Research Notes

Mobile customers in many countries are currently experiencing problems with their mobile network coverage!

Who’s to blame? We believe it is the customers themselves!

Around the world you often see articles and interviews with people complaining about the mobile network coverage they are getting from their mobile operators. Funnily enough this is happening at the same time as operators are continually expanding their networks, increasing overall 3G coverage and have starting rolling out LTE to their customers.

Strand Consult has spent some time studying this paradox. During our meetings and workshops with customers around the world we have discussed this phenomenon that is actually so powerful that it can make politicians attack the mobile industry for not doing enough. Our conclusion is that a great deal of this criticism derives from people who have not spent any time or energy examining the underlying reasons that are resulting in some customers experiencing poor coverage.

1. Many countries have three or four mobile networks that are competing on delivering a combination of voice and data. This means that customers can choose between using operator A, B, C or D. Each operator runs their own network that uses a number of base stations to cover all or parts of the geographical area they are operating in. The operators compete on price, services, quality and naturally also the network coverage they can offer.

2. When people complain about poor coverage, they are most often complaining about their own operator not covering a certain area well enough. Most often the person complaining has not checked whether any of the two or three other operators have better coverage in this area. We can warmly recommend that they ask family and friends which operator they are using and even borrow a mobile phone from someone to check the level of coverage in the area they are dissatisfied with.

3. One of the most common causes for poor coverage can be found in the mobile phones that customers use. In practice the reception quality from the radio receiver in a mobile phone can vary a great deal from model to model. Some mobile phone models have extreme difficulty picking up signals in areas with poor coverage, while other models have no trouble at all. Within the industry it is common knowledge that various mobile phone models and especially the increasingly popular smartphones, can often have problems with their radio reception and a number of studies from around the world have shown that certain iPhone models contain radio modules that are far from optimal. In reality many mobile models can have varying problems due to their radio receivers and antennas and these problems can vary from model to model and operator to operator. It is a fact that the same mobile phone model can be used with greatly varying results with different operators in the same area.

4. Most mobile phones being sold today are 3G phones that can also handle 2G (UMTS vs. GSM). A 3G phone usually has the 3G network as its preferred network under network settings and will therefore always choose a 3G antenna if there is one within range, despite often being able to achieve significantly improved voice quality on a closer 2G antenna. Customers could choose to change the settings of their mobile phone, forcing it on to the 2G network and thereby most probably improving the quality and coverage of their voice calls.

5. Many operators are currently expanding their mobile networks with new base stations, thereby improving the quality of their networks. The enormous investments that operators have made during recent years have resulted in a transition from a mobile world with 3G coverage mainly being found in larger cities, to many countries now close to having national 3G coverage – and with enough capacity to allow most customers mobile broadband access via their computers. The fact of the matter is that operators are spending billions of euro every year to improve the quality and coverage of their mobile networks and the results we are seeing are nothing short of impressive. The majority of the mobile base stations installed around the world are currently being replaced with new technology that is improving coverage and increasing bandwidth.

6. There are unfortunately areas where forests, buildings, variations in landscape etc. create radio transmission interference and where even unlimited investments, professional operators or innovative infrastructure providers cannot change the physical laws that are the foundation of life on Earth. Just one new large building can change the quality of the mobile coverage that some customers with certain mobile handsets will experience in a certain area. The transmission of mobile signals between two points is governed by a set of rules that first saw the light of day over 100 years ago with the very first radio transmissions.

Our conclusion is that customers in most countries have excellent voice coverage and often take that level and quality of network coverage for granted. This is why many people who complain about poor coverage have often simply not spent two minutes considering the reasons why they might be experiencing poor coverage in certain areas.

Our research also shows that operators are often very bad at informing their customers about reasons for poor mobile coverage and often forget to give an overview of just some of the call quality issues that customers can experience with different types and models of mobile phones.

Strand Consult can only recommend that people check whether another operator has better coverage in the area where they are experiencing problems. Furthermore it would be a very good idea for people to check whether the mobile phone model they own generally has problems functioning in areas with weaker mobile coverage. We believe that these two simple suggestions can eliminate the majority of the problems that some customers are currently experiencing with their mobile coverage.

If you would like to learn more about this subject you are most welcome to contact us and let us help you take advantage of our extensive knowledge and experience in this area.

More information:
Strand Consults Strategic Workshops

Successful Strategies for the Mobile Broadband Market

OneAPI – Next Generation Value Added Services in the Mobile industry

Show me the money – The future Business models for mobile Broadband Services

How MVNO´s can get success in the Mobile Broadband market

How media companies can get success on the mobile broadband market

How to get success with Value added services on the Mobile Broadband market

How can a Wimax operator survive in a world full of WCDMA

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