back to article One-third of mobile users receive patchy to no indoor coverage

Nearly one-third of mobile users suffer poor or no indoor reception at home, according to a survey by price comparison site uSwitch. One in every five mobile calls made at home are patchy – where the voice cuts in and out – while one in six are prone to cutting out suddenly. Not surprisingly, those living in rural areas …

  1. James 51 Silver badge

    That's how markets work, the most return for the least investment, even if it can undermine long term viability. Regulation, enforced regulation is what will be required to change anything.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even on Motorways

    Even on the M4 you get sections with no coverage. In Europe it works everywhere even in tunnels.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Even on Motorways

      Not true, at least not in Germany.

      At work I have little to no coverage with my private carrier, the corporate carrier has absolutely no signal in the building!

      Between the office and home, I flip between HSUPA and Edge, at home it flips between no coverage and LTE.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even on Motorways

      Trains are the worst.Try using a phone from oop north to Londan, useless.

  3. Anon

    If it ain't broke...

    Every time EE "upgrade" the service around me I get a more intermittent signal. It was least bad when EE was Orange and T-Mobile. I guess one "upgrade" would have been switching off one of the masts, and another would have been changing to a frequency that now barely makes into the street, let alone indoors. In a town with a population >60,000, not in some far-away rural location.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it ain't broke...

      Yep. When T-Mobile and Orange joined they removed many "redundant" transmitters, including the T-Mobile one that gave me a tolerably good signal and leaving the Orange one (rebranded as EE) which provides me with almost none.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh....

    ..and I bet the issue is worst in houses built in the last decade.

    Modern - Cheap nasty construction but with foil lined insulation.

    Old - Quality solid walls

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the issue is worst in houses built in the last decade.

      In my case I'm pretty sure the case is some blocks of flats constructed in the last few months...

      ... right between the nearest mobile mast and where I live.

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: Meh....

      > Old - Quality solid walls

      Yup. Very solid. And in our part of Yorkshire the stone walls contain a lot ferrous particles, and apparent;y that can attenuate signals.

    3. RockBurner

      Re: Meh....

      Yep - newbuild owner - foil lined insulation all-round. It's like being in a Faraday cage. Mind you - at least I don't need to worry about war-drivers....

  5. John Lilburne

    Yep mobile reception is pants in the village. I can just about get a signal in one of the bedrooms.

    The power company came out about 2 years ago to install a smart meter but abandoned the installation because they couldn't get a mobile signal. Why they need a mobile signal for monitoring energy usage is any one's guess.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And that is what happens when you campaign for your council to refuse planning permission for masts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why they need a mobile signal for monitoring energy usage is any one's guess.

      It's not for monitoring your usage but to allow them to switch you off remotely if the unreliables are not producing enough electricity or if you are behind in paying your bill which is too high because of the green taxes used to prop up the unreliables.

    3. paulf Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      @ John Lilburne "The power company came out about 2 years ago to install a smart meter but abandoned the installation because they couldn't get a mobile signal. "

      So it's not all bad news, then?

  6. big_D Silver badge

    Mobile rollout

    I have to set up new mobile phones for employees at work... Only the office I sit in has absolutely no mobile signal with the corporate carrier (Vodafone) - with my private carrier, Congstar on D-Netz, I get Edge in the office - which makes setting up and testing the phones awkward; trying to test the corporate E-Mail works when not on the Wi-Fi network means a trip outside the office.

    It also makes configuring and testing mobile LTE hotspots difficult, there I have to traipse outside with the modem and a notebook to test it!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This seems to be two conflated issues - asking for better idea of mobile coverage maps and poor quality indoor signal.

    Unless a house survey is done or a user fills out a detailed questionnaire about their premises including construction, windows, insulation and plasterboard types then an estimate of indoor signal strength is very difficult to provide. Even estimating useable wifi in a premises is difficult without an actual survey.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Get a PAYG SIM for whichever network you are considering and try it out before committing to a contract.

      If you are considering moving house, check the mobile signal at the same time you visit to check out all the other things about the place.

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        @katrinab - Sensible, but missing the point

        Why should my choices be restricted by the phone companies being stingy?

