Twelve per cent of premises have no 3G mobile coverage from any operator

Although 92% of UK adults have a mobile phone, according to Ofcom’s market research, there remain areas of the country where a lack of network coverage means that making mobile phone calls, sending text messages or accessing the internet from a mobile device is not possible. These areas, sometimes known as ‘mobile not-spots’, are often characterised by low population density and/or undulating terrain, presenting physical and economic obstacles that may deter mobile network operators from installing mobile phone masts in those areas.

In other areas of the UK, some operators have installed masts and provide a mobile service where other operators do not have a presence, leading to the creation of ‘partial not-spots’.

Figure 5.5 and Figure 5.6 detail levels of mobile coverage based on premises (homes and offices) for 2G and 3G services respectively. 3G is often considered as the minimum necessary to provide a satisfactory experience of mobile internet, but 2G is satisfactory for telephone calls and text messaging.

Figure 5.5 shows that, across the UK, 93.6% of premises have coverage outside the building from all three 2G network operators (Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone). A small proportion of premises in the UK – 0.3% - do not have 2G coverage from any operator.

3G coverage is less prevalent, with 77.3% of UK premises having coverage from all operators (including Three) outside the building. Just under 1% of premises have no 3G coverage from any operator.

These figures all refer to outdoor coverage. Coverage figure for indoor reception are likely to be lower because radio signals are attenuated as they pass through the fabric of buildings. Indoor reception is highly dependent on the building in which reception is desired and where the user is located in the building. This makes it difficult to calculate indoor coverage figures.

Eighty-eight per cent of Northern Ireland’s premises have mobile coverage from all three 2G operators, this is nearly six percentage points lower than the UK average. Northern Ireland’s 3G coverage is also lower than the UK average, at 55.9% premises coverage for all 3G operators. And at 11.7%, Northern Ireland fares worst of all four nations in terms of the percentage of premises that have no 3G coverage from any operator.

Expressed in terms of geographical area, coverage figures are usually much lower, because mobile masts are more commonly installed near centres of population. Eight and a half per cent of the area of Northern Ireland has no 2G mobile coverage from any operator, compared to 12.8% of the UK. 3G coverage is lower, with 52.1% of the area of Northern Ireland having 3G coverage from any operator compared to 75.8% across the UK as a whole.