back to article Yes, Britain has an urban-rural 4G schism. This is what it looks like

Real world performance gleaned from thousands of British mobiles sheds light on how LTE in the boondocks performs outside major urban areas. And it may not be as bad as you think. Tutela, whose network performance measurements we highlighted earlier this week was able to determine how long users spend on LTE, or whether they’ …

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Surprisingly, Hutchison’s Three bests O2 for average 4G download speed in every region

But that graph doesn't tell the whole story, whilst Three may be faster than O2 where it is available, its overall coverage is still poor, in my experience. Certainly in the East Midlands region, you'll be lucky to get any signal on Three outside of urban areas, whereas O2 coverage is much more evenly spread.

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Horses for courses. if you are mostly urban I find 3 better overall than O2, espically M4 corridor/thames valley. Ironic given their respective HQ locations.

Mind you the gaping vortex signal dropout just at the train end of the platforms in Paddington is amusing since you can flick the V's at Voda's HQ from there.

Its so localised I'm almost convinced there is some blocker or alternative transmitter in operation as every network seems to get hit.

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@Gordon, my parent's house is on the side of a hill and the nearest tower is on the other side of the hill. When you're in the half of the house that has line of sight to the tower, the phone reception is acceptable. Move twenty or thiry cm and place the hill between you and the tower and you get nothing.

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I've found O2 has improved greatly over the last few years. Gone from no signal to 4G in large parts of East and North Yorkshire. I no longer need to take a 3 SIM on holiday to Orkney either.

If my house was 4 stories high, we'd get excellent 4G. As it has just 2 stories, we have a pico-cell which provides full 3G signal.

That said, O2's customer service was so crap that we switched to a reseller (5 Bars), so we have someone in the UK to talk to when there's a problem.

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"Gordon, my parent's house is on the side of a hill and the nearest tower is on the other side of the hill."

Sounds like you might want to invest in a passive reflector hoisted above your house so the signal has a chance to bounce around the hill.

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You are right about London rail stations. At Waterloo and the streets surrounding on Three 3g/4g, a strong signal and zero data. Quite an inconvenience if you were blithely relying on satnav for your last half mile from the station. Simply too many handsets in the locality during the rush hour, which makes the system unfit for purpose.

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London railway stations

You are right about London rail stations. At Waterloo and the streets surrounding on Three 3g/4g, a strong signal and zero data. Quite an inconvenience if you were blithely relying on satnav for your last half mile from the station. Simply too many handsets in the locality during the rush hour, which makes the system unfit for purpose.

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"Sounds like you might want to invest in a passive reflector..."

...or maybe something like one of these. https://www.mobilesignalboosters.co.uk/

Disclaimer: I don't know much about them, just that they are a thing.

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Active boosters cost more and require power. A passive reflector simply bounces existing signals. The fact he can get a good signal once in line of sight means strength is not the problem; he simply needs to establish a better line of sight which the reflector can do.

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"overall coverage is still poor"

I'm on Vodafone, and there are places in (only just) rural Leicestershire where I struggle to get any data, let alone 4G.

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Coat

77% my shiney bum

Well I must be holding it wrong.

The phone, not my bum.

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Re: 77% my shiney bum

Where does it mention 77%?

Maybe you are holding your shiney bum wrong?

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Re: 77% my shiney bum

Quite right 74%. I don't know my bum from my elbow

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 77% my shiney bum

I don't know my bum from my elbow

Easy to tell the difference. You should be able to find your bum with both hands...

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Is this internal or external signal reception because at my Mum's out in the Shires there is virtually no signal inside her house. That's on all networks it makes no difference who you're with. The very thick stone walls might well be the cause of this but 4G? Get real you're lucky to get a 2G signal.

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A reasonable comparison would be outside – this is the only way to do like for like – stone walls will probably affect signals though it will depend a lot on the stone. Concrete is probably worse because it usually contains a steel mesh which probably hasn't been optimised not to shield mobile signals.

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Yeah, when I read a lot of tech blog articles about mobile phones or Wi-fi gear I can't help but think of those timber and stud-wall houses so common in the US, in contrast to Cotswold limestone or Cornish granite homes.

If your mum has decent wired broadband, a pico-cell might be a solution, but network operators do love placing hurdles in the way (for example, EE insist that you get your mobile handset from them with all their bloatware, and even then only a Galaxy S or iPhone).