        I have a perfect signal from O2 at home, due to a mast ~300M away on top of an old factory building. If that gets demolished I'm stuffed, as there are no other high points nearby. At work (on a light industry estate), O2 gives the best signal but it's still rubbish indoors.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      can generate the coverage maps with caveats aplenty

      Back in the old days when I was in cellular we would generate coverage maps, and provide guidelines of "coverage indoors", "coverage inside vehicle", and "coverage on street" levels. We'd pick an average attenuation level for the map. For the first 10+ years the cellular industry had all it could do to provide outdoor coverage at the street level. People buying the new portable phones began complaining that they didn't have coverage indoors, so operators put in a lot of sites for hole-fill.

      Keep in mind that there is a significant increase in loss going from the street to indoors, and it is highly frequency dependent. The high band UMTS spectrum (2 GHz) doesn't propagate well through glass and building materials. If your carrier (or if your new phone) moved from 2G (900 MHz) to 3G or 4G you may have been covered and now aren't. The propagation of 2 GHz is about 2/3rds the distance of a comparable 900 MHz signal.

      Still doesn't keep people from expecting coverage in elevators or underground.

  8. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Mine is quite poor. With my old 3G phone it was barely usable for calls and there were times I couldn't even receive texts. It's better with 4G. It's only one bar but 4G seems more resilient and at least it's now usable. I'm not in the arse-end of nowhere either - I'm on the outskirts of a small town a couple of miles from the M40, next to the A43.

  9. ukgnome

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

    ofcoms checker is full of lies

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ofcoms checker is full of lies

      Well, that's to be expected, as Ofcom are central to the problem here, by failing to sort out low power signal boosters. By all means ban cheap ones that cause problems, but it's 2017, there's no reason why domestic customers shouldn't be able to buy and use a compliant mobile signal booster, without having to have it officially provided and licensed by their mobile network.

      And to clarify, I'm talking about mobile-booster-mast systems, not the crappy mobile-wifi-broadband efforts.

  10. Flywheel Silver badge

    Especially in the bathroom

    I've noticed that I can barely get a signal in the place I do most of my deep thinking - the bathroom. I'm toying the idea of lining the loo bowl to boost signals, but the wife may have some objections.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Especially in the bathroom

      Wives always get upset when you line the loo bowl.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Especially in the bathroom

      Do you not have wifi in there? I have wired up a load of Airport Expresses around the house to get perfect wifi everywhere.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Especially in the bathroom

        The tiles play havok with the wifi signals. You find the same with tiled kitchens..

        At home I get perfect Wifi in all rooms, including the far end of the house, two floors away.

        Go the other side of the tiled bathroom though, and it starts dropping out. Shame that's my bedroom.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Especially in the bathroom

      It's funny, as the two places I've lived with dodgy reception have both had one good spot - the bathroom.

      In my current flat I get OK signal when standing next to the windows - and mostly everything is OK. But on any longish call it sill subtly deteriorate, so I can still hear them perfectly but they can't hear me. The only way to solve this is to either go outside, or go into the bathroom - but then they can hear the telltale "echo of shame".

      Though at least nobody can ever be sure, unless you flush...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to call in a powercut?

    Currently home phones lines provide "power" and will (or should) work in a power cut. So calling emergency services (or even the power company) in a powercut is still possible.

    Now with switching to VOIP we are told to call using mobile phones in powercuts. We too live with poor mobile signal indoors, my company even provided a femtocell to route calls over the BB but in a power cut...?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having a coverage map doesn't always help

    I have a choice of many providers. Not one provides a usable signal were I live.

    Just switched from Vodafone to Three. Both other WiFi Calling, but Vodafone don't run SMS over it (makes mandatory 2FA with HMRC a real pain) and you get no notification of voice mail! At least everything works with Three.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's true

    I'm on O2 in Guildford... so not exactly "rural" and the signal i get at work and home is awful. Others i know seem to have better luck with EE but given their reputation I do wonder who to switch to. The ofcom coverage thing is a load of tosh.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: It's true

      I live not too far away, and haven't had a problem in the area for years on Vodaphone. Others might dispute that.

