Ofcom Slams O2 3G Coverage

Paints a surprising picture of the five major UK telco's 3G networks.

O2 may have rights to the iPhone, Palm Pre and Samsung I7500 Galaxy but what good are they when it appears the telco doesn’t have the network to do them justice?

That’s the controversial message being illustrated this week by industry regulator Ofcom which for the first time has published UK maps of 3G coverage. Its results are hugely surprisingly with the country’s two biggest telcos (O2 and Vodafone) actually scoring very poorly compared to less fashionable carriers 3 and Orange.

Ofcom lays these results out using UK maps with red patches highlighting areas of 3G coverage and does much to dismiss the 90 per cent and higher 3G coverage claims made by most of the major networks. In fact even those which do come out well still show numerous flat spots which must test the confidence of consumers that they can enjoy a seamless high speed mobile broadband experience. Meanwhile rural areas remain woefully neglected.

If there is some hope in this depressing picture it is that Ofcom admits much of its calculations were theoretical rather than involving extensive footwork in real world scenarios so expect a great deal of network criticism of the results.

That said, an industry body doesn’t publish detailed maps such as this without feeling confident in its reasoning. It also serves as a timely reminder that just because all today’s dongles and high end smartphones offer blisteringly quick 3G access that doesn’t mean you’ll actually be able to use it…

”’In related news”’ Orange has announced it has won an exclusive deal for the Toshiba TG01 and it will be free on 24 month £40pm contracts starting tomorrow. Speculation had suggested the 4.1in Windows Mobile touchscreen smartphone was destined for industry magnet O2, but this deal does at least break that worrying trend.

On a more gloomy note I had an extensive hands on with the Snapdragon powered device yesterday and while it’s a gorgeous piece of hardware the Toshiba Windows Mobile skinning is wafer thin, unintuitive and – despite all that horsepower on tap – feels horribly sluggish and unoptimised. A real opportunity missed. We’ll follow up with a full review shortly but if you were planning to rush down to the shops tomorrow be sure to try before you buy.

Ofcom 3G Report

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