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Mobile phone coverage across the UK

Mobile phone coverage in Scotland

By Jon Barrow

Article 4 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 Scotland 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.

Extensive research by Which? and OpenSignal has found that 4G mobile phone users in Scotland can, on average, get a 4G signal only 50.4% of the time. This means that Scotland came eighth out of 12 in our regional ranking of 4G availability.

Phone users in London have the best chance of getting a 4G signal, with customers able to get a 4G signal 69.7% of the time – 8% better than Yorkshire and Humberside, the second-placed region.

Wales had the worst availability overall – phone users there can only access 4G 35.4% of the time.

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

Scotland also came eighth in our rankings of 4G speeds. We found that 4G customers in the area received an average download speed of 21.1Mbps – that’s more than 2Mbps slower than customers experienced in the fastest region, Northern Ireland (23.3Mbps), but is still faster than many home broadband connections.

Best network for 4G availability in Scotland

As well as looking at overall speed and availability we also looked at the performance of the four phone networks.
In Scotland we found that EE (55.1% 4G availability), O2 (54.7%) and Vodafone (56.2%) are all notably superior to Three, who's customers can only access the speedy network a third of the time (just 33.5%).

This ranking, with EE providing the best 4G availability and Three the worst, is the same as the national pattern across the UK.

3G availability and speeds in Scotland

When 4G isn't available, customers tend to drop on to the slower 3G network. Unfortunately for those living in Scotland, our data showed they could access 3G or better speeds just 77.2% of the time. Only Wales performed worse in terms of availability.

Things don't get much better when we look at the average speed, which drops to 12.5Mbps (versus 21.1Mbps when they're just using 4G).

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.