Three UK networks have already launched next generation 5G networks, but millions of us are contending with spotty 4G, a new analysis of Ofcom data has revealed.
Which? magazine has examined data from the telecoms regulator and can reveal that in eight in 10 UK constituencies, 4G coverage is not available from all four providers across the full constituency.
Both rural and urban areas are affected. The worst affected areas were Clwyd West in Wales, Barrow and Furness in Cumbria, Ribble Valley in Lancashire, and Scarborough and Whitby in North Yorkshire. In each, less than 60% of the constituency was covered by 4G from all four operators.
The urban constituencies with the worst 4G coverage were Rochford and Southend East in Essex, South West Devon, and Romsey and Southampton North in Hampshire, all of which had less than 80% area coverage from all four networks.
The devolved nations had the spottiest coverage. In Northern Ireland, not a single constituency can boast full coverage, while Wales has just one—Cardiff Central—which did. In Scotland, only the urban constituencies of Aberdeen North, Glasgow North West and Glasgow South West enjoy 100% 4G coverage from all networks.
Across the UK geographic 4G coverage from all operators stands at just 67%. In 8% of areas, no 4G network can be accessed at all.
The government has committed to extending full 4G coverage to 95% of the country by 2022 and is consulting with mobile networks about how to increase connectivity in these 4G black spots.
One proposal is to create a shared rural network, with operators collaborating to offer service in poorly served areas and users ‘roaming’ on the network for no additional charge.
Which? has raised concerns that the 2022 deadline will be missed, stranding millions without decent 4G coverage, even while 5G services surge ahead in some cities.
Caroline Normand, director of advocacy at Which?, said: “Millions of people are finding it difficult to get a reliable mobile connection and risk missing out on digital services we increasingly rely on – such as online banking, maps and NHS information – while some even struggle to receive important calls and messages.”
“To tackle this unacceptable and widening digital divide, the government must act now to connect the UK with truly comprehensive mobile and broadband by swiftly putting in place a plan to give communities the infrastructure they need.”