A third of people in the British countryside are unhappy with their mobile phone service. New research shows that rural and remote areas of the UK are under-served by mobile phone signal, let alone 4G, with Vodafone the worst network for call quality.
UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom compiled the data from surveys of phone users and data supplied by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone on the performance of their networks. The results show that overall 76 percent of phone owners are happy with their network's call quality, but results vary depending where you live.
Three quarters of those surveyed in urban areas are happy with their call quality. But in rural areas only two thirds of phone owners are satisfied.
30 percent of those surveyed said they had problems with blocked or dropped calls at least once a week.
"In this day and age, we should all be able to get mobile reception," says industry observer Ernest Doku of uSwitch.com, "whether we're in the heart of the city or out in the sticks. Ofcom's data reveals that simply isn't a reality yet, but it does arm consumers with the information they need to walk away from under-performing networks and switch to one which works better for them.
"While it's good to see that the majority living in cities are satisfied with their networks, that doesn't help me if I'm in a field in rural Wales with a broken leg and unable to call for help."
As for which networks do well, data from RootMetrics shows that all networks connect nine out of ten phone calls, if not more. EE does best, successfully connecting 97 percent of calls, while Vodafone is the worst of the major networks, connecting 92 percent of calls.
EE welcomed the report, particularly with reference to the network's performance in rural areas. "It's great to see our ongoing investment in phone calls reflected in Ofcom's report," says EE. "We're investing hundreds of millions each year in expanding the reach of our network so that more people can make phone calls in more places."
EE was the first 4G network in the UK, but the other networks have now launched their own next-generation networks. In theory, the lower frequencies of 4G will connect a wider area, giving rural parts of the country access to mobile data and even providing broadband over the air instead of via fixed lines. This latest research shows that next-gen technology is all very well but it would be nice if existing technology did its job.
"Politicians are already talking about 5G," points out Ernest Doku, "and meanwhile one in three Brits are experiencing mobile signal blackspots at least weekly. We can only hope that Ofcom uses this data to tell the under-performing networks to pull their socks up and finally improve."