BBC using Android app to create mobile coverage map of UK

By Posted 18 Jul 2011, 16:18

We recently told you about a new broadband map of the UK put together by Ofcom. Until now there has been no independent mobile map available for 2G and 3G coverage of the country. Now the BBC is using an Android app to create mobile coverage map of the UK.

During the next month owners of Android handsets can download the UK 3G Survey application, and play a part in the survey. Once the app has been downloaded it will measure street level coverage across the country. According to an article on the BBC, an iPhone application is not currently available because of the difficulty getting Apple devices to gather information in the background while other apps are working.

You are advised to read all the terms and conditions of the application before proceeding with the download. The application has been designed by network analysis firm Epitiro, and will hopefully provide consumers information where 3G services are available and from which carrier.

Ofcom say there is currently more than 12 million smartphones in use in the country, and using many of the devices features a good internet connection is vital. Many users can experience bad mobile coverage which can be down to the time of day or if they are indoors.

The average mobile download speed in the UK is 1.5Mbit/s, but in good signal areas this can rise to 2.1Mbit/s. Phone regulator Ofcom has put coverage as a priority, and estimates that the UK has 76% 3G coverage, and 91% 2G coverage based on land mass. The regulator is currently conducting its own survey of UK mobile coverage and expects to publish the results later this year.

Postcode based coverage checkers are available but their accuracy is often questioned, and O2′s chief technology officer Nigel Purdy agrees with their sometimes inaccurate results. O2 and other UK operators do their own tests which include drive-bys to best plan where new stations should be put.

Network operator 3 want the way customers are informed about coverage changed, and feels some operators exaggerate coverage. The company owns a high frequency 3G spectrum but is not ideal for getting the signal though buildings for when people are indoors.

While the likes of AT&T and Verizon roll out 4G services in the US, consumers have to wait to at least 2012 for similar services to start becoming available in the UK. As carriers try to expand their coverage which most customer’s want, when a new mobile mast is put up in residential areas it is often met with people living nearby protesting about its position.

The survey is only going to measure coverage and not download speeds, if you want to take part head over to the Android Market. How is the mobile coverage in your area? Will you take part in the survey?