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Poor coverage has left millions of Britons unable to get online with a mobile broadband connection, a new study from the telecommunications regulator has revealed.

According to Ofcom’s Mostly Mobile report, large areas of the UK are unable to access the internet via a 3G broadband network. Locations found to be especially poorly served were rural parts of the north of England, as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Notable gaps in availability, which are shown in the form of maps detailing the standard of coverage on offer from each of the UK’s major mobile broadband providers, were also detected in East Anglia and the southwest of England.

Close study of the maps shows that the broadband supplier with the best coverage nationwide for dongle users is 3, with Orange in second place.

To tackle the problem of so-called mobile broadband not-spots, Ofcom is proposing further investigations into the underlying causes. The regulator is also planning to engage further with public bodies in a bid to surmount topographical obstacles to providing a service.

Commenting on the findings, Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband, said that the study shows that it is imperative that customers do some research before committing a network.

She said: "Like home broadband, mobile broadband customers can suffer greatly from living in not-spots.

“It is important that customers use the coverage checkers on mobile broadband providers' websites to ensure the areas they wish to connect from are hot-spots instead of not-spots."

The findings come as more and more consumers are opting to get online via a mobile broadband dongle or broadband-embedded laptop rather than a standard home fixed-line connection.

Despite the slowdown in consumer spending the spread of the technology has continued apace this year. This has been driven by the appearance of a series of flexible and cheap mobile broadband deals, which has brought mobile broadband within reach of more and more consumers.

These include the arrival of one month contracts and Sim only deals for the first time, both of which have found particular favour among credit crunch-hit Britons.

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