The BBC have launched a survey to measure mobile coverage in the UK. Over the next month, they will be asking users to use a mobile phone app which will record the availability of both 2G and 3G services and they will then create a clickable map to show the data. The project is in collaboration with Epitiro who have developed the application for the android smart phone. It will measure signal strength only, and won't performing any testing of the connection.
"Coverage is the number one issue for consumers. Our coverage app will provide the information consumers need to see if 3G services are available and from which mobile operator. As mobile broadband is important to many of us, we hope people volunteer and make the project a success.Gavin Johns, (Chief Executive) Epitiro
One of the problems with mobile phone signals is that signal strength will drop when impeded by something. This is commonly seen by walls reducing the available signal, such that when in buildings, the signal strength is much lower. This is largely due to the frequencies which are used. At 2.1GHz for 3G, more signal is blocked by walls than the 900MHz used by some 2G networks. This means that users sometimes find that they can still access mobile networks when inside, but are often using the slower 2G GSM network.
A recent ruling has meant that networks which use these lower 900MHz frequencies (O2 and Vodafone) can now use it for 3G services, however this will only benefit customers on those networks. Next generation services such as LTE, which are frequently called 4G, will use spectrum in the 800MHz range and this will also be able to penetrate further into buildings, although it is estimated that these won't be available for use until 2013 or 2014 at the earliest.
Some network operators are calling for a standardised way to measure mobile coverage as some operators grossly exaggerate their expected coverage. This project by the BBC may help to name and shame those who are reporting coverage incorrectly, if they can be easily compared.