Vodafone pounds the pavement to test signal strength

Vodafone has taken to the streets to reveal how it tests phone signal in hard-to-reach places.

Vodafone has taken to the streets to reveal how it tests phone signal in hard-to-reach places. From shopping centres to offices, pedestrian testers are roaming Britain equipped with special phones that automatically call, text and surf the web -- all in the interest of maintaining those crucial signal bars.

James Watt is one of Vodafone's network of pedestrian testers, roving smart phone-toting ramblers testing signal strength in the areas where signal-sensing vehicles can't reach. Replicating the experience of a typical Vodafone customer, Watt and his fellow testers roam stations, shopping centres, sports stadiums, airports and offices.

Neatly tucked away in a tester's backpack are five specially modified identical smart phones running apps that test signal strength, call quality and mobile data. The phones are constantly making and receiving phone calls, downloading web pages, uploading files and sending emails.

While the phones automatically log data to Vodafone's servers, the pedestrian tester charts his day in a notebook, before consulting detailed maps numbering the set places that need to be monitored.

James Watt walks up to 8 miles across London in a day -- enough rambling to knock off more than a stone in his six months on the job. And he's not alone: six teams of pedestrian testers are out pounding the pavements of 24 other towns and cities every day, covering as many as 115 locations a month.

How's the signal round your way? Are there any inexplicable bar black holes in your town or your home? Signal your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.


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