UK has the fastest mobile speeds in Europe, but coverage is poor

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/italianestro)

British citizens benefit from the fastest mobile data speeds in Europe, when they can get sufficient coverage. 

A new government report highlights the UK is lagging behind countries such as Albania, Romania, and Peru when it comes to coverage. In fact, the National Infrastructure Commission ranked Britain 54th in the world for 4G coverage and said there are too many "digital deserts and partial not-spots" even in built-up cities. 

Lord Andrew Adonis, who led the investigation, described coverage on motorways and train lines as 'frankly appalling' in the report. "Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru," Adonis said. "Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centers are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce." 

Adonis is calling on Highways England and Network Rail to have a 'direct responsibility' in ensuring travelers on the UK's roads and railways have full coverage. According to the report's findings, currently up to 25 percent of the time it's not possible to get a reliable signal. 

Telecoms regulator Ofcom welcomed the report but had some criticism about its methodology which ranked the country based on landmass coverage. Ofcom focuses on the percentage of properties with access to a mobile signal and has set a rule for operators to ensure nearly all UK premises can receive a 4G signal by the end of next year. 

Lord Adonis acknowledged the OpenSignal data used for the study is not perfect but it's the best available with 15 million users worldwide and 60 million measurements in the UK. 

It's not all bad news for the UK mobile industry, however, with the latest Akamai "State of the Internet" report highlighting consumers in the United Kingdom benefit from the fastest average mobile data speeds in Europe (23.7 Mbps) 

Even when expanded to other regions, the UK continues to lead the way: 

Fastest Countries for Mobile Data by Region 
Americas: Canada, 8.9 Mbps 
Asia Pacific: Australia, 12.8 Mbps 
Europe: United Kingdom, 23.7 Mbps 
Middle East/Africa: United Arab Emirates, 13.3 Mbps 

Speed will be a focus when deploying next-generation technologies, but the government's report highlights the requirement for coverage to be a priority. A prediction made by the National Infrastructure Commission is the need for tens of thousands of small cells to be deployed – each with less range – but will enable more blanket coverage. 

This will require significant investment, and the report calls on the government to ensure the necessary infrastructure is put in place for a rollout around 2020. 

What are your thoughts on the state of UK mobile infrastructure? Let us know in the comments.

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Stevey Thurgood
19 Jan 2017, 1:17 p.m.

Their has been the launch of an operator with full national roaming across all the networks in the UK. This was suggested by the government and ofcom as a potential fix for coverage problems but the major networks were not having any of it. Pebble: