Ofcom research shows rural mobile phone users are getting a raw deal

12th August 2014

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Mobile networks are letting a huge portion of the population down when it come to phone call quality says new research from the UK’s communications watchdog.

The regulator Ofcom, found that while overall levels of consumer satisfaction with mobile networks are high, at some 76%, this can vary significantly depending on location. In fact while some 78% of people in urban areas were content with their mobile network, only 67% were in rural areas and 70% in remote areas.

The report from Ofcom included research on mobile phone call quality from the consumers’ perspective, with data supplied by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone on the performance of their networks; and user research on satisfaction with mobile networks.

When Ofcom asked consumers about their experiences of mobile reception, more than half, at 55%, of people said they never or hardly ever had to put up with no mobile signal or reception but almost a third, at 30%, said they suffered such problems at least every week.

Ofcom said it is making progress on its plan to help improve mobile coverage in the UK and provide consumers with reliable information on mobile reception. EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have agreed to work with Ofcom to develop a common methodology for measuring the rates of calls successfully completed on their networks.

All four mobile providers are now meeting the obligations for 3G mobile, while mobile operators have indicated they intend to match O2’s 98% coverage obligation for 4G mobile. This will extend mobile broadband coverage into many areas still underserved by 3G.

Ofcom said: “Improving mobile quality of service for consumers is a priority area for Ofcom. Today’s research is part of a plan to help support initiatives to improve mobile coverage in the UK, and provide consumers with quality information on mobile reception.”

Commenting on the research, Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at comparison site uSwitch said: “In this day and age, we should all be able to get mobile reception, 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 underperforming networks and switch to one which works better for them. Only 67% living in a rural area say they’re satisfied with their mobile network, compared to 78% in urban areas – yet another example of those outside major conurbations missing out on basic, essential services.

“While it’s good to see that the majority living in cities are satisfied with their networks, this doesn’t help me if I’m in a field, in rural Wales, with a broken leg and unable to call for help. We can only hope that Ofcom uses this data to tell the underperforming networks to pull their socks up, and finally improve.”

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