Mapping the truth on coverage

Mapping the truth on coverage

Summary: The first few months of this year saw a massive increase in mobile complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. It seems carriers are not living up to their promises — and most of those promises are made on their mobile coverage maps.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility, Telcos
4

The first few months of this year saw a massive increase in mobile complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. It seems carriers are not living up to their promises — and most of those promises are made on their mobile coverage maps.

On today's Twisted Wire, Teresa Corbin, CEO of Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, says there are known black spots that are not showing up on carriers coverage maps. Yet Telstra at least says its maps are accurate. Max Jennings, Telstra's director of Wireless Network Engineering, says the telco continually tracks usage of each mobile cell to ensure they match up to the levels promised on its coverage maps.

In the UK, according to an investigation by The Sunday Times, when applying for permission to build new towers, Vodafone and O2 provided different information to local councils than they made publicly available to consumers. Does that happen here?

Crowdsourcing could be one way of measuring the quality of network coverage and performance. On today's program I talk to Sina Khanifar from opensignalmaps.com. Her firm has produced an Android app that tracks performance from your phone and maps it, along with other user data, to produce heat maps for various networks.

I ask this week whether the regulator has a role to provide in ensuring that accurate maps of network performance (not just coverage) are provided to consumers. As you'll hear on the program, although it sounds like a good idea in principle, it would be highly problematic to implement.

Running time: 32 minutes, 14 seconds

Topics: Mobility, Telcos

About

Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

4 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • the opensourcemaps.com url you show doesn't work.
    kenmacraild
    • sorry about that - fixed it now.
      phildobbie
  • Great story on mobile coverage. I checked out Opensignals and it is a great Opensource idea. (Hurry up with the iPhone app pls!)

    However, I find that only the Tower cell view is more useful to people browsing for a better mobile provider. The heatmap only reports on those people who have bothered to enter the data. This means that until every person enters in the data every day in every place, it will always be wildly inaccurate.

    Vodafone has at least started to update their own coverage map with signal strength meters for different network bandwidths and indoor / outdoor areas. The only thing missing would be to allow customers to report outages so that one can see where the blackspots are. I hope the other carriers soon follow.

    http://www.vodafone.com.au/tools/checker/index.htm
    cocolero@...
  • There are a few issues with publically showing your mobile maps (true indepth maps of signal strength and beam pattern).

    Firstly, it is the last thing you want your competitors to know, and secondly your customers (especially if you are an inferior provider).

    The true mobile maps of carriers is highly protected, and will not be shared. The real maps will show both base station locations with beam pattern (i.e. directivity), as well as signal strength. +5dB, +10dB and +15dB (for in door punch) is what you after, as it shows where great coverage is.

    But what to know is 96% coverage is metro and a few regional place. To get 99% increases your cost (capex) expotentially and is the true strength of coverage. But in addition to this is the spectrum that you operate at. Lower spectrum say at 850Mhz gives you punching power due to wavelength (way better in buliding), whereas at 2100Mhz gives you less punch (2.5-3 base stations needed at 2100 than at 850). That is just the nature of the absorption of air.

    But in addition is the nature of 3G, giving more precedence close you are to the base station. Also as more users come on, they less you get. Hence the varying performance in the mobile spectrum by garbage providers. In addition to this, is the amount of spectrum purchase, and backhaul all play a part.

    At the end of the day, the public will only ever get the indicative, unless you work in base station design at a mobile telco...
    Theguy-bbb4a