Reprinted News


Reprinted News

Is your mobile phone provider lying about its coverage?

Is your mobile phone provider lying about its coverage?

  • 2015-08-21

First (Other OTC: FSTC - news) , accurate tool from Ofcom shows signal strength and coverage blackspots for mobile phones across 2G, 3G and 4G on Vodafone, O2, EE and Three networks

Mobile phone providers could be forced to come clean about the poor signal they provide many areas of Britain after a new tool was created to show the true extent of signal blackspots.

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has created a map showing the signal strength for mobile phones on 2G, 3G and 4G networks. It covers four major providers: Vodafone, O2, EE and Three.

It says its tool is more accurate than the assessment offered on providers' own websites because it uses "higher thresholds" when determining whether people can receive and make phone calls. It is the first time that several operators' signal coverage have been shown in one place.

See the new Mobile Coverage Checker .

In particular, the map exposes how poor the signal is inside homes, offices and other buildings. Research has shown that two in five people have blackspots in their homes, with the kitchen a particularly problematic area .

The watchdog is calling on users to report any inconsistencies with the guidance they are given by their mobile provider.

If firms are found to be misleading the public they could be forced to change the information they provide to customers. The Telegraph understands there is a possibility that users suffering poor signal could cite inconsistencies exposed by the map to gain a free exit from their contracts.

Steve Unger, chief technology officer at Ofcom, said: "We believe our map is the most comprehensive tool available to consumers and businesses to check mobile coverage.

"We're encouraging people to feed back after using the map, so we can continue to improve its accuracy."

Users can zoom to a specific location on a map of the UK or enter a place name or postcode. It shows the land topographically, as hills, valleys and large buildings are the main obstructions to receiving a good signal.

The user must select the network they wish to view and choose between 2G, for mainly voice calls, 3G, or the superfast 4G signal which is used only for data.

The map is accurate to 100 square metres. It can also distinguish between coverage inside and outside of buildings.

= Why the new map is different =

Crucially, the tool uses new research by Ofcom into the signal strength needed to provide a "good consumer experience". Testing found that when mobile operators tell customers whether the signal they will receive is adequate, they use a lower signal threshold than is necessary.

"While it is possible to make calls at these lower signal levels, it is more likely from the drive test results to lead to consumers experiencing interrupted and/or dropped calls," Ofcom said. Smartphones needed an even higher level of signal than normal phones to support normal use, the research showed.

The new map also takes into account the shift from handsets with external aerials to smartphones with internal aerials. The latter can sometimes be less effective at picking a signal.

= Millions hit by dead zones =

Around a million mobile users across Britain face unreliable network coverage. Many cannot move to a rival firm because they are locked into two-year contracts that cost £35 a month or more.

A Telegraph investigation found that many faced onerous terms and conditions if they sought refunds, or an early exit from their policies . T?Mobile asked customers to prove that their handset lost signal at least seven times a day and Vodafone said it had no formal policy.

Citizens Advice, which fielded 21,000 complaints about mobile phone problems last year, said many of those experiencing severe problems were still being charged fees of up to £800 to exit contracts .

Mr Unger said the new map would "support consumers in choosing a service that best suits their needs" but would also "promote competition between mobile operators".

The site was viewed more than 20,000 times in the space of a few hours when it was made available on Thursday and at some points struggled to load. (from YAHOO!)

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