An Innovative SIM from the UK Company Offers Improved Coverage to Business Customers
Access to reliable voice coverage arguably remains the greatest problem for many mobile customers, despite the industry often appearing fixated on launching new services and technology.
However, it probably wasn’t until UK Prime Minister David Cameron encountered poor reception while on holiday in Cornwall in 2014 that the problem really started to generate headlines. Mobile coverage became a political issue in the run-up to the general election and, in February 2015, regulator Ofcom mandated a geographical requirement for UK operators to reach 90% voice coverage by 2017. Operators point to investment of millions of pounds each day in networks while also bringing new solutions — such as Wi-Fi calling — to market.
An innovative solution from UK telecoms provider 24 Seven aims to overcome the challenge of network “not-spots”. Its Jump service is unlike a conventional SIM in its ability to roam between providers: if the signal from default operator O2 drops out, for example, it searches for EE or Vodafone’s network as a back-up. A recent holiday to rural Wales felt like the perfect opportunity to put it to the test.
My overall experience was very positive. In built-up areas and on major roads, the network remained on O2. However, the SIM would sometimes switch to one of the other providers in more remote locations, like during visits to secluded beaches or tiny hamlets. I quickly became confident that I was able to receive the best possible coverage for calling and texting wherever I was.
This is vital to the many rural businesses that rely on near-ubiquitous connectivity, and Jump promotes itself as a premium service that’s predominantly aimed at the enterprise market. The company says its customers are mostly people in the construction or automotive industries who travel extensively, and lone workers like healthcare practitioners.
The operator shared some metrics with me on my experience using the SIM card in Wales, and the split between the networks my phone accessed for data sessions — such as updating apps and browsing the Web — was particularly interesting. It showed that I used the back-up networks of EE or Vodafone more than 10 percent of the time, having dropped out of reach on O2. This suggests that the solution had kept me within mobile network coverage for a fair while longer than if I’d relied on a SIM from a single operator.
Note: O2 roaming refers to cases in which the SIM roamed off and then back on to the default O2 network.
I was pleasantly surprised by the SIM’s effect on battery life. I’d been unsure whether changing networks would mean I’d be constantly reaching for my charger but, if anything, the reverse seemed to be true. Being more often connected meant that my device had to expend less power searching for the default network once I dropped out of the coverage area.
Jump’s one limitation is that the roaming SIM card doesn’t yet offer 4G, though the company assures me it’s in the pipeline. Several other UK mobile virtual network operators have been offering 4G for some time, so at first this feels like quite a significant omission. However, voice calling is the principal focus of Jump, and the company stresses that data-hungry consumers aren’t its primary target market. A 4G signal from any provider will be difficult to come by in areas with poor or sporadic coverage, so it might not be a huge motivating factor for existing clients anyway.
It’s not just residents in remote communities who can benefit from the service. I also enjoyed more reliable coverage in London, notably between tall buildings and when exiting the Underground. The service also provides access to back-up networks should an outage occur — a reassuring feature following a small number of high-profile cases in the past couple of years.
The solution seems quite niche overall, but I can certainly envisage a target market of business people requiring super-reliable voice connectivity. However, I’m less convinced about the opportunity in the consumer market — people can always carry around a second phone for emergencies, even if they lose the benefit of using a single number. But voice calling looks set to remain a critical topic as industry plots its path to 5G, the connected home and multiplay.
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