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Ofcom coverage checker will help consumers pick the right mobile network

Thursday, August 13th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom has launched a new mobile coverage checker to help consumers check their operator’s network coverage.

The regulator’s online coverage map allows users to zoom to specific locations, or search by place name or postcode, to get data on coverage for each mobile network down to 100 square metres.

The map uses data provided by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to show where consumers can expect to find reliable coverage.

It also takes account of the increasing shift from handsets with external aerials to smartphones with internal aerials, which can sometimes be less effective at picking up a signal.

The map shows coverage inside and outside buildings as well as topographical information that allows users to identify areas where there are natural obstructions to coverage, such as hills and valleys.

Ofcom said helping to improve mobile coverage is a priority, and that the new map will help customers choose the best service for them while promoting competition between operators.

The regulator wants customers to leave feedback with their own coverage experience to help “refine and improve” the tool before a new version is launched later this year.

Steve Unger, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, said: “Access to reliable mobile phone coverage used to be a ‘nice to have’. Now it’s essential to many people’s lives.

'Comprehensive tool'

“We believe our map is the most comprehensive tool available to consumers and businesses to check mobile coverage. We’re encouraging people to feed back after using the map, so we can continue to improve its accuracy.”

Mobile customers have previously called for coverage maps to be made more accurate, to prevent consumers signing up to networks only then to find out they cannot get a signal.

Several customers told Cable.co.uk they switched networks partly based on signal they thought they would receive according to coverage maps, only to find they couldn’t get a signal where they live.

Network operators say the maps are only guides, but some customers have found it hard to exit contracts after discovering they have no signal.

As well as helping to improve coverage, Ofcom is also looking to make it easier for consumers to switch between mobile providers.

Launching a consultation last month, it said the current system can cause confusion, especially if customers want to keep their existing mobile number, and can discourage them from switching, meaning they are missing out on the best deals.

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