4G signal problems

Commuters on the platform Signal come, signal go...

Regular readers will know that I have an obsession with seamless connectivity - and in particular with mobile broadband. Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that 4G has reached the leafy London suburb where I live.

The bad news is that the revolution in connectivity it promised for those here and in other parts of the UK where mobile coverage is patchy may prove a disappointment.

My regular commute involves a short walk to a nearby station. And on most days, my phone tells me as I hurry along that my connection is not 3G but Edge, making it virtually impossible to use an app to check that my train is running on time.

Fast speed test From fast...

In recent days I've been using a borrowed 4G handset on my same network, alongside my regular phone.

But because the 4G network had not yet rolled out this far, I was still only getting Edge coverage. Until Tuesday.

Seeing the 4G symbol popping up on the phone as I waited for my train, I ran a speed test - and got an amazing result. Download at 44Mbps, upload at 10Mbps - speeds that would make many fixed broadband users weep with envy.

Then I checked my regular 3G phone - surely the 4G upgrade to my local mast would have benefits for all those people who haven't upgraded their phones yet?

Err, no - in the exact same spot, my test revealed I was still crawling along at Edge speed.

Now whenever I write about 4G I get lots of messages from people saying they would rather the networks spent their money delivering 3G to rural areas - and some city not-spots.

Speed test ... to whoa

I reply that the whole idea behind 4G is that it will provide extra capacity for everyone, improving basic connectivity in the countryside as well as giving lightning speeds in towns.

Now I'm wondering just how true that is. For instance, EE seems to be doing a pretty good job of rolling out its 4G network, but I've heard complaints from a couple of customers that its 3G coverage is getting worse as a result.

Perhaps the truth is that only customers who buy new 4G phones and sign up to new contracts will see any improvement in their connections in the short-term. Which means that the whole upgrade to the UK's mobile connectivity could take rather a long time.

Meanwhile, I tried my new phone at the station again this morning - and the 4G network had evaporated, with the speed test reading 0. And then my train was delayed.

Ah well, the future will be along in a minute.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    My 3G throughput on EE has degraded significantly over the last year since the 4G network has started rolling out. I work on the Strand in London and get little or no throughput even though I have full signal strength. Clearly the data traffic is being prioritised to the 4G customers. This, in my view, is a very cynical way of getting customers to upgrade to 4G.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    What ultimately determines coverage is not the technology but economics. 1. 4G will only be installed in areas where the service provider is going to get maximum revenue return. This will disadvantage rural areas with low population densities.
    2. Infrastructure budgets which were spending on 3G kit is now diverted to 4G. So no new 3G sites :-(

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    True 4G signals are unlikely to affect 3G. True 4G runs in the 800 MHz band, EE's faux '4G' runs in the 1800 MHz band and 3g runs in the 1900-2200 MHz band. It is likely that a fully operational 4G network will have better and broader coverage than 3G as the signals are more like the DTV signals that once used the 800 MHz band and reached most homes - but not all. Lower frequencies travel further.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Your lack of knowledge pains me Rory as does your attitude to tech, why would work on 4G give benefit to 3G?! BBC please replace him! And while you're at it ban the blatant troll "Money" from HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Why are the two images different if you used the same app both times?


Comments 5 of 137



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