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Mobile phone coverage across the UK

Mobile phone coverage in the South West

By Jon Barrow

Article 12 of 13

New data from Which? and Opensignal uncovers the reality of 4G coverage throughout the UK. Find out what it's really like in the South West 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.

New research has found that the South West of England is among the worst-performing areas for 4G availability and download speeds.

The unique research, conducted by Which? and OpenSignal, looked at 12 regions across the UK and found that phone users in the South West can expect to get a 4G signal 45.7% of the time, putting it 11th out of the regions we surveyed. Only Wales had lower 4G availability, at 35.4%.

In comparison, phone users in London have the best chance of getting a 4G signal, with our data showing that they can access the network 69.7% of the time.

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

The South West didn’t fare much better in our rankings of 4G speeds.

Here, we found that 4G customers in the area received an average download speed of 20.9Mbps, putting the region in ninth place overall. Users in Northern Ireland get the fastest speeds (23.3Mbps), but 20.9Mbps is still faster than many home broadband connections.

Best network for 4G availability in the South West

We also considered the performance of the four phone networks in the South West, and found that EE (53.9% availability) and Vodafone (52.7%) offer the best chance of getting a 4G signal.

O2 is a distant third (44.3%), while customers with Three can access 4G less than a third of the time (30.4%).

3G availability and speeds in the South West

The South West was also one of the worst performers for combined 3G and 4G availability. Although phone users have a much better chance of accessing this type of signal (78.5% availability versus 45.7% for 4G only), the region still compares poorly with other areas.

Average speeds for people moving between 3G and 4G are slow just 11.5Mbps. In comparison, the average speed in the fastest area, Northern Ireland, is 15.7Mbps.

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.