      Try a free PAYG sim to test signal strength for different providers.

  14. Chz

    Which is why smart meters are a con

    My current electricity meter isn't "smart", but it is supposed to keep its time updated over the airwaves. It's currently 50 minutes out, because it's in a closet on the interior wall of a concrete slab maisonette. If 30% of users can't get a signal indoors, then ~30% of households will get no benefit from a smart meter.

    (Okay, it's only *one* reason why smart meters are a con)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which is why smart meters are a con

      I find a strategically placed clock solves all my time keeping needs but yes they are a con.

  15. steelpillow Silver badge
    Boffin

    Multiple issues

    1. The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength and the poorer the indoor reception. For this reason, through-the-wall relays have always been recommended if you want good indoor reception - but don't expect the telco to pay for that! A cheap domestic one can be nothing more than a passive waveguide or antenna-to-antenna cable, the upcoming modern equivalent being VoIP over a WiFi-to-broadband router.

    2. The higher the frequency the greater the data capacity, hence loved by every new generation. This tends to make newer generations less indoor-friendly than older ones.

    3. Cost-benefit to the supplier: why give a **** about your users and install more cells unless your competitors do or the regulator makes you?

    4. Cost-benefit to the user: why install obsolescent toys when you can just make sure that both your phone and router have WiFi and your telco supports VoIP?

    So really, everybody is to blame: cheeseparing suppliers, irresponsible regulators, lazy consumers and the economics of progress.

  16. OtotheJ
    Thumb Up

    Here's a revolutionary idea...

    Why not connect a telephone (you can even buy wireless ones these days) to your broadband line? It works for me!

    Look at the coverage checkers for any of the providers here in the UK and they will all tell you they won't guarantee indoor coverage.

    Additional bonus is that you can play Candy Crush at the same time as listening to your mother when she calls!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's a revolutionary idea...

      You still have a landline?

  17. KKESH

    'The chairman of the national infrastructure commission, Lord Adonis, recently called mobile phone coverage in Blighty "deplorable". His recent report into the UK's infrastructure found we are "behind other countries in its 4G mobile coverage, and it needs a plan to become a world leader in 5G and ultrafast broadband".

    Gone are the days when this country will be a world leader in anything. The Bean Counters dictate things these days, and until we get rid of them we will never be a world leader in anything!

    1. handleoclast
      Coat

      Re: World Leader

      @KKESH

      The Bean Counters dictate things these days, and until we get rid of them we will never be a world leader in anything!

      Arrant nonsense. We're world leader in Bean Counters.

  18. steviebuk Silver badge

    But...

    ...the coverage maps are bullshit and never seem accurate. There is a mast up the hill from us yet still get poor signal in the house.

  19. The Average Joe Bloggs

    WiFi Calling

    I have EE, and I get no signal at home. Instead I use EE's wifi calling option, which all carriers now should have on phones for the last few years. It just uses your wifi signal to make a phone call instead and doesnt cost a penny extra.

    It works fine for me, no complaints at all.

    1. David Nash Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: WiFi Calling

      O2 have just announced that they are cancelling their WiFi app (TuGo) because apparently some new phones have it built-in.

      So all the rest of us don't get it any more. That will teach us not to have bought a new phone for a couple of years!

    2. Ryan Clark

      Re: WiFi Calling

      I have recently switched to EE and have wifi calling, it doesn't appear to be that good. Still have problems with signal and calls in the house.

      I do live in a village, but only a few miles from Birmingham and between two large towns. The land round here is pretty flat and yet still none of the networks have good reception, Vodafone was passable, but still had a not spot at the pub in the middle of the village.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Indoors / foil insulation

    Yep, my 2008-built house has foil-based cavity wall insulation panels, ad that definitely attenuates the signal. I don't know why they don't make small cuts in the metal, say on a 5cm grid, which would have the effect of making it almost RF-transparent...

    Of course this additional attenuation only notices if the signal is already weak-ish.

