There has been a lot of activity on the rural notspot front in the UK with Ofcom calling upon mobile operators in the country to tackle the issue head on. However, a new research has shown that even in urban areas there are mobile blackspots with as many as 40 per cent of Brits affected.
The research comes in the form of a survey and subsequent study by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS), the mobile network testing company, wherein it was revealed that 40 per cent of Brits have some kind of mobile blackspot in their home itself.
The findings are part of a mammoth study of wireless connectivity in British homes for which GWS polled 2,000 UK adults and spent 6 weeks collecting and analysing data from inside London homes. The research found that almost 1 in 3 respondents (32 per cent) said that they ‘regularly’ have issues making and receiving mobile calls from home; the proportion of respondents that reported regularly experiencing mobile internet connectivity issues while at home was also 30 per cent.
According to the findings, homes built in the Georgian period are more likely to have mobile blackspots than homes from any other period of ‘modern’ British history. Further, Liverpool and Cardiff are the UK cities with the most home blackspot-afflicted residents.
The study also found that 25 per cent of the respondents said that mobile data connectivity issues had ‘definitely contributed’ to their decision to switch operators in the past – while more than 1 in 7 respondents said that voice calling blackspots had determined their decision to ditch and switch their mobile service provider.
For the study, GWS used advanced mobile network testing rigs to gather and analyse data from inside and outside more than 50 houses in London. These rigs allowed GWS to record the ‘layer 3’ network information which most accurately reflects consumers’ mobile experiences – and which is inaccessible to companies relying on ‘crowdsourced’ testing data.
35 per cent of the Londoners GWS surveyed for the consumer poll described above said that they had some kind of mobile blackspot in their home, and when carrying out its own testing in the capital GWS found that moving indoors had a noticeable effect on the reliability of certain UK voice networks.
1 in every 14 test calls GWS made using devices locked to the EE network failed inside houses, and EE and 3’s voice networks were the least reliable of those it tested. EE’s recent attempts to get more of its subscribers to use ‘voice-over-WiFi’ calling suggests that it may already be aware of the reliability issues revealed by GWS’ collection programme.
By way of contrast, O2’s voice network blocked less than 1% of calls during testing, while Vodafone’s blocked and dropped only 1 per cent of calls.
GWS’ testing programme suggests that all of the big 4 UK operators are having problems extending their 4G/LTE networks into British homes. Three had GWS covered with its 4G network for 78 per cent of the time it spent testing outside properties – but only 55 per cent of the time inside.
GWS was on 4G with EE almost 100 per cent of the time when testing outdoors – but only 85 per cent of the time when testing indoors.
O2 achieved the best in-home 4G penetration; GWS was on 4G with O2 for 90 per cent of the time it spent testing inside Londoners’ homes. Vodafone was the next best performer when it came to in-home 4G access – GWS was on 4G with Vodafone for 87 per cent of the time it spent testing inside properties.
GWS’ research suggests that the difficulties operators are experiencing (when it comes to extending 4G networks into dwellings) are having a knock-on effect on the in-home mobile data speeds Brits enjoy. GWS found that uploading the equivalent of a 2MB picture took an average of 3.9 seconds outside London homes, and 5.6 seconds inside them; similarly, uploading the equivalent of a 4MB picture took an average of 7.5 seconds outdoors and 11.3 seconds indoors. Downloading the equivalent of a 4MB song took an average of 6.4 seconds outside London homes and 7.2 seconds inside them.
EE’s mobile data network delivered the fastest average throughputs during GWS’ in-home testing programme, but the data collected by GWS suggests that the mobile data services provided by O2, Vodafone, and 3 have now also improved to the point where EE’s speed advantage is unlikely to make a difference to subscribers’ actual mobile internet experiences.
2 in 3 of the blackspot-afflicted respondents who took part in GWS’ nationwide poll said that they had a mobile calling and/or data problem in their kitchen, and the data GWS collected during its research programme supports the notion that British kitchens are especially likely to ‘play host’ to mobile blackspots.
Average operator voice reliability was at its worst in the kitchen – roughly 95 per cent (with EE’s voice network proving less than 90 per cent reliable). In addition, more calls failed to initialise in the kitchen than in any of the other room ‘types’ GWS tested.
In addition, GWS’ tests also found that the kitchen had both the lowest operator 4G penetration (only 74 per cent, on average) and was the worst room for packet data reliability, suggesting that parents interested in spending some quality time with their kids should insist on holding family meals in their kitchens rather than their living or dining rooms.