Ofcom’s report into the state of mobile coverage and information provided by networks has raised some interesting points. For the most part, it suggests that in general, using your blower wherever you are for basic tasks is a breeze.
But at the same time, the regulator also suggested that old-school 2G feature phones are better than 3G smartphones in rural areas when it comes to making calls and sending texts.
Ofcom took to the country lanes of Devon to check out how 3G phones worked when trying to complete more complex tasks. And the findings didn’t make great reading.
The report said: “3G coverage is much lower on the roads driven, likely reflecting the stage of network rollout in Devon at the time of the study.”
“In the more rural areas that the phones were tested, the feature/entry-level phones generally returned somewhat better performance than smartphones for call completion and call set-up.”
This in particular should be of great concern to the networks here in the UK, with recent research claiming that one in three adults on these shores use a smartphone.
As more consumers make the move to iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices, will carriers upgrade networks accordingly in order to ensure the best experience? It’s essential that they do. More importantly for existing users, is 3G up to scratch in the UK? On the face of it, yes.
But, as Ofcom says: “All the operators offer good coverage in the major conurbations - with service degrading with distance from the central areas.”
There’s undoubtedly a worrying gap between what people in major towns can get hold of, and what those who live in the back of beyond experience.
That’s slightly understandable in light of the fact that there are fewer masts for phones to use in rural areas. But it does mean that those who live, work and run businesses in quiet parts of the UK are left at a disadvantage.
Ofcom says that the use of coverage checkers is improving, with some networks now showing users just how good 3G is in their area before they stump up their cash and get locked into a long-term deal.
However, this approach is not universal and really should be. Are those networks that don’t have good rural 3G access afraid to lose customers?
Of course, consumers are well within their rights to return devices if they don’t connect in their area. But surely it should be mandatory to check coverage before selling phones and contracts to punters?
If not, then networks need to work doubly hard to make sure 3G is really getting towards 100 per cent, especially as 4G will soon be heading to the UK as well.