Ofcom has just announced that the UK networks must provide 3G services to 90 per cent of the UK by 2013 if they’re to continue to operate as a ‘an electronic communications network’.
This is an upgrade from the previous 80 per cent of guaranteed 3G coverage networks were obliged to provide.
Furthermore, networks must also guarantee a minimum download speed of 768kbps in outdoor locations ‘with a 90 per cent probability’ within what Ofcom is calling a ‘lightly loaded cell’.
Ofcom’s report 3G Coverage Obligation Verification Methodology defines a ‘lightly loaded cell’ as a single user accessing 3G services in a moderately busy environment, where “the surrounding cells of the network are loaded to a low level (e.g. the common channels transmitting at 20 per cent of their maximum power).”
So while this won’t help out when you’re faffing around with your iPhone at Glastonbury, wondering why your apps won’t work, in other areas you might see a moderate uptick in your phone’s 3G performance.
These new rules apply to any new licencee (read: O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Three, Vodafone etc) requesting ‘a variation to the term of their licence.’
The latest UK Mobile Services Map from Ofcom (from 2011) show that in most areas (red) 3G coverage by geographic area was less than 25 per cent. Purple areas indicate where 3G coverage is greater than 25 per cent (but less than 50).
3G coverage in a handful of areas (orange) is greater than 50 per cent (but less than 70) and there's just a few pockets where there's 70-90 per cent of 3G coverage (blue) or greater than 90 per cent (green).