UK mobile users get 4G just 50% of the time


EE customers have the best 4G coverage, Three the worst

Mobile customers in the UK are able to access 4G just 53% of the time on average across the four major networks, a new study has shown.

​The latest data from wireless coverage mapping company, OpenSignal’s ‘State of Mobile Networks: UK’ report, produced in association with Which?,​ ​found that on average EE customers have the best 4G coverage with customers able to access a 4G signal 60.6% of the time.

The report, which is accompanied by a live interactive map service on the best and worst areas for 2G, 3G and 4G signal in the UK, ranked Vodafone second with its customers able to connect to a 4G signal 57% of the time. O2 came third and Three last with customers able to access 4G signal 56% and 39.8% of the time respectively.

The report’s findings are based on data collected from over 30,000 registered users of OpenSignal’s mobile app which takes a background reading every 15 minutes to calculate the proportion of time users can access 4G.

When looking at 4G download speeds, Three fared much better, offering an average speed of 18.7Mbps, up significantly on last year when its average speed measured 12Mbps. EE again performed well this year with its 4G speed clocking an average 17.8Mbps. O2 was third for 4G at 12.1Mbps and Vodafone the slowest at 11.8Mbps.

With mobile users only able to access 4G just 53% of the time, UK consumers are left relying on a slower download speed with 3G, the report stated. This is compared to 39 countries around the world where mobile users can access 4G 60% of the time or more. Ofcom’s recent review of the digital telecoms sector set a target of 98% of homes in the UK able to access 4G by the end of 2017.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: “Almost everyone now uses a mobile phone service and it’s not good enough that the UK is lagging behind so many countries with our 4G network coverage. Increasing 4G access s​hould be a priority for mobile providers and Ofcom must continue to push them to make this a reality.”

OpenSignal, CEO Brendan Gill, added: “While it’s clear the UK is making progress in building out powerful 4G networks, it’s obvious there is still some work to do to extend coverage further. We encourage everyone to help us track the UK mobile market by downloading our Android or iPhone app and contributing to our coverage maps and speed data.”

On indoor coverage, which is a particular challenge for 4G signals, Ian Langley, SVP and GM at provider of wireless coverage and mobile comms systems, Cobham Wireless, commented: “One of the key issues preventing reliable 4G coverage in the UK, as highlighted in the Which? report, remains indoor coverage provision. Many common building materials used in the UK prevent high capacity radio frequency signals getting in from the outside, from dense stone that blocks the signal to modern glass which reflects it.

“Simply increasing the number of base stations in the area is unlikely to solve this problem, with modern coverage enhancement solutions required to allow high capacity signals to penetrate the walls of many buildings,” continued Langley. “Forward thinking operators around the world are already partnering with facilities managers of a range of sites, from shopping centres to metro stations, in order to ensure their subscribers’ can access reliable high speed and high capacity 4G indoors. The UK’s operators must follow suit if they are to offer their customers the reliable speeds they demand.”

Added Dave Fraser, CEO at wireless networking developer, Devicescape: “The data published this week by Which? and OpenSignal highlights the fact that the cellular network alone cannot provide the level of connectivity required by today’s smartphone user. In indoor locations, where the limitations of the cellular network are most often apparent, Wi-Fi offers a powerful complementary connectivity resource. By integrating this resource into a wider connectivity service, operators can improve the quality of their customer experience, and address the customer satisfaction issues identified by Which?,” he concluded.


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