If I suspect a friend is at home beyond cell coverage I use WhatsApp to invite them down the pub. If I think he's in the pub, I use SMS. It works for me, but it's 2017 and I really shouldn't have to think about it. The good news is that his local has the best pub quiz in the city - due in part to the lack of data signal.

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Is this internal or external signal reception

No, if the article is correct, it's simply the ratio of a sample of users connection time by technology. The problem of indoor versus outdoor is actually becoming a bigger problem with new build properties due to the fact that they are now 90% made from foil covered insulation board.

It would be nice if Ofcom would get off their saggy grey arses and specify and approve a suitable picocell or femtocell that phone users could buy off the shelf and plug in to extend a wireless signal indoors, without needing this to connect via a broadband connection, and without needing network operator permission to do so. Then again, it's Ofcom; nothing will happen, and even that nothing will only happen slowly.

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I hear you about foil backed insulation, but the walls are relatively thin which means than any signal that gets through the windows can reach reach most of a room. I usually get good reception in new builds, compared to the centuries-old limestone buildings round here. Floor to ceiling glazed patio doors can't hurt signal in new build houses, either.

What is criminal is building a new house without whacking a load of Cat6 cable in the walls prior to plastering - it'd be far cheaper than powerline or WiFi repeaters, and cause less RF interference too.

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Re: internal vs external

> Is this internal or external signal reception

You won't know. All these organisations are reporting are the outputs of their apps, that are installed on a subset of subscribers of each network. The apps just sit in the background and sip the RF measurements from the phone, and perhaps also occasionally perform throughput tests if they are configured that way (i.e. the user doesn't care about their mobile data usage!). The phone doesn't have any inkling as to whether it is indoors or outdoors, although I'm sure you could possibly frig a reasonably accurate metric together based on GPS measurements (i.e. if the mobile is stationary and not on a road, or if there are no measurements available, then it's probably indoors).

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If your mum has decent wired broadband, a pico-cell might be a solution, but network operators do love placing hurdles in the way (for example, EE insist that you get your mobile handset from them with all their bloatware, and even then only a Galaxy S or iPhone).

It would be nice if Ofcom would get off their saggy grey arses and specify and approve a suitable picocell or femtocell that phone users could buy off the shelf and plug in to extend a wireless signal indoors, without needing this to connect via a broadband connection, and without needing network operator permission to do so.

Yeah the broadband isn't great and the WiFi needs lots of repeaters but I did look into extenders and Pico/Femtocells. The problem is she uses EE but the rest of the family are on Vodafone/O2/Three. As we're all frequent visitors (will be there for 9 days over Christmas) we'd need to cover every network. I did see a Celfi extender set in the window of my local secondhand/pawnbroking showroom for I think O2. It was a bargain at under £50 because they obviously didn't know what it was. Sadly by the time I could get there on the next day they were open it had been sold.

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Anonymous Coward

>new build properties due to the fact that they are now 90% made from foil covered insulation board

Not so much now - and you can always remove it - it's great fuel if you know anyone with a wood burning stove - though you wouldn't want to breathe in the fumes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opn7A4BN4OE

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Their methodology is fatally flawed. If you are outside and get 3G but not 4G you will be correctly counted as having poor 4G. Step inside and loose the 3G too as often happens in rural areas you will be invisible to their data analysis and by their silly methodology will no longer show you as having no 4G. This completely voids the no urban-rural schism message in the headline.

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Do you mean Femtocell? A Picocell isn't something anyone would usually have in their home.

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I hear you about foil backed insulation, but the walls are relatively thin which means than any signal that gets through the windows can reach reach most of a room.

Many new windows have a metallic heat-reflecting layer these days. Entire house wrapped in tinfoil :-)

M.

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Re: internal vs external

> Is this internal or external signal reception

You won't know. All these organisations are reporting are the outputs of their apps

Radio (broadcast radio) reception surveys used to be based on an aerial 10m above ground level, which was probably sensible when reception required an aerial on the roof, but somewhat overestimated the signal quality for a portable set in the kitchen.

While it would be nice to be able to differentiate between indoor and outdoor signals, the method described seems to be a reasonable way of doing a survey - giving real-life data.

M.

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Any point?

I turned 4G off on my phone (iPhone 7) as soon as I got it to make the battery last longer and can't say I've ever been very bothered about speed problems with 3G for any of the apps I use (streaming audio, maps, mail, Slack, Skype, news, weather, Google, basic browsing). Is there actually any point in it?

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Re: Any point?

