Ofcom launches mobile coverage checker tool

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a free online tool designed to help people check the quality operator coverage in their area.

The tool uses data provided by the operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – and superimposes it onto a searchable map. It’s being positioned as a work in progress, with users encouraged to offer feedback and a new version to be launched in the Autumn. The reason for offering this tool seems to be to help people pick the best network for their area and generally empower the UK mobile consumer.

The tool allows you to search for voice, 3G and 4G coverage and indicates green for good coverage, yellow for variable and red for no coverage. It also allows searching for indoor and outdoor coverage and uses Ofcom’s own research into the signal strength needed to provide a good consumer experience.

“Access to reliable mobile phone coverage used to be a ‘nice to have’, now it’s essential to many people’s lives, Steve Unger, Ofcom’s CTO. “We believe our map is the most comprehensive tool available to consumers and businesses to check mobile coverage. We’re encouraging people to feed back after using the map, so we can continue to improve its accuracy.”

Ofcom reckons that a signal level of at least -86dBm is needed to provide good 2G voice call coverage, which is higher than the -93dBm used by mobile operators. Furthermore Ofcom raises that threshold further to -81dBm for smartphones, presumably due to the antenna being more buried inside the body of the device.

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