Northern Ireland's mobile phone network is the worst in the UK

On my monthly drive to Enniskillen yesterday I was plaiged with the usual problems, no data service on my 02 iPhone and no service at all on my T-Mobile Blackberry.  It was not until I got into Enniskillen itself that my phones locked onto the network and pulled down my data.

At home I have to go to the garden to make a call and I can forget about getting in touch with my friends who are on Orange when they are in Lisburn.

In shocking new figures printed today in the Belfast Telegraph today it has become apparent that the problem is worse than it seems with 59% of Northern Ireland’s mobile phone users reporting problems with signal on their phone, making our networks the worst in the UK.

The problem as I see it comes down to cold hard cash, with only 1.6 million people living in Northern Ireland it doesn’t make commercial sense to provide a full coverage, however with 02 retaining a 65% market share you would think they at least would be up to the job although anyone with an iPhone will know that the 3G functions on the handset are pretty much useless when you are out of Belfast.

Historically Vodafone always had the best coverage in Northern Ireland as the local infrasture and backhaul were owned by Vodac Ulster, powered by Bramwell who set up the network in Northern Ireland but this was sold in around 2000 / 2002 to Vodafone UK and the local network became part of a national strategy meaning the mast would not only be used by Vodafone customers but BT Cellnet (now o2) customers as well as part of a network sharing move.

The old school planning of rolling out a mobile phone network no longer applies, as the old school network roll out provisioned only for Voice and Text.  As data came into play the networks simply upgraded the cell sites with out taking into consideration the fact that these cell sites would now house more traffic as people crave data on the move.

Looking at the coverage maps, it is hard to see today who has the best voice and data signal in the provence and most people subscribe to the network that gives them the best signal in their area – not much use for me who travels all over Northern and Southern Ireland every day.

Whats the answer ?

Commercially as I said.  It does not make sense for all 5 mobile networks to roll out a fantastic network in NI, however it does make sense for one network to roll out a network with more capacity than they need and share the mast.

We will have to see how the proposed T-Mobile UK and Orange UK merger will improve things but I would not hold my breath !

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2 Comments on “Northern Ireland's mobile phone network is the worst in the UK”

  1. Steven Law says:

    Nice article Russell but you did forget to mention three. They are increasing according to their publicity coverage massively into 2010.

  2. Callum says:

    yes as Stephen said, Three are one of the best networks I know of in Northern Ireland


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