Broadcaster to map UK mobile coverage

The UK’s public service broadcasting organisation, the BBC, has announced that it is to create an independent mobile coverage map of the UK, working in partnership with network analyst firm Epitiro. The broadcaster has developed an Android app in conjunction with Epitiro that, when downloaded by consumers, will feedback data on the availability and strength of signal at different locations throughout the UK.

Earlier this year, UK regulator Ofcom released the results of another study conducted with Epitiro, into the network speeds enjoyed by users of mobile broadband dongles and embedded laptops. That survey found that the average speed of service in the UK was 1.5Mbps.

In that study a sample of users signed up to participate, giving a stable base for the data. Epitiro also used static test equipment to mimic laptops.

In this latest investigation, however, Epitiro and the BBC cannot install the software themselves on user devices and are dependent on consumers being motivated to download the application off their own bat. In their favour is the fact that mobile coverage remains an issue in the UK, with Ofcom estimating that 3G services are only available to 76 per cent of the population. The availability of a signal can vary wildly even in the urban environments of the market’s major cities.

The use of a smartphone app is an interesting experiment into crowd-sourcing, with the BBC citing Ofcom’s assessment that there are some 12 million smartphones in use in the UK. Analysts have suggested that as many as half of these could be Apple iPhones, although if only ten per cent of Android users—effectively the remainder of smartphone users—in the UK sign up to the trial, the test base would be substantial.

The BBC and Epitiro have said that all data will be anonymised and no personal data will be stored. Ofcom’s own research into mobile coverage and performance in the UK will be published later this year.

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