A few weeks ago Ofcom published maps for all five UK Operators coverage of the UK with a 3G Signal. At the time I thought that the maps were interesting but suspected that they were overstating the situation.
With the change of handset and the fact that this Summer England are playing an interesting cricket competition I have been more concerned that usual about coverage.
I have chosen to trial the Sky Sports service on my Orange Handset. In order to be able to watch mobile TV I have to be able to get a 3G signal. If all I relied on was Orange I'd have thought that England played well in Leeds last week as all that I saw was the first three overs on Friday and 15 minutes of Broad and Swan hitting the ball to all corners. The other attempts to watch whilst I was out and about were all failures because I didn't have coverage. The issue was that I was not at home where I know Orange has coverage issues but rather I was in Central London, Oxford and around the M1. The other issue is that Ofcom says that Orange has the widest coverage.
With my T-Mobile handset I find that the traffic management is an issue in the daytime the push email on my handset does not function and email is downloaded in blocks however between 20:00 and 07:00 it does work. So just what is happening to the T-Mobile Network if it is drifting in and out?
I have "free" mobile broadband from BT which uses the Vodafone network and I have to say that on my commute into London they seem to be the only people capable of providing coverage along the Metline all the way out to Hertfordshire. The dongle also seems to function well in places where I cannot find wifi. In terms of mobile broadband Vodafone is not only faster than 3 but also has a greater footprint.
Why is this an issue?
Well in an effort to get UK working better we want to use Mobile to provide coverage to those that chose to live in a rural setting that is not covered by ADSL or Fiber-optic networks in order to give speeds of 2 Meg/Second. If those inside Government are to believe the regulator or networks that they offer British Telecom a get out clause we are in for a shock.
I don't blame the Networks completely for the failure of their coverage. Some of the blame has to be accepted by NIMBY local Governments who refuse planning for new base stations. My Lib Dem controlled council as a matter of course refuse all applications and so appeals are need to grant them. The fact that we have an over supply which has seen prices collapse makes it difficult to justify the return on investment needed to cover all of the UK. However the auctions required commitment to cover the UK with a suitable service. Today that service can be seen as a hybrid network that offers a basic connection and at times a high speed one. The regulator needs to raise the speed of the basic connection.
Without a suitable network how can a provider expect me to pay for a service. Given what I have experienced over the first week of testing mobile TV I don not expect to keep it after the free period is over. In order to attempt to use my handset as a mini-computer I have to use the wifi radio. In doing so I consume power too fast for my phone to operate all day. If I am using wifi I am not mobile but rather wireless and so might as well use my iPod Touch if all I need is small screen access or my Laptop if I want a bigger view.