I've found my 4G handsets to be quicker in connecting to a web page - sometimes near instantaneous. I do occasionally turn off all data to save battery if I'm in an area of poor signal, but it's an all data / no data toggle on my Android. I don't know if an iPhone will waste battery trying to grab a weak 4G signal if it has a good enough 3G signal available - though it seems a curious design choice if true.

In the future, 4G has the potential to save battery life once cells don't have to bother with 3G... it's something to do with handshakes and minimum packet size or something, IIRC.

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Re: Any point?

> streaming audio, maps, mail, Slack, Skype, news, weather, Google, basic browsing

Until you get into the demands of streaming video, if you're not really worried about latency, then 3G (assuming that includes the decent flavours of HSPA) is probably sufficient. Although I think you must be a very patient person because whenever I drop down to 3G websites can be very slow.

LTE should offer sub 10ms access times even after a bunch of timeouts have fired to free up network resources, 3G access times can get much longer as the basic access procedures are much more involved.

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Re: Any point?

Same here. If I'm actually out and I need internet then it takes a few seconds to turn on LTE, but generally I'm only a few minutes from a wifi network, which gets the job done quicker. Leaving my phone on 3G really helps the battery life.

(the password for my local pub's wifi? "greatbeer", nice advertising there :)

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O2 and Voda...

So the two old names (well O2 was Cellnet) show all the signs of being able to handle change and maneuver to cope pretty much on-par with an oil tanker.

All the flexibility of a gymnast with rigor mortis.... etc etc...

There are certainly villages in my "East of England" parts which are lucky to get 2G from O2 and Voda.

BTW, Ofcom have an app which should track all this bad coverage, and allow them to provide a very accurate picture.

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/coverage/ofcom-mobile-research-app

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Anonymous Coward

I couldn't care less about 4g coverage and internet speed, it's the ability to make and receive phone calls that counts with areas of the UK still dead zones in this day and age is really piss poor.

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Anonymous Coward

You still make phone calls? Weirdo! ;-)

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> I couldn't care less about 4g coverage and internet speed, it's the ability to make and receive phone calls that counts

Then you really shouldn't have clicked on an article clearly labelled '4G' then, you Herbert. Try this link instead:

https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/mobile-coverage

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Arriving late has some advantages: it means being able to skip older, slower . . .

generations of networking gear. VietNam, Cambodia/Kampuchea' Laos and many other developing countries have leapt ahead of many countries in the West.

Here in VN we have over 90% of 4G coverage of land mass - any vertical pole, or tree, often sports a new profile as the seven national carriers happily extend coverage to the deepest valleys or smallest hamlets (a few houses) and some remote islands by adding small boxes of electronics and discrete antennae.

Farmers can get the latest markets quotes, members of 56 disparate ethnic groups dispersed all over the country can keep in touch with their kindred spirits. Bring it on.

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Anonymous Coward

"Rural"?

So if "urban" is inside the 10 largest cities, and "rural" is everything else, that means "rural" includes the centres of places like Cardiff, Belfast, Bristol, York, Cambridge, Reading, Sunderland etc etc...

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Where's the joined up thinking?

Whilst I'm still unsure about the usefulness of 4G, shouldn't there be some 'joined up thinking' / planning here in the UK - i.e. Broadband & Cell

Here in an 'East Midlands' rural area, we are 2miles from the nearest village. Our family uses Giffgaff (O2 network) mobiles , which is a variable connection affected by weather (i.e Poor in rain, v poor/or loss in snow). Reasonable reception is only possible on newer mobiles (i.e. post iPhone 4)

The point I want to make is that the family try to watch films, or use Facebook etc on their mobiles (and it's often weather dependent reception ) simply because we cannot get fibre to our house which would satisfy our needs.

The family complain about their bills or reception, and I complain to potential ISPs that we cannot get fibre, and so . And that's where it always ends.

When BT come to investigate they say that Fibre is too far from the exchange which is what they feed back to whichever ISP we try to connect with. And that's where it ends.

Everybody loses interest except us, the customer, thinking how very annoying the whole malarkey is.

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Something doesn't add up

"Surprisingly, Hutchison’s Three bests O2 for average 4G download speed in every region, which suggests network investment is paying off."

Except that in the article from Tuesday linked in the second paragraph, 3 comes in dead last. It's a bit tricky to draw any conclusions about whether investment is paying off when no-one can agree what the data actually is. You might as well use a random number generator to rank networks; the result would agree with at least one "study" and at least you'd save some time and money.

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Thousands of British mobile sheds!

I came here to find out more about them, and why they are lighting something or other.

Sad.

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