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Ofcom coverage map: 7/10 – must try harder next time

No blackspot spotting tools, or comparative element

Analysis Ofcom has released a map of where you should have mobile phone coverage. Based on computer models and limited testing, however, it’s not a map of where you do actually have mobile coverage.

We searched one of our favourite blackspots – a point in Hampstead where the networks deliberately reduce coverage to avoid the signal leaking across the whole of London – and the Ofcom map shows good coverage for voice, 3G data and 4G data.

Ofcom’s aim with the Mobile Coverage Checker is to provides a single stop for consumers and businesses across the UK to discover the quality of the mobile coverage in areas where they live and work, or somewhere they intend to move.

Users can zoom to a specific location on a UK map or simply enter a place name or postcode to receive data on coverage for each mobile network – down to 100 square metres. The map uses data provided by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Ofcom has even noticed that, around fifteen years ago, phones stopped having external antennas. The press release said: “The map also takes account of the increasing shift from handsets with external aerials to smartphones with internal aerials, which can sometimes be less effective at picking a signal.”

Each area has been ranked with a colour-coded system, with green showing the highest likelihood of mobile coverage and red the lowest. The map shows voice and data coverage by mobile operator, coverage inside and outside of buildings, and topographical information allowing users to identify areas where there are natural obstructions to coverage – such as valleys and hills.

Ofcom said that “helping to improve mobile coverage and quality of service are priority areas for Ofcom. The new map is designed to support consumers in choosing a service that best suits their needs, while promoting competition between mobile operators”.

However, there is nothing in the tool to allow users to do side-by-side comparisons between the networks. You can’t, for instance, overlay O2 and Vodafone coverage, highlighting differences.

Ofcom is inviting users to check their coverage experience and leave feedback, which will help refine and improve the tool, with a new version expected in the autumn.

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