I just want a signal!!! – Opinion

I just want a signal!!!   Opinion

Most of the major networks have now announced their 4G pricing models.  They vary a little but, with one notable exception, there is a premium for the new technology as well as limits.

Data is the new king.  No longer do we want more and more texts bundled in or vast amounts of minutes.  Many of us simply don’t use our phones for phoning people.  What we really want is data and lots of it.

I don’t regard myself as a really heavy user but a quick glance at the stats on my phone reveal that whilst I have used less than 300 minutes in the last month I have used nearly 8GB data (wi-fi and mobile combined).  Regular readers will know that our editor Dan Carter can use that in a day!

The mobile world is all about apps and an ever increasing number of apps are making use of the cloud, storing files remotely, device synchronisation and streaming media.

This additional cloud usage of course leads to a major dependency on one thing – a data connection.

Be it 4G, HSDPA+, HSDPA, or 3G a connection is required.  Google maps, Drive, email, YouTube, streaming radio, news apps and so on and so on, the list of apps that require some sort of omnipresent connection is endless.

I live in a large and growing town.  We have excellent 4G, HSDPA+ and 3G connections on all of the major networks where they support it.  Sure there are some glitches with indoor connections being weaker on some networks or tiny little blackspots but overall coverage is very very good as it is in most population centres.

Travel some 30 minutes outside of this however and the picture becomes different.

Last week I was in Scotland, my second visit in a matter of weeks.  Scotland really is a beautiful part of the UK that has one major issue.  Mobile network coverage.

I wasn’t in one of the major cities or even a big town but I wasn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere either.

I was only around 15 miles from a relatively large city and could only get a 2G signal.

In one respect this was great.  On holiday with little to no access to the internet, email or any other distraction and with views to die for, what could be better?  All well and good but try and fire up Google Maps with a 2G connection and see how far you get.

This issue was a recurring theme for our entire holiday unless we visited a large town where a 3G connection came alive – briefly.

Now the networks in this country are not new.  They have had plenty of time to develop their infrastructure and charge us handsomely for using the pleasure of using them.  So why can a decent internet connection be maintained outside of a big town or city?

The operators claims vary from 97% of the UK covered to 99% of the UK poulation covered  however a quick check of the coverage maps show some rather large white areas.

I just want a signal!!!   Opinion

O2 3G Coverage Checker


Not really much good for a Google maps connection, a backup to iCloud or BBC iPlayer or in fact any of those services that depend on a data connection.

My experience has led me to question if I really want superfast, ultrafast, 4G or any other ridiculously quick connection or just a working one?

The answer is simple.  I want my expensive handset and the facilities that I pay for to work wherever I am in the country.  Whether I am 2500 ft above sea level or in the middle of London, I want to be able to open a document in Google drive, backup whatever photo I have just taken or share my experience with the world.

EE, BT, O2, Vodafone, Three and anyone else who may join in, please stop boasting that you have the fastest, biggest or whatever else and concentrate on bringing EVERYONE full coverage, no matter where they are.

It is what we pay for after all.




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  • Too true.
    And the networks aren’t consistent in their coverage – some are better in some areas than others, but not consistently. So one network may be great at home, but lousy at work – try and change networks and you can get the opposite – there isn’t necessarily 1 network that covers both!
    As an example, I travel junctions 15 to 10 of the M4 everyday and I get excellent 3G speeds the whole way on Three (EE as well). My work phone is on O2, and I don’t get 3G at all, apart from when the motorway passes a major town – Reading. Nothing, not even EDGE for most of the rest of the journey.
    How can a network being launching 4G next week, when I can’t even get 3G today?!

    • the_prof

      Totally with you there. I find the predicament we find ourselves in a little frustrating to say the least. I actually think in some cases 3G coverage has worsened too, not got better. I remember a business trip I took to Edinburgh one year, Vodafone network, full 3G connection.. and a year later, went to the same place and nothing. It might’ve been down, but I was there for 2 weeks, and nothing changed in that time.

      I don’t think some of the networks merging will make the slightest bit of difference to coverage either. I think it’s actually more to do with cost-cutting than trying to provide better coverage and service.

      Now, all that said, I have some appreciation for the complex nature of all this, and the fact that just because there’s a 2G mast within range, doesn’t necessarily mean you can get 3G from the same location. I also recognise that all of these cell towers rely on other telecommunications infrastructure, which is most certainly not in place in some of the more remote locations in this country. I don’t see that changing much either.

      From that point of view, the very fact that 4G on the 800MHz slices of the spectrum has the possibility of travelling more than twice as far as a 3G signal given the right conditions make me believe that 4G/LTE will be a more robust overall data delivery system than 3G has been. Once all the networks are at full strength, the likelihood of you picking up a 4G signal will be high. How long this will take is another matter.

      I tend to travel around quite a bit, and one thing I’ve noticed is that in foreign countries, I tend to get a good data connection in most places (even those a bit off the beaten track). The reason for this is not because foreign networks are better than ours. The reason is because if there’s no data on the network to which you’re attached, you can simply flip to another. Sure, it’s pretty expensive (although quite good in Europe if you are on Vodafone at the moment).

      Why not have that as an option in this country, for the natives? Offer data roaming WITHIN the UK. Maybe pay a little bit of a premium on your contract to enable this, and it would mean that you have a far higher chance of picking up a good signal wherever you happen to be. Presumably some agreement would have to be made between all the networks, and the balance of difference would be transferred. This would have the effect of natural load balancing too.. They’d never go for it, would they?

      • Data roaming in the UK – now that is a good idea :)

  • Billinge

    Mobile coverage is a complicated subject. You’ll notice all the mobile providers talk about %ge coverage based on population, not on area of the country. It would be interesting to know the statistic on %ge coverage based on land mass. The simple fact is that the vast majority of the population live on a quite a relatively small area of land.
    According to the ONS In 2001, urban areas covered just 8.9% of the UK land mass. 41% of urban dwellers lived in one of the ten most populous urban areas, this being 32.4% of the UK population.

  • surethom

    Where I live 10 miles outside Wrexham, the Capital of North Wales, Data coverage is terrible especially on O2

  • Simon Hardy

    Here here. I’m not at all interested in paying extra for 4G when 3G is still so patchy and unreliable. And I too am hardly in the middle of nowhere. In fact this is also the reason that the Three network unfortunately can’t even be a consideration for me.

  • ToffeeTo

    Well said. I couldn’t agree more. My morning train commute goes from H+ to 2G to Zero, Nil, Nothing which I consider ridiculous this day and age. I’ve also noticed that even when I have a full signal and fast data connection my phone will not connect as it seems the cell is at max capacity. Some of the networks are over-subscribed in my opinion and clearly need to invest in their current infrastructure rather than charge more for 4G which is probably going to be much the same as their patchy 3G coverage in a year or so.