Network maps could keep telcos honest

Network maps could keep telcos honest

Summary: Vodafone has this week released a coverage checker tool on its website that shows the quality of signal that customers can expect in their area, and it's a good start.

TOPICS: Telcos

Vodafone has this week released a coverage checker tool on its website that shows the quality of signal that customers can expect in their area, and it's a good start.

Vodafone coverage

(Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

In the latest move to address concerns over the telco's network issues and to tout its network upgrades, Vodafone has released a new coverage tool. The tool aims to show the quality of call and 3G data services across the country, with bars graphing signal strength based on whether you're indoors or outdoors.

Of no great surprise is that the best coverage for Vodafone appears to be in the capital cities, as I would expect it to be for any telco — it's where their highest concentration of customers would be.

What surprised me most was how little coverage extends beyond the city centres. Although, given Australia's geographically-dispersed population, it does make sense. Comparing the New South Wales coverage with the fibre footprint for the NBN roll-out (below) shows a fairly similar picture — and the NBN fibre network will reach 93 per cent of the population.

NBN map

(Credit: NBN Co)

Optus and Telstra have coverage maps on their websites, too, though neither use Google. It would be excellent for the telcos to feed their coverage information into a Google maps app like Vodafone has. Or better yet, to provide the data as open source for some enterprising developer to put together a true and accurate coverage map for all of the telcos across Australia.

If the information is kept accurate and up to date, it has the potential to shift some the competition between the carriers from which telco has the best price to which telco has the best coverage in your local area.

In a time when the telcos are under intense pressure for how their networks cope with consumer demand for 24 hour availability of both voice and data coverage, this sort of added functionality will only encourage them to get their acts together and keep their networks in line with demand.

Topic: Telcos


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • I've always had terrible Vodafone coverage in my area as it's on a hill but Vodafone typical that Vodafone still shows that there is coverage at my address.
    • Same story here. 1-2 bars in my area, and woeful 3G speeds - and yet apparently this tool thinks I should have full signal.

      Not that it matters - it's so congested a call wouldn't go through with full signal. :p
  • I live on a hill in Sydney and this "Tool" claims I get 4 bars outside and 2 inside.

    My phone, 2 bars outside and none inside.

    Did the writer of this story test this tool, or just regurgitate Vodfones PR spin?
    • Hi KenShabby,

      I tested it in so far as I looked at the maps. I'm not a Vodafone customer so I haven't been able to verify it. This is a blog, so I'm stating that such a tool *could* have the potential to be good if the telcos are honest about it. That's a big if. As I stated in my blog.


      Josh Taylor.
      Josh Taylor
      • Cheers Josh,
        I was running Vodafone and Optus phones, and what was hard to understand was how Vodafone was so inferior to Optus, when they use the same towers, so far as I know. Some clue may lay in a photo of a tower I saw with Optus having antenna's in 4 directions and Vodafone having only 3.
        I waited for the upgrade in my area to occur before finally giving up on Vodafone, only to find I went from having no coverage at all, to being able to get messages if I left my phone by my front window after the upgrade had occurred. The map showed I should have 3 bars inside my house and 4 out of it. Thinking I didn't want to stand out on the street in winter to use my phone I had my contract cancelled, and Vodafone where very fair about this, I only had 2 months to go anyway.
        The reception in this area, which is on Pennant Hills Road in Sydney, very busy, very central, is nothing like the map. If the map was true, I would have stayed with Vodafone as I had to replace my HTC desire for a 850 version, the same as one I already owned outright, but that was a 900.
        The other issue is this map shows the coverage as being 850, when Vodafone only sell 900 band Android phones. I really hope Vodafone start getting it right, but at the moment I just see them going from bad to worse.
        • I'm 99% sure Vodafone are not on Optus' towers
  • Great idea.

    But it is a shame this is totally wrong and Vodafone are yet again lying in there tool.

    I have checked areas where Vodafone do not work and it says they have full coverage.

    When are the TIO going to do something about Vodafones lies.
  • The accuracy on this is very wrong. It shows coverage near my house for partners 2G Voda. mobile, We have to drive 30kms to town (east) before we get a signal. It shows it having a signal just up the road to the west. We have to drive 80kms or so to the west to get any signal on her phone. We seem to be in the big grey spot for comms, including the NBN. See all those little towns north of Scone, West of Armidale, east of Coffs Harbour. Lots of exchanges, lots of ADSL connections, no fibre or wireless for you ! and we get no mobile at all , from ANY provider. 93% for NB fibre ? I don't buy that figure at all... I bet those are the same guys that come up with the mobile coverage maps which are also a blatant misrepresentation.
  • Guys, iphones log your GPS location and coverage information maybe "we" the public should start putting together our own database of coverage, based on actual coverage not estimation.
    • There's an app for that - just not on iPhone.

      Sensorly provides international mapping of mobile phone signal strength back to a system based on Google maps, all in a freely downloadable application for Android. It's fully automatically and is (now) stable, although I'd advise you to get a car kit as it's hard on the juice running GPS, the screen and a reasonably consistent HSPA data stream. (Yes, like using maps normally, plus an outbound data stream about the signal strength and a second inbound data stream for on-screen mapping of signal strength). There is an option to collate all of the outbound data for dumping once you get to a Wi-Fi point (for those with stingy data allocations), but I personally think uploading the data on the fly is a "real world" test of how well the connection is really working.

      I'm sure the level of resolution may not suit everyone, at least until you try it and figure out that if you're the only one doing mapping in your area it's even more of a personal information leak than Facebook, Twitter and the PlayStation network put together. Then you start using heaps of fuel driving to places you don't normally go... expensive!
  • Quick check - yup as expected - Vodfail - reality means you need to check with your engineers who need to get bums in cars with a Field strength meter and actually come up with something other than a Sales and Marketing ploy to make management feel better. GET IT RIGHT before posting on the Corporate website incorrect and misleading statistics.
  • This tool is pretty crap. Tested it at two locations with my wife's phone and both times the tool showed full reception where ther phone showed 1-2 bars of reception.