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Mobile phone coverage across the UK

Mobile phone coverage in Northern Ireland

By Jon Barrow

Article 3 of 5

New data from Which? and Opensignal uncovers the reality of 4G coverage throughout the UK. Find out what it's really like in Northern Ireland and see which provider has the best 4G network.

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The information contained on the page is based on mobile phone coverage from June to August 2016. You can read more up to date analysis in our 2017 national report and 2017 city breakdown.

A new report by Which? and OpenSignal has found that 4G mobile phone users in Northern Ireland are able to access a 4G signal almost 60% of the time (58.5%). This result puts Northern Ireland fourth out of the 12 regions we tested for 4G availability, with the area lagging some way behind the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, and London.

Phone users in the capital have the best access to 4G and are able to get a 4G signal almost 70% of the time (69.7%). Meanwhile at the other end of our table, 4G phone users in Wales have to put up with only having access 35.4% of the time.

Find out which network is the best where you live with our free coverage checker.

However, Northern Ireland came top of our table for average 4G speeds. The data showed that, on average, phone users in the region enjoyed speeds of 23.3Mbps. By contrast, customers in Wales received average speeds of 21.7Mbps and those in Scotland get 21.1Mbps.

Surprisingly, 4G customers in London get the slowest average speed – just 18.8Mbps – probably due to the heavy demand causing speeds to slow down.

Best network for 4G availability in Northern Ireland

Taking a closer look at the performance of the four phone networks available in Northern Ireland, we found that EE has the best 4G availability (69.4%), which mirrors the national picture. Meanwhile, Three has the worst 4G availability in the region, with users only able to access the service 41.1% of the time.

3G availability and speeds in Northern Ireland

If 4G isn’t available customers will often drop on to the slower 3G network.

We've found that customers in Northern Ireland have an 81.8% chance of finding a 3G signal or better. This puts Northern Ireland ninth in this category, beating the South West (78.5%), Scotland (77.2%) and the South West (78.5%). However it's well behind the region with the best 3G/4G availability – London (91.6%).

Our analysis

The information used in this analysis comes from a regular collaboration between Which? and coverage experts OpenSignal, and is based on more than 500m data readings taken from people that have downloaded the free OpenSignal app.

By tracking 28,841 UK app users around the clock between June and August 2016, we're able to give a definitive account of the real mobile phone user experience. We're able to accurately report on network speeds and to chart our own metric, 'availability', which looks at the proportion of time that users have a network connection.

We think that this unique availability measurement, which determines whether the network is doing its job by providing a connection where it's needed most, is far more valuable than simply reporting predicted coverage based on computer models or one-off drive-by tests.

Read more about our approach, and download the free app, on the OpenSignal website.

Which network do you say is best?

Once you know which networks offer the best coverage where you live and work, you'll want to know which ones offer the best customer service and value for money. We asked 4,100 members of the public to tell us about what they love and hate about their network.

Read the results of our best mobile networks survey to find out the winners and the losers.