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EE calls for clearer reporting of mobile coverage claims

Wednesday, November 23rd 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

EE has called on mobile network operators to be clearer about where customers can expect to get a mobile signal.

The company said that from January 2017 it will report all coverage in geographic terms – as a percentage of the UK’s landmass.

Until now, operators have mostly used the term ‘population coverage’, which refers to the number of homes reached by a network.

But according to EE, this has caused confusion for customers.

A survey of 4,000 mobile users found that half of consumers, when told a mobile network has 99% population coverage, would expect to have a signal wherever they go in the UK.

The research also found that customers don’t know what coverage measurement to look for when choosing a mobile provider, despite rating network coverage as one of their main considerations.

EE chief executive Marc Allera said: “People think they will get mobile coverage absolutely everywhere, because as an industry we’ve talked about coverage with confusing population metrics, and language that sets the wrong expectations.

“Too often, the customer experience has been very different from the marketing. That has to stop.”

EE is asking its rivals stop using population coverage measurements in isolation and to publish regular updates on geographic coverage and data speed by county and by major roads.

“We’re asking our peers and the mobile industry to get ‘Clear on Coverage’,” said Mr Allera.

“All operators should publish clearer geographic coverage information, and we’re seeking support from Ofcom as the independent source of information on mobile coverage and quality.

A problem in rural areas

“We want to make it easier and clearer for consumers to know where they will and won’t get coverage, and which network is the right one for them.”

In 2016, EE has increased its geographic coverage from 50% to 75% and is working towards 95% coverage of the UK by 2020.

The operator’s 4G network now covers more areas than any UK 3G network.

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance said: “It is vital that mobile consumers are able to make an informed decision about which network has the potential to serve them best.

“I am glad that EE recognises that the lack of clear information for consumers has been a particular problem in rural areas.

“We believe that the move towards reporting all coverage in geographic terms by January 2017 is a step in the right direction and has the potential to offer significant benefits to rural consumers.

“The Countryside Alliance has long believed that the population-based approach to monitoring coverage has failed consumers in rural areas.”

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