Smartphones to blame for bad coverage, new study claims


Operators and networks are commonly blamed for poor performance and coverage but a new report from Strand Consult estimates around 70 percent of bad coverage is due to modern smartphones and their usage.

“Smartphone penetration is increasing and operators investing heavily in network infrastructure but people getting worse coverage,” John Strand, CEO, Strand Consult told Mobile Europe.

“Smartphones don’t perform as well as older feature phones. Operators may have to double mast numbers and increase investment in areas where many bad phones are connected.”

Quoting an independent study in Denmark, conducted by Aalborg University’s Professor Gert Frolund Pedersen, Strand’s report concludes phone manufacturers are evading responsibility by neither informing users about the affect phones have nor optimising them for networks.

The Danish study measured the performance between phones’ antenna and networks, evaluating how nine of the most popular phones affect users’ experience in GSM 900 and 1800 and UMTS 900 and 2100 networks.

Depending on models and network frequencies, it found major differences between phones and coverage quality.

Older phones perform better than newer generations in lower frequencies.

Buying the latest generation of popular phones increases the likelihood of bad network coverage.

Coverage can be improved if users choose phones optimised for their carrier’s network but such information is rarely available.

Handset manufacturers should disclose phone strengths and weaknesses, but said John Strand: “There is no transparency – many phone manufacturers gag operators so they can’t inform users. Consumers are in a bad position now.”

The report, “How Mobile Operators can reduce the cost of mobile masts and improve mast regulation”, calls for uniform global disclosure addressing relevant factors of phone coverage quality.

It states: “Phones are launched rapidly and from many manufacturers making it challenging for independent testing, not to mention the testing handset manufacturers fail to do themselves.

“Fierce competition means phones launch with unfinished product development - errors are corrected through software updates after phone purchase - which reduces development costs but puts the onus of product quality onto operators and consumers.

“Optimising phones for networks takes a back seat to getting phones to market; manufacturers do little to solve these challenges.”

Perennial debates about mobile coverage must include the role of phones and manufacturers take more responsibility, there should be more transparency the report concludes.

Consumers ultimately need more information on which to base purchases.