How to check mobile broadband coverage in your area
Mobile broadband is becoming an essential part of life for more and more of use every day, whether it be for business or just for keeping online and in touch while out and about. However, some providers’ networks may have better reception where you live or work than others, so it’s crucial that you check mobile broadband coverage before you buy.
You can check mobile broadband coverage in your area for each of the UK’s top providers with the links below to. You might also like to check the postcode of other places that you may regularly want to access mobile broadband, such as your workplace.
Click on a provider logo to check mobile broadband coverageCompare the best mobile broadband deals in your area
About the UK’s mobile broadband providers
3 is a Third Generation, or 3G, operator with a network that covers more than 97% off the UK population. If you're in a 3 network areas you can browse the web faster than you could if you were using a “Second Generation” provider. The downside of this is that if you’re in an area without 3G coverage you won’t be able to access the web at all.
O2 operates a 3G network that covers over 84% of the UK population, and a very well established 2G network. O2 coverage is excellent in many areas, and in an independent study they provided the fastest downloads in 16 out of the 20 cities tested. O2 is undertaking trials of the next generation of mobile broadband technology, 4G, in London.
Orange operates a 3G network that delivers Third Generation mobile broadband and phone services to 93% of the UK’s population. Orange also operates the UK’s largest 2/2.5G network –– so you can still continue to use Orange mobile broadband without interruption, even if you leave a 3G area, although the rate of data transfer is likely to drop.
T-Mobile already has one of the most extensive mobile networks in the UK, and they’re working closely with their “Everything Everywhere” brand partner Orange to increase coverage further to an estimate 99.5% of UK residents by the end of 2015. T-Mobile is investing in new transmission equipment at the rate of more than £1million a day including the installation of 2G, 3G and indoor coverage solutions. T-mobile’s coverage programme is also expected to allow for an easier transition to 4G technology, once that becomes available following on-going trials in Cornwall.
Virgin is a “virtual network” operator, who uses the infrastructure owned and maintained by T-Mobile to deliver mobile broadband services. As such Virgin mobile broadband customers can enjoy about the same level of coverage as T-Mobile customers. Since late 2011 Virgin Mobile’s customers have benefited from automatic roaming onto the Orange network if that has a stronger signal in the area.
Vodafone claims to have “consistently the UK’s best network” for mobile broadband and they’ve been building, maintaining and upgrading their network for more than 25 years. It is Vodafone’s aim to ensure increased coverage inside buildings as well as outside and their network rollout plans are intended to support this. Vodafone markets a unique device called Sure Signal which connects to your fixed line broadband to create an instant 3G mobile broadband and phone hotspot for your home or small office if you happen to be in an area with below average signal strength.
If you live or work in an area with poor mobile broadband coverage there are a few things you can try to increase the strength of your signal.
Use a USB extension lead
USB mobile broadband dongles act just like radio aerials. If you’re accessing mobile broadband in this way and your signal isn’t quite strong enough you should try connecting the dongle via a standard USB extension lead. This will increase the ability of the dongle to receive the broadband signal, and it will enable you to reposition the dongle in whichever way gives you the strongest signal without having to move your computer.
Try by a window, or move upstairs
If you’re finding it difficult to get online in your home then this may be down to the signal being blocked by the thick walls. A simple fix for this is to move closer to a window, or to work upstairs where the walls of your house are often thinner. The increased altitude will often aid a stronger signal too.
Use a premium dongle
Many providers will give you the option to upgrade from a standard to a premium dongle. These devices are designed to provide a better and more reliable mobile broadband connection, and investing in one may well prove to be all you need to fix many of your connection problems.
Use a mobile Wi-Fi pointer
If the mobile broadband signal is stronger upstairs but you’d much rather work downstairs then a mobile Wi-Fi device such as the MiFi may be the ideal solution. These devices create a localised “bubble” of wireless internet access that covers several metres, so place one wherever the signal is strongest in your house and then work wherever you like within the “bubble”. An upstairs windowsill or just inside the loft may be the best place to put your mobile WI-Fi pointer, but experiment in various places around your home to get the best results.
Physical obstructions such as trees or parked vehicles can severely impair the strength of your mobile broadband signal. Try moving to a different room if you’re indoors, or try moving a few metres if you’re outside, and you may find that the strength of your signal increases.
Get closer to the transmitter
The closer you are to the transmitter the stronger your mobile broadband signal will be. So, whenever possible, try moving as close to the transmitter as you can. For example, if you’re trying to access mobile broadband in a hotel you may find that you’ll get better reception in your room than in the restaurant if that’s closer to the base station, so try moving.
Check your power levels
Accessing mobile broadband can use a lot of power so if your signal is faltering it may be down to the level of charge in your device. If you’re using a mobile Wi-Fi pointer or your mobile phone try connecting it to the mains, or if you’re using a 3G device with an in-built mobile broadband SIM make sure the battery is fully charged.
Turn your device off and on again
One of the best things to try is a hard restart of your device as this will help to balance out any issues with power consumption. Turn your laptop or tablet off and wait a few seconds before turning it on again. Also do the same with your mobile Wi-Fi device if you’re using one, or disconnect and reconnect your dongle. Trying all of these steps can resolve a lot of connection and signal problems.
Try a hotspot
Many mobile broadband packages will come with inclusive wireless hotspot usage so if none of the above remedies resolve your connection problems you can always visit one of those. There are literally millions of UK Wi-Fi hotspots in famous fast food restaurants, supermarkets and shopping centres so if all else fails take your laptop and dongle to your nearest public hotspot.
When you sign up for a mobile broadband contract you’ll usually be given a two-week “cooling off” period in which you can cancel your subscription without incurring any fines. So if you’ve been with your chosen provider for less than a fortnight and you’re dissatisfied with the service you’re receiving give them a call and let them know. If they’re unable to offer any concrete solutions to your connection troubles then simply ask that your contract be terminated, but be aware that they may be entitled to charge you for any data you’ve already used. You should then use the links above to check the coverage of other providers in your area.Compare the best mobile broadband deals in your area
Use our handy package comparison tool to compare mobile broadband packages side-by-side.
Why do we need your postcode?
Once you enter your postcode, Cable.co.uk will perform a live lookup and check all the available providers in your area.
This ensures you receive accurate information on the availability of providers and packages in your area.
Your information is safe with us. We won't share your postcode with anyone. Guaranteed.