Earlier this week, Ofcom published its research on mobile not-spots, concluding that in general the mobile covergae information provided by the mobile networks was reasonably accurate for outdoor use. The research focussed primarily on voice, rather than data issues.
As part of the research, Ofcom conducted a study of mobile signal strengh in Devon looking at how accurate the data provided by operators was, as well as how the signal strength was affected by the equipment used.
One of the issues identified by Ofcom is that most operators provided both indoor and outdoor coverage estimates, whilst T-Mobile and Orange currently only showed outdoor coverage. Overall, outdoor estimated by all providers were reasonably accurate, and estimates by mobile operators were conservative on 2G networks, necessary to make voice calls, send text messages and very limited Internet use. 3G coverage, needed to make the most of your smartphone features, was much more variable.
The research also found that in some of the most rural areas, entry-level phones (i.e. not smartphones) were somewhat better in terms of making calls. It noted this may be due to the reduced complexity of switching between 2G and 3G networks.
It also praised mobile phone operators for offering return policies that allowed users to return equipment and terminate contracts if the estimated coverage didn't match expectations after taking out a mobile phone contract.
The BBC is undertaking a crowdsourcing experiment to try and map mobile coverage. If you are using an Android phone, you can take part.