Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Northern Ireland 3G coverage ... another digital divide?

Northern Ireland experiences many different digital divides.

  • There are areas in geographic folds that suffer poor FM radio reception, never mind the pockets which don’t have any (or indoor) DAB reception.
  • Freeview coverage isn’t total, and is unlikely to significantly improve until digital switchover can start in NI around 2012.
  • As well as problems of cost/age/interest that prevent some households from investing in computers and broadband, there are also commercial and technical availability constraints that mean that cable and broadband/DSL doesn’t pass by everyone’s front door or farm yard.

When it comes to mobile, GSM (and GPRS) mobile coverage reaches a lot of parts it didn’t ten years ago. But 3G is a different story.

Earlier in July, Ofcom published coverage maps for the five UK 3G providers as their networks stood at the end of 2008.

There’s a real divide. Living in or commuting between some post codes - like Greater Belfast - you’ll think 3G is ubiquitous. Live elsewhere and maybe one or more likely zero providers will cover your area.

I’ve cut out Northern Ireland so you can make some basic comparisons. Purple indicates areas with outdoor coverage that met the technical criteria behind Ofcom’s assumptions. (They’re listed in alphabetical order of company, rather than by percentage coverage.)

Ofcom's map of 3G coverage in Northern Ireland at the end of 2008 - H3G (Three)Ofcom's map of 3G coverage in Northern Ireland at the end of 2008 - O2Ofcom's map of 3G coverage in Northern Ireland at the end of 2008 - OrangeOfcom's map of 3G coverage in Northern Ireland at the end of 2008 - T-MobileOfcom's map of 3G coverage in Northern Ireland at the end of 2008 - Vodafone

5 comments:

John Self said...

Extraordinary! No wonder I can rarely get 3G coverage on my iPhone - except at home, when I can use the WiFi instead.

Even 3 seems to provide more coverage in the North Channel than it does on land.

Norwin! said...

Wow! O2 really are rubbish!
I'm a bit disappointed in them.

Alan in Belfast said...

Problem is that if 50% of Northern Ireland population live within an 028 90 dialling code, then O2's coverage is commercially sensible ... even if it weekend trips out of the city drop out of 3G coverage.

And there will have been improvements during 2009.

Smerk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smerk said...

It also seems that O2 has the biggest plans for extending their coverage in NI if your willing to wait to the end of 2010.

Almost bought a T-mobile G2 Touch... I think ill have to spend a bit more on the contract to get coverage for a HTC hero... sniff