  21. techmind

    And things could be improved with better phone software

    I have good indoor 2G coverage, and very weak 3G and 4G, all on Vodafone. The phone software would rather hold on to a 3/4G signal (a miss incoming calls) than revert to 2G - and indoors/at-home it can use WiFi for high speed data anyway. Annoying.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: And things could be improved with better phone software

      On my N900 you could specify which radio you wanted it to use (feature built into the OS). Surely there's an app for that?

  22. CertMan
    WTF?

    Emergency Services

    Remember that the Government are wanting to get rid of the TETRA radios that the emergency services use and move them over to 4G phones instead. I mentioned this to my MP and received a reply from a mandarin explaining that 4G coverage is universal and better than TETRA!

    The maps say that I should have good 3G coverage - so why do I have to run down the street to get my 2FA texts which 4 out of 5 times have timed-out by the time I receive them? The operators (we have 3 different ones between the family members to get coverage at our workplaces) say that they will not supply a femto-cell so that we can get a signal as the maps say that we have good coverage.

  23. the.spike

    It's not the maps that are the problem

    The maps lie. They tell me I should get a good 3G signal indoors in the centre of the city that I live. Half the time I have no signal. And it's not a thick walled place..

  24. Joe Harrison

    PAYG and contract SIMs not same coverage

    Not my field but I don't think trying out the coverage with a free PAYG SIM is representative. When I had an O2 PAYG they told me that using 4G was not allowed unless I paid extra so it's clear they can discriminate on a per-SIM basis.

    Following that I moved house to a place with unusably slow wired broadband and very little mobile coverage. Careful experimentation with a cellular router, directional antenna, and a selection of both contract and PAYG makes me think that there's definitely a difference.

    Of course sod's law, while I was still trying to figure it out Openreach upgraded my wired access to a decent speed, which is good but I am stuck with all this now-useless cellular hardware.

  25. Test Man

    Thankfully it's not an issue for me anymore ever since the mobile networks recently supported Wifi Calling.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      "Thankfully it's not an issue for me anymore ever since the mobile networks recently supported Wifi Calling."

      So any building you are in MUST allow you to use their wifi if your mobile signal is bad?

      1. Timo

        Yes that is true. But the places where you likely need it the most are home and work, and presumably you're already set up on those networks. In practice I sometimes found out that I had low/no coverage and would then connect to the nearest hotspot.

        There are some of the new disruptive cellular alternatives (Google Fi) that prefer a WiFi connection and will log in automatically if they have deals with those network providers.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How unsurprising

    Fragmentation of the market is not good for infrastructure services. Mobile infrastructure should be kept and maintained as a public asset that operators could hook up to and deliver services for. With operators building individual networks none of them have the resources to do it properly.

    Another issue is the quality of the radios in our handsets. When did we last see a review of a mobile phone where the reviewers did a proper test of its radio. The gadgets telephone capabilities are hardly mentioned at all anymore. This may be a consequence of the fact that just about every journalist in the ad-financed press have become corporate whores, but it is no good for consumers. Factual consumer information is severely lacking. How can consumers work out which phones are good and which are bad when nobody care to inform them?

  27. John Sager

    Femtocell

    I have had one for 8 years or so. Connects to Vodafone over 't Internet. I live in a hole RF-wise and it's been a godsend. I think all networks now provide these (need lucre though). I wonder what the household penetration is of these per network?

    1. Andre Carneiro

      Re: Femtocell

      Same here.

      Three sent me one a few years ago and it works a charm. I wish they made it easier to purchase, manage and install (like Vodafone do)...

  28. cysec

    I can confirm that the 3 network in Norwich sucks....

  29. shrdlu

    Availability Maps

    All of the networks claim that we will get good coverage indoor and out. All of them lie. We only get usable signals in one upstairs bedroom. Perhaps its time for Ofcom to take a look at the truth of these claims.

  30. technoise
    Holmes

    O2 is better? Funny you should mention that...

    I am on GiffGaff, which piggybacks on O2. I am on 3G (old phone) and I have good reception indoors, but I heard that O2 is on the lower frequency 900 MHz band which should get better penetration through walls..

    It might be a good idea to analyse the frequencies used by each service provider...

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