Coverage Maps

by Imran Ali

I was deaf and now I can hear! I can now actually make mobile calls without sounding like I'm inside an electrical storm!

During my previous six years at France Telecom I was issued with company-provided Orange handsets and tariffs. Unfortunately, free telephony is no substitute for crummy reception - despite Orange's coverage maps showing that I lived in a 'high coverage 3G zone', I had appalling quality of service.

In shopping for a repalcement plan over the last few weeks, all UK networks showed my location to be in an area with 'great reception'. The websites of operators tend to show coverage as a series of crude heatmaps, however UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom, operates a slightly more useful service, called Sitefinder - a database of cell base stations across the country. Using Sitefinder, I was able to figure out that the network with the shortest line of sight to my home was operated by O2; boom! my new O2-powered N95 gives me great reception.

Sitefinder is clunky (it was designed in response to cell tower health concerns), but useful...however it only provides locations, with no indicators of quality. Perhaps it's time for a network-agnostic, user-created coverage map. Now, if Ofcom were smarter, they could act as a interesting broker between cellcos and users. Think about this...

  • Ofcom launches an open map service that can be annotated for coverage quality by end users.

  • User's annotate maps with their experience of reception for particular networks in various locations

  • Cellcos use the data to improve and monitor service quality, compensating users with freebies for their service plan

  • Handset manufacturers offer cellphones that report their location's signal quality periodically to the coverage map service.

With people increasingly displacing their landlines with cellphones in the home, it becomes increasingly important, as a consumer, to understand the quality of indoor and outdoor coverage and indeed the quality of coverage in all the places you live your life.

So I hereby assert the Open Coverage Map as my first Lazyweb request. If Ofcom were smart enough to build this, they might've used Google Maps rather than whatever antiquated futz is in its left to YOU to make this happen :)


2007-07-02 06:56:23
Hum, sitefinder doesn't really work. It never did, in fact. It seems that the Government should open up the access to tax-paid data for mashups to divulge the location of mobile stations.