There are a number of steps you can take to check and improve your mobile phone reception, whether you are a consumer or business customer.
Use Ofcom’s coverage checker
You can check mobile coverage for telephone, 3G and 4G services from all major providers by using our coverage checker.
You can download it as a smartphone app or you can use it via an internet browser. You will need to enter a postcode, or allow the checker to automatically find your location, in order to see the coverage information. The checker provides an at-a-glance summary of services in your area, and you will also be given the option to view your chosen area using an interactive map - you can also then navigate to any area in the UK on this interactive map.
The information in the coverage checker provided by mobile operators, and is updated regularly. It is based on coverage predictions generated using computer programmes that simulate the way mobile signals travel. Although these models are usually accurate, they may not always represent actual coverage ‘on the ground’. Ofcom also undertakes its own measurements to assess the accuracy of the data provided.
Some mobile providers also offer their own coverage checkers for their services, which you can find online. Each operator has a slightly different approach to predicting and displaying coverage. Because Ofcom's map brings together all of this data in a single place and holds it to a single, independent standard, our map may display different levels of coverage than those seen on the operators' websites.
Maximising your mobile coverage
- Coverage checkers give an indication of likely coverage at a fixed location. You should also check the coverage of places that you visit frequently, such as your work or places on your commute.
- The location and characteristics of a property can affect mobile signal indoors. Thick walls, metal window frames, ceilings, pillars, or basement rooms can all impair coverage. Signal may also be blocked if the property is in the ‘shadow’ of a hill or large building. Similarly, mobile signals can be degraded inside a vehicle.
- As well as using a coverage checker, speak to people you know about their experiences of making and receiving calls in your area.
- Ask operators about possible quality of coverage. Providers’ contact details are available at the end of this guide.
- The ability of phones to pick up mobile signal varies depending on their design and the antennas in them. If you live in an area with poor coverage, the choice of mobile phone could affect your coverage. For example, if you mainly need telephone and text services, more basic handsets can get better reception than smartphones. Ask for advice when choosing a mobile phone. Some coverage checkers offered by mobile network providers now let you specify which phone you plan to use, so you can find out if it is likely to give you good reception.
- Reception can also be affected by how people hold the phone while using them. You are likely to get better reception for telephone calls if you use your phone with a separate earpiece, connected to the phone by Bluetooth, rather than holding the phone next to your ear.
- Some mobile providers also offer a way to make calls using a wifi connection. This can be a good solution if your home or workplace has poor mobile coverage but a good wifi connection. Some networks allow you to do this automatically using ‘wifi calling’, while others may require you to load a dedicated app. However, not all mobile phones are compatible with wifi calling. Check with the operator if you want to use it.
- Under consumer contract regulations you may have the right to cancel your contract without charge within the first 14 calendar days of signing up. So, check your mobile coverage during this first 14 days to ensure it is satisfactory – if not, you may exit the contract. Some operators provide additional guarantees beyond the first 14 days – check before you buy. You can also test the coverage from different providers without being locked in to a long-term contract by trying a SIM-only monthly contract or pay-as-you-go.
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- There are several ways to improve your mobile coverage in the home using a broadband connection.
- By connecting your phone to your wifi you will be able use the data services on your phone (this will also avoid using the monthly data allowance under your phone contract).
- You can make and receive telephone calls using apps such as WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skype – but these do not typically use your mobile phone number.
- Operators also offer devices for the home which mobile signal (EE’s Signal Box, O2’s Boostbox, Three’s Home Signal, Vodafone’s Sure Signal). These work by connecting to a router and sending traffic over the broadband network to increase mobile signal.
- From spring 2018 it should be possible to buy mobile repeaters that improve signal strength inside the home provided that there is some signal outdoors. Note, however, that some websites currently offer mobile repeater products (signal boosters) that are illegal to use in the UK because they are poorly designed and can create interference to other mobile networks.
On the train
- Check what’s available with the train operator. Some train companies are working with mobile operators to install equipment on carriages to improve reception. On some trains, you may have the option to access a wifi connection. Some train operators are also looking at including wifi calling options as part of their wifi service.
In the car
- Remember, it is illegal to use a handheld mobile device while driving a vehicle in the UK unless you have hands-free access. It is also illegal to use a handheld mobile device while supervising a learner driver.
- The coverage received within a vehicle is affected by the vehicle’s design. For example, the size of windows and the construction materials can all affect reception. Coverage can also be affected by the phone’s position inside the vehicle. You are more likely to get better reception if you keep your phone in the dashboard cradle compared to the central console, and reception can be poor if you keep your phone in the footwell of the vehicle.
- Some cars have external aerials which can connect with a mobile phone inside the car. This allows the phone to get a signal strength that is similar to the level outside the car. A vehicle using an external aerial could get good in-vehicle coverage on up to 20% more of the UK road network when compared with a vehicle without an external aerial.
- If you travel overseas frequently, a global roaming SIM may be a good solution. Check prices with your provider.
- If you need mobile coverage in different locations where different providers operate exclusively, you may want to use a two-SIM card solution. Use providers’ coverage checkers to help with this. Dual-SIM phones are available in the UK and avoid the need to keep two separate phones charged or to switch over your SIMs.
For your business
- Satellite phones (‘Satphones’) may be worth considering if a mobile is critical to your business. There are six operators in the UK and entry-level handsets cost £300-£500 with tariffs starting at around 50p per minute.
If you have any other questions, speak to your provider:
0800 100 400
0800 956 6000
0870 075 5588
0207 132 0322
0344 809 0202
0800 542 9427
0345 301 4455
0333 338 1001
0345 454 1111
0333 304 0191