Press release:

Three in ten mobile users suffer patchy or no call reception at home

  • Almost three in 10 (29%) mobile users suffer from poor or no indoor reception at home[1]
  • One in every five calls (19%) that mobile users make at home are patchy – where the voice cuts in and out – while one in six (16%) are prone to cutting out suddenly[2]
  • Those living in rural areas continue to be the hardest hit with half of mobile users (50%) reporting signal issues at home[3]
  • Regionally, Bristolians say they suffer from the worst indoor mobile reception (39%), followed by those living in Cardiff (35%), Norwich (35%), Plymouth (33%) and Sheffield (33%) – three in 10 (30%) Londoners report poor or partial indoor mobile reception[4]
  • Of the big four, O2 customers are once again most likely to rate their indoor mobile signal as ‘excellent’ (71%), while Three and EE customers are the least likely (68%)[5]
  • With nearly two thirds (64%) of mobile users admitting they didn’t check their network coverage map before signing up to their current service, uSwitch.com calls on Ofcom to use its powers to force mobile providers to make network coverage data more easily accessible to consumers earlier in the purchasing process.[6]

With mobile voice services reported available within 89% of UK premises[7], new research by comparison and switching service uSwitch.com finds poor voice call reception at home is still plaguing consumers. The research found that three in ten (29%) UK mobile users currently suffer from poor or no mobile reception in their own homes[1].

Whilst marking a slight (5%)[8] improvement on last year more than half (57%) of mobile users still experience patchy call quality, four in ten (43%) have had calls cutting out, and 37% have suffered no reception at all when trying to make or take calls at home[2].

Mobile users say that two in five (19%) calls they make or take on their mobile phones at home are patchy, while around one in every six (16%) calls will just suddenly cut out[2]. For those experiencing poor reception at home, six in 10 (62%) report that the issue has plagued them ever since they moved into their current home while a fifth (18%) say they’ve suffered from reception-related issues since they changed to their current network[9].

Those living in rural areas are still most likely to report getting poor or no mobile reception in their own homes (50%), representing just a 2% improvement on last year[3]. On the other hand, there has been a marked improvement for those living in the inner city with less than a third (32%) reporting signal issues – compared to over four in ten (41%) who felt they were contending with poor, partial or no signal last year[3]. Meanwhile those in suburban areas were most likely to report their indoor mobile coverage as ‘excellent’ (79%)[10].

Table one: Percentage of customers in different areas reporting ‘poor/partial/no’ reception

Where do you live? % reporting poor/partial/no indoor reception (2017) % reporting poor/partial/ no indoor reception (2016)
City centre / inner city 32% 41%
Urban area, but not inner city 26% 30%
Suburban area 21% 28%
Village or small town 33% 35%
Rural area 50% 52%

Source: uSwitch.com

 

Regionally, Bristolians suffer from the worst indoor mobile reception (39%), followed by those living in Cardiff (35%), Norwich (35%), Plymouth (33%) and Sheffield (33%) – three in 10 (30%) Londoners report poor or partial indoor mobile reception[4].

Across the big four providers, O2 customers are still most likely to report their coverage as ‘excellent’ (71%), while Three (68%) and EE (68%) are least likely – as shown in the table below:

Table two: Percentage of customers who rate their indoor mobile reception as ‘excellent’ or ‘poor/partial/no’ reception

Network % reporting ‘excellent’ indoor mobile reception % reporting poor/partial/no indoor mobile reception
EE 68% 32%
O2 71% 30%
Three 68% 32%
Vodafone 69% 31%

Source: uSwitch.com

Of those that suffer poor reception at home, 36% have to head to specific parts of their house to make calls, a third (32%) rely on landlines, and three in 10 (30%) connect to home WIFI to make use of apps like FaceTime, Whatsapp or Skype. Meanwhile, over a quarter (27%) have to go outside to make calls[11].

Outside of their homes, a quarter (73%) of UK mobile users report that they experience patchy or poor mobile service on a day-to-day basis – three in 10 (30%) suffer poor voice call reception on trains, while over a third (34%) have difficulties with their phone signal in public spaces[12].

Worryingly, nearly two thirds (64%) of mobile users didn’t check their current network’s coverage map before signing up to see if they could get indoor signal in their area – with nearly two in five (19%) unaware that they could even do this[6].

Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, says: “When it comes to indoor mobile coverage, we’ve seen a slight improvement over the last year. This is good news for the areas that have noticed a significantly lower incidence of intermittent or poor mobile reception in their own homes – notably mobile users in inner cities and suburban neighborhoods – but it’ll be of little consequence to those that are still suffering.

“The urban vs rural disparity is especially concerning. Mobile users living in the countryside are left feeling failed by providers that are yet to effectively extend their coverage outside of built-up areas. This discrepancy is starkly illustrated by this research which has seen negligible improvements made to indoor mobile service in rural areas over the last year. Whilst progress should be applauded and this prioritised focus on more densely populated areas is great for many consumers, it is of little consolation for those still living in mobile not-spots.

“Mobile users hoping to avoid poor signal and buy into the best service they can get should check coverage maps – which can be found online – for where they work, live and socialise before joining a new network. With many consumers not knowing such maps exist, it would make a great deal of sense to have this data available much earlier in the purchasing journey – such as at the point for comparison. This swift fix could prevent more consumers losing out by overlooking providers that could better serve their area.

“It’s possible that if your signal continues to go downhill that you may have a problem with your handset or SIM card – so check this out before moving networks. It’s also possible that new buildings or renovations could be interfering with your mobile phone signal.

“It’s worth letting your provider know immediately if you’re experiencing issues as it might be something that can be sorted out with a signal booster. Failing that, it might be worth looking at switching networks – but do make sure to keep a log of any call reception issues, and note the dates you contact your network to report them. This helps to build a watertight case to move provider mid-contract if needs be.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

 

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Notes to editors

 

uSwitch.com surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,002 nationally representative UK adults (aged 18+) from 15-18 September 2017. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria. 1945 respondents defined themselves as mobile users.

  1. Respondents were asked: ‘Thinking of your mobile call reception, what is it like in your home? Please think about indoors only, don’t count in the garden or on a balcony’. The net response for ‘excellent reception’ and ‘reception is excellent now but used to be poor’ was 71% and the net response for ‘poor/partial/no reception’ was 29%.
  2. Table three: level of call disruption
What % of the time do you experience the following when making or taking a mobile call indoors at home? % of UK mobile users currently experiencing this Average % of calls currently affected
Patchy call quality – voice cutting in & out 57% 19%
Calls suddenly cutting out 43% 16%
No reception at all 37% 12%
  1. See Table 1 above
  2. Respondents were asked: ‘Thinking of your mobile call reception, what is it like in your home? Please think about indoors only, don’t count in the garden or on a balcony’. The net response for ‘poor/partial/no reception’ was 39% in Bristol, 35% in Cardiff, 35% in Norwich, 33% in Plymouth, 33% in Sheffield, and 30% in London. Other UK regions available on request.
  3. See Table 2 above
  4. Respondents were asked: ‘Did you check your network’s coverage map before signing up to their service, to check you could get indoor signal in your area?’ – the net response for ‘no’ was 64%, and 19% said ‘no, I wasn’t aware you could do this’
  5. Source: Ofcom Connected Nations Report (2016)
  6. In a survey conducted online via Opinium from September 13th to 16th 2016, among 2,002 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+, respondents were asked: ‘Thinking of your mobile call reception, what is it like in your home? Please think about indoors only, don’t count in the garden or on a balcony’. The net response for ‘poor/partial/no reception’ was 34%.
  7. Respondents were asked: ‘How long has the problem of poor reception been going on for?’ 62% said ‘always, ever since I moved in’ and 18% said ‘since I moved to my current network’
  8. Respondents were asked: ‘Thinking of your mobile reception, what is it like in your home? Please think about indoors only, don’t count in the garden or on a balcony’ – the net response for those living in suburban areas for ‘reception is excellent’ or ‘reception is excellent now but used to be bad’ was 79%
  9. Respondents were asked: ‘How do you deal with the problem of poor mobile reception?’ The net response for ‘I make mobile calls in a specific area of my home where I can get reception’ was 36%, ‘I rely on a landline’ was 32%, ‘I connect to home Wi-Fi and make calls / send messages through an app like FaceTime, Whatsapp or Skype’ was 30%, and ‘I make mobile calls outside’ was 27%.
  10. Respondents were asked: ‘Thinking on a day-to-day basis, in which of the following scenarios have you experienced patchy or poor mobile service?’ The net response that have experienced these issues was 73%. The net response for ‘on the train’ was 30% and ‘public spaces’ was 34%.

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