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19 July 20110 Comments by Jon M

Crowdsourcing mobile coverage maps in the UK

We’ve always provided comprehensive 2G and 3G mobile coverage comparisons for all the UK’s networks but there’s no independent way to know how accurate they are. We have to rely on the data the networks provide us and the coverage maps they produce. Because so many people rely on data-hungry smartphones these days, a strong 3G signal is essential for internet browsing. And with more and more people ditching their landlines, 2G coverage is important in even the remotest areas.

Most mobile phone users feel that the coverage maps the mobile networks publish are inaccurate and even O2‘s chief technology officer Nigel Purdy agrees that the current coverage checkers which rely on predictive modelling are not entirely accurate. Representatives from 3 also agree with Phil Sheppard, their director of network strategy saying “There is no common standard for measuring coverage and some operators tend to grossly exaggerate.” An Ofcom report also stated that “More information on coverage is required, and this should be in a standardised format enabling comparison between operator services … Whilst postcode-based checkers go some way to this, their accuracy is limited to the point at which they have limited value“.

As such, the BBC have taken it upon themselves to conduct a major survey into the true picture of mobile phone coverage in the UK. This ambitious project has been made possible by using the idea of crowdsourcing it. By collating data from thousands of smartphone users all over the UK, the BBC hope to be able to get a more accurate map of mobile signal strength across the country.

Helping out with the project is very simple. All you need is a smartphone running Android. Unfortunately iPhone users cannot join in as the mutitasking implementation is too poor and Blackberrys are too underpowered. But if you’re using Android, the app can be downloaded from the Android Market. Once it’s installed, it will collect data automatically in the background. The app is free, uses only small amounts of bandwidth and all your results are completely anonymised. You can also use the app to see what the coverage is like in a certain area. Don’t forget to compare it against our mobile coverage charts and maps.

Download the UK 3G Survey App now or read more about the project.

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