Coverage Maps, helping you find the best mobile phone coverage in your area.
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Your local mobile phone coverage is the single most important thing to think about when choosing a new mobile deal. Whilst it's easy to get distracted by free phones, minutes, text and data in reality having coverage where you want to use your phone, and just how good that coverage is matters far more. - we've all had those frustrating moments when we need to make a call only to find we have no signal but a friend on another network has perfect coverage right next to us. This entire website is dedicated to helping you find the best coverage for your local area. We provide links to coverage maps from all the main UK networks and lots of information about network coverage throughout this site.
What makes good mobile phone coverage?
A good mobile phone signal depends largely on three things, firstly whether you are in range of a mobile phone mast, secondly how far you are from the mast and what barriers there are between you and it and finally the technology in your phone and the base station.
Most of the populated parts of the UK now have at least basic mobile phone coverage with the majority of networks claiming to have in the region of 97-99% population coverage but this can be misleading as huge unpopulated or sparsely populated parts of the country have no coverage at all and this is where frustration can set in. In addition to basic coverage that will allow you to call and text there is 3G and now 4G coverage that allows much faster access to the Internet and data services. 3G coverage tends to be much more sparse than older 2G and GPRS (2.5g) coverage, partly because it is newer and partly because it is more expensive for the networks. Some of the mobile networks such as Three and Orange have invested heavily in their 3G coverage and now have very high population coverage whilst others such as O2 have taken a more cautious approach and only invested in 3G in heavily populated areas. It's usually possible to get a good 3G signal in built up areas although analysis by the BBC of 45,000 3G users over a month showed that they did have to rely on 2G coverage about a quarter of the time. This can obviously vary enormously depending on which network you are on and where you plan to use your phone which is why it's so important to check the coverage maps of different networks before deciding which one to go with.
At the time of writing 4G coverage is just being rolled out, with EE, O2 and Vodafone now live on 4G and Three coming very soon. EE have had a huge head start on 4G having been able to launch almost a year earlier than the other networks and are now live in over 100 towns and cities. O2 look to be repeating their strategy for 3G roll out which was much slower and more cautious than the other networks whilst Vodafone are ramping up slightly more quickly. Three expect to be live in 100 towns and cities by the end of 2014 and are unique in offering 4G access for the same price as their 3G plans making them much better value for money than the other networks although you may have to wait just a little longer for great coverage.
Standard GSM Mobile Phone Coverage: A basic phone signal that allows you to call and text. Developed in the 1980s it is by far the cheapest technology and more common than more advanced types of coverage in rural areas.
GPRS Coverage: GPRS is often called 2.5G. It builds on basic coverage offering faster data speeds but is still very slow compared to more recent types of mobile phone signal. It is very widely available, however, and can at least allow Internet access if and when your 3G signal fails.
EDGE Coverage: Edge is another form of 2.5G. It originally wasn't widely available in the UK but there was a limited roll out to support the original (none 3G) iPhone. Like GPRS it at least allows data access where there is more limited coverage but is not a patch of 3G or faster technologies
3G Coverage: 3G is by far the most common form of high speed mobile coverage. It has been around no for almost ten years and most networks have invested heavily in building up good 3G coverage. A good 3G signal will allow data speeds of up to 7.2MBps, comparable with slower home broadband speeds.
HSPA+ Coverage: HPSA+ is a faster version of 3G (sometimes known as 3.5G). It works on the same technology as 3G networks but allows faster speeds of up to 28MBps. It is not widely available but some networks such as Three have invested in this in advance of their 4G service.
4G Coverage: 4G is the latest high speed type of mobile coverage to launch. It allows the fastest data speeds, in theory comparable with fibre optic broadband and much faster than 3G (most real life tests have show it to be around five times faster side by side). 4G coverage is not yet widely available although EE have increased their coverage to over 100 towns and cities but it is expected to become much more widespread in the next few years.
LTE Coverage: LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is simply the technical name for 4G services. LTE and 4G mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.
Mobile Network Coverage
EE Coverage: EE are the first network to roll out 4G services and have a big head start on their rivals. They were formed from the merger of Orange and T-Mobile and also have great 3G coverage as subscribers can use the 3G signal of either of these networks. Check EE coverage.
Three Coverage: Three have invested heavily in 3G and HSPA+ and have consistently won awards for best network for smartphone users and for the their mobile broadband service. They are in the process of rolling out 4G and have committed to offering it at the same price as 3G and to including unlimited data tariffs making them the best value network for 4G. Check Three coverage.
Vodafone Coverage: Vodafone have long had a reputation as having the best and widest standard coverage in the UK and this is largely still true for text and calls. They have also built a very good 3G network and are now live with 4G although some way behind EE in overall coverage. Check Vodafone coverage.
O2 Coverage: O2 have an excellent standard and GPRS network and a few years ago where hailed as having the best overall coverage but they invested in 3G more slowly than their rivals and have also made a slow start to rolling out 4G and this has meant they have slipped behind in terms of high speed coverage although they still have an excellent signal for basic services. Check O2 coverage.
Orange Coverage: Orange were once known as having the smallest coverage of the main networks but this is no longer the case and having built up one of the largest 3G networks (along with Three) they now have excellent nationwide coverage. Orange users can also share the T-Mobile network which boosts coverage substantially but EE have confirmed that 4G will not be available on either Orange or T-Mobile. Check Orange coverage.
T-Mobile Coverage: As above T-Mobile subscribers benefit by being able to switch between the Orange and T-Mobile network meaning there is excellent basic and 3G coverage but 4G will not be available on the T-Mobile network. Check T-Mobile coverage.
Other Networks Mobile Phone Coverage
O2, Vodafone, Three and EE (including T-Mobile and Orange) are the only genuine mobile phone networks in the UK in the sense that they own and maintain base stations, coverage masts and so on. Other 'networks' such as Virgin, Tesco Mobile, etc use coverage from one of these networks and rent network space off them although they do make use of their own billing systems, etc. These type of networks are called MVNOs (or Mobile Virtual Network Operators). The below list tells you which MVNOs use which networks so you can work out what kind of coverage to expect.
· Asda Mobile - uses Vodafone coverage
· Giff Gaff - uses O2 coverage
· Lebara Mobile - uses Vodafone coverage
Lyca Mobile - uses T-Mobile coverage
· Pebble Mobile - uses O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and EE coverage
· Talk Talk Mobile - uses Vodafone coverage
· Tesco Mobile - uses O2 coverage
· Virgin Mobile - uses T-Mobile coverage
Best Mobile Phone Coverage In My Area
The information above and throughout this site aims to give some good background to help you understand mobile phone coverage but ultimately what is really important is the coverage you will get at home and where you spend most of your time. We strongly recommend checking all the coverage maps that we link to from this site before making a choice and if you are still unsure consider ordering a free pay as you go SIM card to test the coverage in an old phone before buying a new one on that network
Indoor Versus Outdoor Coverage
One thing to watch out for when comparing coverage maps from different networks. is to be aware of the difference between 'indoor' and 'outdoor' coverage. Indoor coverage typically means that there is a good signal and you can expect a reasonably good service pretty much all the time. Outdoor coverage doesn't literally mean that your phone will only work outside but that the coverage is much more patchy so less likely to be able to work through walls, etc. This means that you are likely to be further away from a mast or base station and the signal will be weaker and slower. It sometimes helps to think or indoor / outdoor coverage really meaning good / weak coverage.
Find out more about mobile coverage by viewing our site map. Find the best mobile phone deals at our sister site Top 10 Deals.