Earlier today, we covered the National Infrastructure Commission’s report on the state of 4G coverage in the UK in which the Commission said that Britain ranks 54th in the world for 4G coverage and that there are too many digital deserts and partial not spots in the country, even within city centres.
RootMetrics, who conduct regular mobile coverage tests in the UK and declares the best and the worst networks based on its results, today said that the National Infrastructure Commission’s data on 4G coverage is unreliable since it is based on crowd-only collected data which may contain certain biases.
UK 4G coverage full of digital deserts and notspots, says National Infrastructure Commission
“While we welcome the National Infrastructure Commission’s focus on improving mobile performance for users in the UK, we don’t believe the report is accurate as it is defining coverage as availability, when these are two separate things and paints inaccurate picture of coverage in the UK. There is also the issue of the crowd-only collected data the report is based upon, which can include uncontrollable biases but, due to this and statistical uncertainty, it should not be used to understand coverage and build a national picture of mobile performance,"said Scott Stonham, General Manager of Europe at RootMetrics.
“In order to provide an accurate assessment of what performance users can expect, the results must be gathered from rigorous, independent and scientific collection and interpretation of fit for purpose data. Without this, users and operators will not have a true picture of everyday usage conditions around the country,” he added.
RootMetrics had earlier stated that Ofcom shared their assessment on the National Infrastructure Commission’s data on 4G coverage, but later stated that Ofcom didn't question reliability of the data but wanted to clarify that the number wasn't about coverage but time on network.
Incidentally, RootMetrics' own test results have been called into question in the past by Vodafone who claimed that RootMetrics didn't carry out the testing as per standard industry practices and that some of its data was six months old. "We’d love to give a fully detailed response, but believe the way Root Metrics carried out its testing does not appear to follow standard industry practices or is fully impartial, while it also incorporates data some of which may well be over six months old," Vodafone claimed back in 2014. The network further alleged that RootMetrics' results were skewed in favour of networks who purchased their data after competion of the tests. Vodafone finished last in almost all parameters, including network reliability, in RootMetrics test before it made the claim.
Three responds to EE's 'Come clean on coverage' with 'MakeTheAirFair'
UK network Three has agreed with the National Infrastructure Commission’s data on poor network coverage and has reiterated that the cause for it is the 'historic imbalance in mobile airwaves.' “One of the main causes of the UK’s poor 4G coverage has been the historic imbalance in mobile airwaves. Ofcom’s proposed spectrum auction rules will only make the situation worse by allowing that imbalance to continue beyond the next auction. We’ll face the same issues with the rollout of 5G with consumers and businesses suffering as a result,” said a Three spokesperson.
Three, along with some other networks, has highlighted the fact that there should be more competition in the UK mobile space which will in turn encourage better customer service, lower prices and more choices to customers. The next batch of mobile spectrum auction is about to commence, and the consortium wants mobile phone users to petition to Sharon White, CEO at Ofcom, to ensure that no mobile network can own any more than 30% of UK's mobile airwaves.
Given how important access to the internet has become in our daily lives, the National Infrastructure Commission’s data on poor network coverage comes as an eye-opener, especially because we are told about increasing speeds by networks, but not much about coverage in roads, railways and rural areas.
"Alongside gas, electricity and water, data and connectivity are now more a need more than want. While it is easy to pick holes in the Government's report, it is also a sobering reminder of just how much the 4G network in the UK needs fixing. If in central London, during a 15-minute journey, signal on my phone can go from 4G to 3G to Edge, then you can draw your own conclusions on what it is like in rural areas," said Sunetra Chakravarti, Editor at Mobile Choice.
"Whatever it is that the government decides to do next, it will have to be a joint effort including all the players: councillors, networks, manufacturers and local government," she added.