Government-Funded Project Uses Twitter to Map Mobile ‘Not Spots’

A joint industry-academia project NoServiceHere is encouraging mobile users to tweet about their connectivity problems, with the aim of using geotagging to identify dead spots and focus the rollout of future mobile network.

The project—branded COCKPIT 5G or Crowd Blackspot Intelligence for 5G Rollout—is a collaboration between the University of Warwick and Ranplan, a network planning firm. It has received £210,000 from the UK Cabinet Office’s Geospatial Commission, with the objective of mapping and improving wireless services.

The project urges people to proactively tweet about connectivity issues they encounter, whether indoor or outdoor, and with all mobile carriers.

NoServiceHere is asking twitter to should register the location where the issue occurred by turning on their geo-location—by default it’s turned off for Twitter users—or tagging the site.

They should use the #NoServiceHere hashtag, or alternatively #NoSignalHere, so the tweets can be collated and mapped.

The project does acknowledge that if you’re struggling to connect to a mobile network you might not be able to tweet. The public is therefore encouraged to save their tweets or tweet later.

The project may face an uphill battle to convince some users to opt into geotagging on Twitter. Currently just 1% of all tweets are geotagged. Users must enable automatic location tagging—it’s under Privacy and Settings—and some may have privacy concerns about doing so.

Dr Sarunkorn Chotvijit, Research Fellow at the University of Warwick said that users could manually tag their locations instead.

Dr Chotvijit told ISPreview.co.uk: “Eventually, we want to make the UK a better connected UK. My intention is not to expose the users’ location or privacy, but to help leverage mobile provision and connectivity that lead to better user experience.”

The project hopes to identify the ‘not spots’ where users struggle to connect to a specific—or any—mobile network. Most of these mobile dead zones are in remote or rural areas.

The UK government has committed to extending mobile phone coverage to 95% of the UK’s landmass by 2022. But as of last December mobile voice signal was only available in 78% of the UK’s outdoor spaces, according to the most recent Ofcom data.

In 2017 the British Chamber of Commerce found that 70% of firms have encountered  in their area ‘not spots,’ areas which don’t have signal from any provider, or ‘partial not spots,’ with coverage from some but not all networks.

Ofcom has considered implementing a national roaming obligation, requiring the four network operators to allow customers to roam on each other networks’ for free in rural areas.

Lauren Smith
Written by Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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