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Ofcom wants to map UK’s mobile coverage – but it needs your help

Ofcom is calling on Android users to help crowdsource a map of the UK’s mobile network coverage.

The regulating body wants the 20-million Android users nationwide to download an app that will automatically measure voice-call reliability, data speeds and signal strength. The research will form part of a detailed comparison study of telecoms operators in 2017.

There will be no app for iPhone users, however. This is due to the restrictions the phone places on apps running continuously in the background.

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An Ofcom representative believes that the research into the UK’s network coverage will help to “build an independent benchmark for both consumers and industry”, and that “it will help mobile customers make purchasing and switching decisions, and will be used to enhance Ofcom’s mobile coverage maps and consumer research”.

Despite the fact that the major mobile network coverage providers cover more than 99% of the UK, there are still “notspots”; these are areas of the country that are outside mobile coverage. The hope is that this type of research could help combat this problem. The majority of “notspots” tend to be in the countryside, but can be a problem in city centres too.

Related: 8 of the best SIM-only deals in the UK

Matthew Howett, an analyst with research company Ovum suggests that “notspots” are partly due to “arcane and outdated planning rules”. These make it more difficult for providers to repair and install masts.

Studies have also found that travellers are also significantly affected by poor coverage. The RAC foundation found that more than 4,500 miles of British roads currently have no coverage. Plus, past studies have found that the UK’s rail network suffers patchy signal too.

There is currently a bill passing through Parliament that’s aiming to make mast servicing easier, which should alleviate some issues caused by “notspots”.

Download the Ofcom app here

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