The basics of mobile phone signal are pretty easy to grasp, and not much has really changed since mobile phones first started being used on a mass scale in the UK: If you want your phone to be able to make calls, it needs to be registered with a network and that network needs to be sending out a signal. If your phone is outside of the range of this signal, it’s next to useless.
UK mobile phone coverage is actually very good, and most people should find that whatever company they’ve signed up with they should be able to pick up at least a limited signal in most areas. Signal is usually strongest in larger cities than it is in more rural areas, but sometimes this isn’t always the case; cities may have more signal towers but there are other factors involved in getting a good signal than being near a tower.
For example, in a city being surrounded by very tall buildings or living at the bottom of a big hill can cause problems with signal, despite being nearby a signal tower. Usually though, no matter where you are in the country you’ll be able to access some level of phone signal, with the exception of very remote rural areas – usually the same places that also lack any sort of internet access.
An important thing to remember is that every mobile network is different. There’s no one signal network that everyone else rents out. Each phone provider usually has their own network, so the signal between one and another can vary. While your Orange phone might have a great signal in one area, a friends T-mobile handset might have virtually none.
Normally this is quite rare and its no more than mildly annoying, but there’s nothing worse than signing up to a new phone contract to find out the provider you chosen to use doesn’t have a good signal in your area and you can only make and receive calls outside or in certain rooms of your house.
The best way to avoid this is to borrow a friends phone who is on the network you wish to swap to and keep it in the house for the day, move around a lot and make a few calls to make sure the signal is good. The other good thing to do before buying a new contract is to check out a companies website a see if you can find their signal strength map, which should give you a pretty good idea of the signal in you area – most let you search by post code for a fairly accurate reading.
Make sure you understand the difference between 2G and 3G signal, though. While 2G is readily available everywhere and allows you to do the basic phone stuff like calls and texts, 3G isn’t always as easy to find but can do a lot more including accessing emails and the internet. When looking at signal range guides or doing postcode searches, make sure that you look at both 2G and 3G signal for a better overall view of what you can expect from your network.
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