Vodafone has just announced that it’s rolling out a higher-capacity 14.4Mbps mobile broadband network in areas of the Uk which have the highest usage. Infrastructure has already been upgraded in busy areas of London, Birmingham and Liverpool. Well, fine, I guess. But that doesn’t solve the real problem with mobile networking in the UK: coverage. Even the home counties, a stone’s throw from London and home to millions of commuters, still suffer from appallingly patchy reception. All four of the major networks are to blame here.
Take a look at Vodafone’s own coverage map for west Kent. See those blue areas? That’s where you’ll get “standard voice and text services” (so no data coverage at all). In the light blue areas, you’ll be lucky to get a signal at all. I’m not speculating; I live there. Even where the map indicates 3G coverage, it isn’t reliable and often isn’t noticeably quicker than 2G. Vodafone claims it has made “significant improvements” to this coverage viewer, including a bells-and-whistles feature that offers an “indoor” and “outdoor” signal estimator. But if these improvements mean the map is now more accurate, that’s a pretty damning indictment of Vodafone’s network, isn’t it?
According to Vodafone, customers’ “average speeds vary” depending on the strength of the signal and the number of people using the same cell site. I’ll say: two people using Vodafone dongles in Boughton-under-Blean and you can forget tweeting, let alone sending and receiving emails with attachments.
It’s all very well offering the metropolises better speeds (Lord knows they need them – my BlackBerry service is with T-Mobile and I struggle to get 3G in central London sometimes), but it’s pointless if you can’t get a data signal in the first place.