April 23, 2011

Mobile Phone Coverage Issues

After a long absence from the UK in the past month I've made 2 trips back there. During my stay all my phones were used heavily and I encountered some very frustrating coverage situations.

Maybe I've become spoilt becuase mobile phone coverage in Singapore is generally very good along with fast and widespread 3G network however this isn’t the case in all local countries and in my 2nd home (KL) I find that Celcom’s 3G coverage is patchy and the speed is often slow.

Now I should explain that my telco in Singapore provides an add on which allows unlimited BlackBerry roaming in selected countries and networks which means that I’m a little constrained to which network I can use when I’m travelling.

During recent trips to Jakarta I found that 3G on the XL network was slow with poor coverage in contrast to Bangkok where DTAC’s 3G coverage was both widespread and fast much to my surprise.

On my travels I use both my BlackBerry as well as a Samsung Chat 322 which is a basic dual SIM phone. By having this hardware combo it allows me to gain a good appreciation of how good or bad each network is at any given time.

When roaming in the UK my network usage is as follow: BlackBerry uses Vodafone, my Malaysian (Maxis) SIM uses whichever network it can find and I also have a UK T-mobile SIM. In addition to these most of my family are using O2 so when we are out together we have most of the networks covered.

My experience of the UK networks has been very disappointing for example Banbury town centre seeming to have so many network coverage issues it means that I often had to move around or stand outside shops to get either a good signal or obtain a 3G coverage. The family home is located on the edge of a small village and in the 16+ years that I’ve been using the T-Mobile network, coverage is still only reliable upstairs yet other networks operate OK here.

One afternoon I took a short train ride from Banbury to Oxford and tried to make several calls without much success. From watching the coverage indicators on the phones all the networks provided very different levels of service. During this short journey there were several long periods with no coverage but interestingly enough at all times at least one network had good reception.

When I’m visiting some of the cities in Asia and experience coverage issues it’s easy to blame the infrastructure and comment that the country is not as developed as the ‘west’. In some locations within SE Asia to improve coverage and reduce costs the networks allow each other to share their infrastructure and from personal experience the coverage has got better once this is implemented.

The UK is not a big place and apart from some very remote areas you don’t have to go too far to find civilisation so why considering the 20 or so years that mobiles phones have been widely used in the UK are there still major coverage issues in many locations?

A message to the UK service providers – its 2011, mobile phone use is widespread and many people don’t have a fixed line at home. Your call charges are generally high and the poor coverage is an unsatisfactory and unacceptable situation so please address this.

The UK networks must to increase their coverage investment or be forced to open their networks to the benefit of the consumer by Ofcom.

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