Mobile handset testing
There have been a number of significant changes in mobile handset design and usage over the past decade:
- Their use has expanded from voice calls to include mobile data service.
- They now support a much wider range of mobile technologies and frequency bands.
- Internal as opposed external handset antennas are used to improve their appearance.
- For smartphones the handset receiver electronics are often embedded behind a glass touchscreen.
The purpose of this study was to develop a better understanding of how these changes have affected the sensitivity performance of modern handsets. Handset sensitivity performance is important for mobile coverage in particular in rural areas where the signal levels from more sparely populated mobile masts are in general lower than those available in urban areas.
The study, in particular, the study aimed to confirm that the performance of the handsets used in Ofcom’s separate drive and walk testing research was representative of those used by most consumers. To achieve this, the study tested the performance of these and nine other handsets currently on sale in the UK in different frequency bands for voice and data services. The handsets were selected on the basis of type (smart or non-smart), market (popularity) and cost (high, medium and low).
Overall, the results of the study highlighted that handset sensitivity is dependent on a number of factors including: technology (2G, 3G and 4G), the operating bands (800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600) and proximity of the handsets to the human body, all of which have implications for link budget calculations, network planning and the extent of mobile coverage experienced by consumers.
Ofcom's technical programme enables us to keep up to date with technologies and trends, so that we can be in the best possible position to execute our regulatory duties. In many cases, we do not conduct investigations in-house but make use of external resources, such as private commercial organisations, university departments and government funded research institutions. These reports present the findings of technical work conducted on Ofcom’s behalf. The opinions and conclusions stated within these reports are those of the organisations who conducted the work and may not reflect the view of Ofcom or imply any future policy work in related areas. Ofcom is not responsible for the content or accuracy of these reports.