Mobile phone operators show off their figures

Choosing your mobile phone operator is becoming an increasingly difficult task -- will consumers take any notice of the meagre comparative performance figures that are available to them?

For the first time all four major UK mobile phone players -- BTCellnet, One2One, Orange and Vodafone -- have worked together with the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) to produce surveys, released this month, of each individual companies quality of service (QoS).

Arguably the latest mobile research conducted by Oftel re-enforces the perception that services offered by the UK's big four are much-of-a-muchness, but it also provides consumers with a rare tangible evaluation of operators' comparative service levels and successful call rates.

The surveys show the percentage of test calls connected and completed successfully, as well as the percentage of dropped calls and failed set-ups. Data was compiled using vehicles driving major roads and cities across a large swath of the UK during normal working days from April to June of this year. Between 10,000 and 15,000 calls were made per operator.

Orange published the best all-round figures, boasting 97.3 percent of calls connected and completed successfully, 1.3 percent of failed setups, and 1.5 percent dropped calls. One2One claims 96.4 percent calls connected, only 0.9 percent failed setups, and 2.8 per cent dropped calls. Vodafone produced figures of 95.3 percent, 2.7 percent, and 2.0 percent, while BTCellnet reported results of 94.6 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.9 percent.

Gill Smith, a spokesperson for One2One said: "This is the first time all four operators have co-operated together in Oftel research in this way. I would imagine there would be more research like this in the future, although there is nothing publicly in the pipeline at the moment."

"If consumers do turn to data like this survey, they should use it to evaluate operators only in conjunction with a number of other factors, including cost of handests, price/performance, free connection or call tariff offers and so on," she added.

Oftel is keen to point out that because of differences between individual operators test equipment and procedures used in the survey, performance figures might not be totally comparable, although the operators did adjust signal strengths in an effort to reach accordance. Oftel says that the four companies, together with itself and other consumer groups are now working on an even further improved methodology.