A simples guide

Can I get 4G coverage in my area?

Technology innovation is relentless and if you’re not someone that hashtags, likes or swipes left or right then sometimes it can feel like technology’s just running away. So when someone says ‘can you get 4G’, don’t feel bad for not knowing exactly what this is all about. But if you’re fed up with just not knowing what all the Gs mean, then look no further, here’s a quick guide to answer those questions for you.


So – what is 4G then?

All it stands for is ‘fourth generation’ and it refers to mobile networks. So, in the beginning there was 1G. This was the first generation of mobile technology and it was quite basic – you could make voice calls and that was pretty much it.

Then along came 2G (second generation) which allowed for voice calls and text messages Then 3G arrived and let us access the internet on our mobile phones which for most of us, was simply a revelation.

Now we’re onto the fourth generation of mobile technology and it promises download speeds up to seven times faster than 3G. Communications regulator, Ofcom, have worked out that a music album taking 20 minutes to download on a 3G network should take just 4 minutes to download on 4G – that’s pretty fast even by the most impatient person’s standards.

mobile phone

Can I get 4G in my area?

It depends on who your mobile network provider is and whether you have a compatible mobile phone. To benefit from 4G, your phone will need to support the frequencies that 4G operates on – so anything from an iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE onwards should work on 4G.

Clearly, a mobile is only as useful as the signal it has and signal strength is determined by how close you are to a mast. Typically, urban areas like towns and cities have better coverage than the countryside but you can still suffer the curse of ‘no signal’ even in the most populated areas.

The big mobile phone networks already support 99% of the UK population with mobile coverage but 4G hasn’t quite got to everyone yet and whether you can get it or not will depend on who your provider is. BT has the broadest 4G coverage on offer, covering 75% of the population. Most of the other big providers cover major cities but you can check exactly what you can get by provider at Ofcom’s 4G coverage checker.

Are some areas better than others?

In a word yes – but it also depends on what you’re after. Ofcom completed some research that offers a snapshot of 4G speeds in various cities during 2014. They gathered data on four elements: download speed, upload speed, web browsing speed and latency (this is the time it takes for data to travel between you and a third party server – the longer it takes, the more delay there is, so it’s important when it comes to video calls).

What Ofcom found was that some providers were better than others at certain things. So for example EE was the best at upload and download speeds but Three offered the best web browsing service.

Ofcom has set out how it expects 98% of people living in villages, towns and cities in the UK to have 4G coverage by 2017. Of course there will be some hard to reach places that might miss out but Ofcom are advising the government on how to improve access to mobile networks. Plus, the government has also pledged up to £150 million for new mobile network infrastructure.

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