August 13, 2014

Ofcom reports on mobile phone call service quality

Ofcom reports on mobile phone call service quality

Voice call quality is often overlooked, but not today.

Ofcom has just published a report on the call quality provided by EE, O2, Vodafone and Three and while the results are generally good there are some troubling areas.

First up some good news- 76% of consumers across the UK are happy with their network, but while 78% of urban consumers are satisfied only 70% of those in remote areas and 67% of customers in rural areas are.

It’s no surprise that there are differences when you consider the other data that the report collected. It looked at the proportion of 2G and 3G calls that were successfully connected in different areas and on different networks and rural areas always fared worse than urban ones. EE came out on top with 97.5% of calls in urban areas successfully completed and 97% across the whole of the UK, but that figure drops to 93.7% in rural areas.

That’s still pretty good, but significantly lower. The difference is even more marked on other networks, with O2 managing to actually beat EE in urban areas with 97.7%, but achieving 95.3% across the UK and 87.4% in rural areas. Three managed 96% in urban areas, 94.5% UK wide and 86% in rural areas and Vodafone achieved 95.3% in urban areas, 92.6% across the UK and just 79.9% in rural areas. In other words around one in five Vodafone calls in rural areas either can’t connect or is dropped.

That data is taken from RootMetrics which is known for carrying out exhaustive tests across the UK, so it should be fairly accurate.

To get a bit more context Ofcom asked consumers about their experience of mobile reception and found that while 55% of consumers rarely or never had problems with mobile reception, 30% claimed to suffer such problems at least every week.

Similarly while 69% of people claimed to have rarely or never experienced a blocked call and 65% said the same about dropped calls, 20% claimed to have suffered blocked calls at least once a week and 22% said the same about dropped calls, figures which increase in rural areas.

It’s clear then that the networks still need to do a lot of work to improve signal quality and consistency, especially in rural areas, though EE should be highlighted as having far and away the least work to do.

Thankfully things are set to improve as every network aims to ultimately bring 4G to 98% of the UK, which as well as bringing lightning fast data to those already served by 3G will also extend mobile coverage to areas which don’t currently get a good 3G signal. While Ofcom is also working on a £150 million infrastructure project to fund more mobile masts, which should increase signal in rural locations.

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  • Russ

    This line on Ofcom’s report is interesting: “The operators’ data measures the proportion of completed calls, but excludes call attempts when customers are outside of network coverage”.

    So in theory, if Vodafone has more geographical coverage than the other networks, that would mean that there are more opportunities for failures, and look bad in the way these stats are presented. This now explains why Three looks pretty good in these!

    As is often the case with statistics, never take them on face value without knowing all of the parameters.