Finding the Not-Spots

BBC Uses Crowdsourcing to Map the UK's Signal Coverage

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones appeared on TV yesterday morning to promote an initiative to measure 3G network coverage across the UK. He unveiled an application for Android phones that continuously records signal strength and sends the results back to its developer, Epitiro. The BBC and Epitiro hope to use the findings to produce a postcode-level map of mobile coverage in the UK.

Mobile network operators are already obliged to provide the UK regulator, Ofcom, with details of signal coverage and strength. But they're not keen to divulge this information, as it might identify weak spots in their infrastructure and help competitors. Their own coverage maps sometimes don't reflect what to expect in a given village or street. Ofcom has a poor track record of publishing detailed data, though this appears to be changing. In 2010 it commissioned Epitiro to measure mobile broadband speeds in the UK, and the BBC's survey can been seen as an extension of this work.

I do wonder what's prompted the BBC to get involved. The broadcaster is a major provider of digital content — its iPlayer TV catch-up service accounts for a significant proportion of Internet traffic in the UK — but it has little control over this distribution medium. It holds spectrum licences for broadcast frequencies, and it's part of a consortium looking at the use of "white space" spectrum for mobile networks. But currently the BBC's at the mercy of Internet service providers and telecom companies when it comes to distribution of its content over the Internet. Indeed, it's come under fire for using Internet infrastructure without contributing to its upkeep. Critics claim that iPlayer can clog up a network to the detriment of other users. As more and more Internet traffic shifts to bandwidth-constrained mobile networks, the arguments can only get more heated.

Perhaps the survey will find, among other things, that the problem isn't simply one of bandwidth. Of course, signal strength and bandwidth are related functions in the complex calculations of network coverage, but if your local base-station isn't providing a 3G signal, the amount of bandwidth you need for streaming video becomes largely irrelevant.

I'm looking forward to the results of the survey. It may reveal some uncomfortable truths about 3G coverage in the UK, and even push some providers to speed up plans to improve their networks.

This entry was posted on July 19th, 2011 and is filed under Services. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Posted By Robert Caunt On July 19th, 2011

(There are no comments yet)
Leave a Comment

Hot News

Team Tweets

CCS Insight
AT&T-Time Warner deal will require a long regulatory approval process, but the industry is bracing itself for change
Follow CCS Insight
Shaun Collins
RT @benwood: Frank apology about Note 7 from @SamsungMobile Euro President: “we are truly sorry that we have not met the high standards tha…
Follow Shaun
Ben Wood
Impressive stuff from HTC Vive.
Follow Ben
Martin Garner
@telefonica launches new unit, @Luca, brings all big data corporate client activities together: Key strategic move.
Follow Martin
Geoff Blaber
RT @richardlai: Yeah, this shop in Hong Kong is still selling Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at a "special price." I didn't dare to ask how much. ht…
Follow Geoff
Nicholas McQuire
"Software is redefining B2B telecoms." Solid pitch from @jclopezvives on what that means for @Telefonica, customers…
Follow Nicholas
Paolo Pescatore
@RobinTozer replied to your email :-)
Follow Paolo
Marina Koytcheva
@hsorrell Sorry only saw your message this morning at 9.
Follow Marina
Kester Mann
Europe won’t lead in 5G, but that’s not necessarily a negative for the region. Our latest Hotline reviews Europe's…
Follow Kester
George Jijiashvili
Nixon watch storefront in London promoting its Android Wear smartwatch #wearables
Follow George
Katie Taylor
Anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve symptoms of depression
Follow Katie

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post
Curb Your Enthusiasm Deal between AT&T and Time Warner Is a Long-Term Play T... Read more
Blog Post
The Heart of the Conscious Camera Qualcomm's Reference Design Enables Deep-Learning Video Came... Read more
Blog Post
LeEco Braves the Ultimate Test Chinese Firm Enters the US Smartphone Market without Carrier... Read more
More blog

Latest Company News

Blog Post
The Mobile Phone Market Has Peaked   Shipments hit a plateau of about 2 billion units a year ... Read more
More news