All mobile phones rely on signal from a mobile phone network. Without signal from the network, you cannot even make an emergency call, despite what various networks or handset guidebooks may tell you.
The strength or quality of the mobile coverage is largely determined by proximity to a mobile phone network tower. However there are other factors that could affect the quality of your coverage.
Your mobile phone should tell you how good the network coverage is using a set of bars on the display screen; the signal strength will change as you move around with your mobile phone.
Mobile phone coverage is generally better in urban areas, although even really busy cities have 'dead zones' where there is no mobile coverage. Mobile phone coverage 'dead zones' normally occur where signal between the mobile handset and the mobile phone network cell antenna is blocked. Mobile phone signal can be blocked by tunnels, hills or dense tall buildings.
Rural areas with a smaller population have less physical interference but often are too far away from a mast for good signal. This is constantly improving as more and more antennas are put up around the country to improve UK coverage.
Which network has the best coverage?
All mobile phone networks have great coverage in some areas and weaker coverage in others. As more networks are building bases and putting up masts around the country, the mobile phone coverage in the UK is becoming increasingly better too. There will still be areas where some networks have weaker mobile coverage, and each of the main networks provides a map on their site to show where their coverage is best.
Orange mobile phone coverage
Orange has traditionally installed more mobile phone base stations than rival networks in a bid to guarantee the best mobile phone coverage. Orange uses GSM 1800 and has a widespread mobile coverage, in close competition to the solidity of the mobile coverage leaders. Orange also has the largest integrated 3G network in the UK.
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O2 mobile phone coverage
O2 uses a GSM 900 frequency, and has 99% coverage of the UK. This means that almost everyone in the UK can make the most of O2’s phone and non-voice services. O2’s mobile coverage is generally accepted as being reliable and offering good clarity for speech.
In terms of meeting 3G license requirements, O2 was the last network to meet its license condition of 80% coverage.
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Three mobile phone coverage
Three is a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) network, essentially meaning that it is a 3G network. It is relatively new in terms of UK mobile networks, only going live in 2003, and as such has had to build up mobile phone coverage very quickly. When Three launched the company committed to providing 3G services to 80% of the UK population by the end of 2007, and succeeded. In October 2010, Three completed a major upgrade to its network and now covers 97.4% of the UK population.
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T-Mobile mobile phone coverage
T-Mobile is also a GSM 1800 network offering solid coverage in most areas of the UK. It also joined forces with Three to create the UK's biggest 3G mobile network.
In 2010 T-Mobile and Orange merged under a new parent company ‘Everything Everywhere’ allowing both operators to share each other’s networks to improve coverage for millions of customers.
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Vodafone mobile phone coverage
Vodafone has traditionally been a leader in the UK, the Vodafone GSM network is made up of both 900 and 1800 MHz bases. Its 3G coverage is also one of the strongest of the major networks.
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