Mobile working is supposed to be changing the way we function and in many ways it is doing precisely that, but it’s going to be patchy in the UK. The reason for this isn’t a lack of coffee shops or hotels in which to work: it’s the variation in the 4G signals available to people working on the move. Our infrastructure in the UK, in spite of successive governments’ apparent commitment to widespread broadband coverage, is patchy.
The findings are from Which? and OpenSignal, and they suggest that Middlesborough is the best place to be if you’re dependent on a 4G signal, Bournemouth is the worst place, London is 16th and Cardiff, Southampton and Nottingham come between them.
Even more peculiar is the variation in the speed of the 4G networks on offer. Brighton offers the slowest while many users can’t get a 4G signal for more than 65 per cent of the time.
Ofcom and mobile
The position is uneven enough without Ofcom’s rulings which have in the past suggested that every building in the UK should have access to 4G by the end of this year. It appears unlikely in the face of a general election and Brexit that the government will devote much thinking space to the issue.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, called for Ofcom to continue its existing action: “These latest findings underline the need for Ofcom to keep the pressure on mobile operators, so that every part of the country gets a decent service on their mobile phone. Our mobile phone is central to how we live our lives and that is why it is so frustrating when we can’t access emails or browse the internet on the go.”
Brendan Gill, CEO and co-founder of OpenSignal, concurred: “The mobile data experience isn’t the same in every city for UK consumers. OpenSignal users found LTE [Long-Term-Evolution, a blanket term for whatever the latest phase of mobile signal actually is] signals more often in Middlesbrough than in Manchester and faster 4G connections in Stoke than in London.”
Nobody begrudges people in Stoke or anyone else a decent Internet connection when they’re moving. But if public and private sector workers alike are to take advantage of the new opportunities mobility offers, it’ll need to work. Some sort of universal consistency would be useful.