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uSwitch warns 5G won’t cover 4G’s inadequacies

Comparison website uSwitch.com has put somewhat of a dampener on 5G festivities with a warning that the 4G journey has not been completed just yet.

With three of the four MNOs up-and-running in the 5G world, attention has been drawn away from 4G networks. This is where uSwitch is finding frustration, as it points to the fact 5G connectivity at scale is still a long-off ambition and millions will continue to rely on the success of 4G networks for years to come.

“With so many of us completely reliant on our smartphones these days for our news, work, shopping and social media updates, there is little more frustrating than being unable to connect to phone services which we pay for,” said Ernest Doku of uSwitch.com.

“Ofcom reports that 66% of the UK has 4G coverage from all major provider, but more than 23 million people are still facing difficulties connecting to their networks. This can sometimes be blamed on network congestion at busy times, but often the capacity simply isn’t there for the numbers of people wanting to access a service they have paid for.”

According to research from uSwitch, 17.1 million people or 33% of adult smartphone users have trouble connecting to 4G at least once a week. 5 million suggest they struggle to connect to their devices each day, while another 5 million are frustrated by connectivity on public transport.

4G Availability
London 84.4%
Yorkshire and Humber 83%
North East 82.5%
North West 82.1%
Northern Ireland 82%
West Midlands 81%
East Midlands 78.7%
South East 78.3%
Eastern 78%
Scotland 77.2%
Wales 75.9%
South West 75.4%

Source: Opensignal – data collection, Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2018

The figures do seem to vary quite significantly across the UK, though recent research from Opensignal suggests that numerous large cities are falling considerably short of 100% 4G coverage. London, often seen as the hub of connectivity and innovation in the UK, only has 84% 4G coverage across the city, while Wales and Scotland lag behind the rest of the country in 4G availability, at 76% and 77% respectively.

It might an impossible dream to secure 100% 4G availability, all the time, though it does raise questions. Are the telcos paying enough attention to 4G connectivity?

What is worth noting is that there are initiatives underway to ensure 4G is given the attention it demands. Three recently announced it was upgrading 6,000 cell sites to pave the way for the introduction of new 1400 MHz spectrum, while it is also re-farming 3G airwaves. Both of these initiatives should enhance the 4G experience for customers.

Although it might be a bit of a negative statement from uSwitch.com, the team is absolutely correct. Migration to 5G will not happen overnight and it will take years for networks to be deployed. 4G and 5G will run alongside for years to come, especially when you consider the price accessibility of 5G-compatiable devices.

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