Crowd sourcing mobile phone coverage maps

! This post hasn't been updated in over a year. A lot can change in a year including my opinion and the amount of naughty words I use. There's a good chance that there's something in what's written below that someone will find objectionable. That's fine, if I tried to please everybody all of the time then I'd be a Lib Dem (remember them?) and I'm certainly not one of those. The point is, I'm not the kind of person to try and alter history in case I said something in the past that someone can use against me in the future but just remember that the person I was then isn't the person I am now nor the person I'll be in a year's time.

A colleague showed me an app the other day that helps produce crowd sourced mobile phone coverage and performance maps.

I’m sure everyone’s seen the mobile phone operators’ own coverage maps which are reasonably accurate but are based on maths rather than user experience and Rootmetrics have seen this as a gap that needs filling.

I have no idea how Rootmetrics make money but that’s their problem, not mine.  The company has already mapped much of America and is now mapping the UK.  Their employees have already driven round London and Hull testing the mobile networks and the gaps are being filled by mobile phone users like me who are running the continuous test on the Rootmetric app when travelling to build up coverage and performance data.  The continuous test only works on the Android version of the app, not the iPhone version for some reason (probably a spurious “security” restriction imposed by Apple) and it’s pretty data hungry – the app has used over 750mb in 4 days – so you’ll only want to use it on an unlimited data plan.

Rootmetrics Coverage Map Telford

The tests produced are a good guide for signal strength at least but the data stats are slightly less convincing which makes the Rootmetric score – a combined score based on signal strength and data speeds – a bit misleading.  For instance, if I check my connection speed on the app I can get some blistering speeds for a 3G connection – 9.39mbit/sec one day this week – but the download speed is fairly average using Rootmetrics’ servers giving it a yellow/orange hexagon – which is more a refelection on Rootmetrics’ infrastructure than Three’s.  I tether my tablet to my phone at work and at least one of my colleagues tethers to it in the office because he’s on Vodafone and they’re rubbish and it’s good enough to watch live TV on more than one device using the same connection.

That said, the idea of crowd sourcing mobile phone coverage data is a great one and I’m certainly doing my bit!


  1. cliff dixon (2 comments) says:

    There are various factors that affect speed and coverage on mobile networks. If you are in a built up area then you may have issues with Vodafone and O2 if they only have their standard 900mhz sites active because they can only be broken down to a certain size of cell and as a result you may have capacity problems that don’t occur on the higher frequency sites of T-Mobile,Orange and 3. The trade off is range of transmitter versus capacity – Meaning that the lower frequency sites cover a wider area and give better coverage in rural areas and the higher frequency sites are shorter range but give more capacity in urban areas where the concentration of users is higher. You can’t beat a decent and respectable independent mobile phone dealer for coverage information in the area that he operates – It is in his interest to sell you a mobile that works and he will base it on feedback from clients and not on the bonuses that the hetworks pay to their own tame stores.

  2. wonkotsane (1133 comments) says:

    Orange have been having problems with capacity for a while and I don’t see it getting any better. They’ve got a headstart with 4G but they haven’t got the backhaul to cope with it judging by their 3G service. Orange have become complacent with their dominant position and OFCOM helping them to gain an advantage over their competitors not once with the gift of “spare” 2G spectrum but twice by allowing them to use their “spare” spectrum to launch a 4G service before the 4G spectrum auction.

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