception in Coverack, cornwall apparently. Rather dubious considering there is zero mobile reception of any kind in the village. Interesting otherwise though. Completely sparse outside cities mind.

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Happy

Nice little quirk...

... when I type in my postcode, I get an entirely blank map with no data collected, apart from one square saying no signal, slap bang over my house!

Clearly I'm the only one in area who took part...

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FAIL

A load of rubbish for a bit of PR

I was intrigued by this when I saw it yesterday so decided to go have a look at the town I live in (in Oxfordshire). Only a few blobs of signal measured - most of it was 'no data'. Well I know from personal experience that bar a few places I can get signal on 2 different networks across the whole town.

This was a bullshit study that has been given far more credence than it deserves. Far too much 'missing data' to draw any reasonable conclusions without making the inadequacies clear.

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