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Smartphone users will be able to check their mobile network operator’s (MNO’s) network coverage in their neighbourhood using a free online tool cooked up by telecoms regulator Ofcom.
The Mobile Coverage Checker went online on 13 August 2015, offering a one-stop shop for consumers and businesses to assess the quality of the mobile coverage on all four of the UK’s national MNOs, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
Users can either enter their postcode or place name, or zoom to their preferred location on an interactive map, which is accurate down to 100m².
The map overlays data sourced from the networks themselves, and reveals the extent of voice and data coverage; coverage indoors or outdoors; and topographical information, which allows users to identify “natural obstructions to coverage”, also known as hills.
It also takes account of the shift from handsets with external aerials to smartphones with internal aerials, which can find it harder to pick up a signal.
Ofcom said consumers increasingly expected and demanded reliable mobile service, so helping to improve coverage and quality of service were by extension two of its biggest priorities.
It said the new map was first and foremost designed to help people choose the service that best suits their personal or business needs, but as a side-effect it will also improve competition among the MNOs by highlighting areas of weakness for each one.
The Mobile Coverage Checker tool can be accessed on Ofcom’s website. The regulator is asking for feedback to help improve the service, and will release version two before the end of 2015.
Ofcom CTO Steve Unger said: “Access to reliable mobile phone coverage used to be a ‘nice to have’. Now it’s essential to many people’s lives.
“We believe our map is the most comprehensive tool available to consumers and businesses to check mobile coverage. We’re encouraging people to give feedback after using the map, so we can continue to improve its accuracy.”