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In Rural UK, Old 2G Phones Beat 3G Smarphones For Connectivity 88

Posted by timothy
from the old-ways-are-best-ways dept.
hypnosec writes "A new research has showed that smartphones are worse in connectivity than 2G enabled mobile phones in remote areas in the United Kingdom. The research conducted by telecom watchdog OfCom has revealed that users should invest in mobile phones different than latest Smartphones, if they prioritize best reception for calls. 'As would be expected, all the 2G operators have widespread coverage of the roads that were surveyed with relatively few not-spots. 3G coverage is much lower on the roads driven, likely reflecting the stage of network roll out in Devon at the time of the study,' the OfCom has reported."
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In Rural UK, Old 2G Phones Beat 3G Smarphones For Connectivity

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13, 2011 @09:31AM (#37078640)

    Iphone is suprisingly fussy about mobile reception in a congested city. If you have 3g enabled and are in one of the many odd spots it just won't ring. Calls just fail to get to you even with a good signal. Its very odd an absolutly infuriating when you miss an important call. And with 3g turned off you wonder what your paying the high subscription for?

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Blame your carrier - I can't say I have ever had that problem, and I live in a fringe area of coverage (half the time in areas with zero 3G coverage, half the time with reasonable 3G coverage).

      Either that or your phone is faulty.

      The only infuriating thing about the old iPhone 3G on iOS4 is that if it is "busy" (usually when trying to use the GPS) it will get bogged down enough that an incoming call will cause it to freeze up briefly, so the person on the other end might think the connection has dropped.

    • Completely agree. I leave my iPhone's 3G off most of the time now since I've noticed that when it is enabled I get little to no signal. It's so bad that sometimes my phone will suddenly start beeping with all the calls that I missed because it was unable to get a signal and has only just managed to connect. I nearly missed out on a job because of the wretched thing dropping my calls.

      My housemate's Android phone is on the same network as me and has zero problems. Only 1 more week to go until I can upgrade an

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Only 1 more week to go until I can upgrade and chuck this POS in the bin.

        "Most" of the contracts, allow for upgrades prior to the 2 years. I think 20 months is the requirement now.

        -@|

    • It's also pretty fussy in a rural area.

      My GSM iPhone on AT&T has a very hard time in Vermont at my Mom's house. I'll pick it up and look at the signal strength and it shows five bars and 3G. So I fire up Safari and go to a website. And I'll just watch it go from five bars to four bars, then three bars, then two bars, then one bar, then "Searching..." then "No Signal."

      If I leave it sit overnight unplugged, I'll wake up in the morning and find it's battery has died.

      If I explicitly turn off 3G, everythi

  • by dave024 (1204956)
    So there is more 2G coverage than 3G coverage? I am shocked. And can't many phones turn off 3G service and fall back to 2G?
    • Re:3G (Score:5, Informative)

      by chrb (1083577) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @09:46AM (#37078724)
      Yes, unsurprisingly 2G coverage is better than 3G coverage. All UK networks will fall back to 2G when 3G is unavailable, with the exception of 3 [three.co.uk], who don't have a 2G network. Their customers used to be able to roam onto Orange 2G, but that's slowly being turned off. [theregister.co.uk]
    • by errandum (2014454)

      Most phones will do this automatically, so this "study" is bogus. Even their numbers, 97% vs 95% success is so close that it can be considered statistically similar.

      The reason for those numbers could range from different conditions during the testing hours (for example, number of cell phones in the area, weather, etc) to simply one or two of the phones tested not handling the switch well.

      What baffles me is why would anyone study this. People really have too much time on your hands. And I have half a mind to

      • Re:3G (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sjames (1099) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @01:43PM (#37080084) Homepage

        Many phones have an anti-sweet spot a mile wide where the 3G signal is strong enough to convince it not to switch, but too weak to actually work well.

        • Many phones have an anti-sweet spot a mile wide where the 3G signal is strong enough to convince it not to switch, but too weak to actually work well.

          I was just about to make the same point, your phone will hunt around endlessly trying to get a vaguely decent 3G signal, dropping in and out and generally being a pain, while you never have any problems with 2G. I have mine locked to 2G only in order to deal with this.

          (And to forestall the inevitable "D00d ur phone is teh suck" that this is going to trigger, this is a general problem with many 3G phones. If you're in a strong-signal area you tend not to notice it much, but I'm in a somewhat marginal zone a

        • by errandum (2014454)

          Well, their numbers showed 97% vs 95% "success". That's irrelevant, even if some phones are dumb enough to keep fighting for 3g.

          • by sjames (1099)

            That study overall may not say much about it (I agree that 95% vs. 97% doesn't say much), but some people in particular areas may have a different experience. I have had bad cell days at home where the one and only solution was to force the phone to give up on 3G. Usually, the problem isn't that the phone doesn't ring (what the study measured) but that the call will be dropped repeatedly.

          • by PhotoJim (813785)

            View it as 3% failure versus 5%. Does that change your perspective?

            The failure rate increases by 66.7%. To me that's statistically significant.

            Is it burdensome? Probably not.

            • by errandum (2014454)

              You almost look like a major news outlet, spinning the numbers like that.

              3% difference is what it was, and standard deviations usually cover that much.

              It's like saying that buying two lottery tickets doubles your chances of winning. It does, but it's a ridiculously low chance.

    • by Vegeta99 (219501)

      In addition to the other reasons posters have given, some networks put their 3G network on a higher frequency, but use the same towers. Hence, less service.

      • by PhotoJim (813785)

        Also, CDMA/WCDMA services like UMTS change service area as they are under increasing or decreasing load. The coverage area of a 3G cell site is much larger when it's under zero load than when it's exceptionally busy. 2G GSM sites have a fixed coverage area (and a fixed capacity for calls). On UMTS, one more call on a busy site is probably going to work although the site loses a little coverage area. On 2G GSM, one more call on a site at capacity means that last call gets rejected (unless it's a 911/112

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oh. I get it. It's like one of those, "in soviet Russia..." jokes, but instead, "In rural UK..." Brit humor. Never could wrap my head around it.
  • Remote areas in the UK? Surely you jest. The whole island isn't big enough to have any really remote areas. It shouldn't take more than one cell tower to cover the whole thing. :)

    If you want remote areas, look at some place like Australia or Alaska. That's remote!

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      To a Londoner, a map of the UK has London, the M25 and anything outside that marked "here be dragons".

      • To a Londoner, a map of the UK has London, the M25 and anything outside that marked "here be dragons".

        I think you'll find it's actually marked "Hail the Great Beast, destroyer of worlds!".

        • by Anonymous Coward

          To a Londoner, a map of the UK has London, the M25 and anything outside that marked "here be dragons".

          I think you'll find it's actually marked "Hail the Great Beast, destroyer of worlds!".

          Is it hiding behind the rabbit?

          ...... AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! RUN AWAY!! RUN AWAY!!!!!!!!

    • by rossdee (243626)

      The UK includes Scotland, some parts of which are fairly remote.

      Don't forget that its not just 'as the crow flies' distance, but also topography. The UK includes hills and mountains which tend to block higher frequency wireless transmissions. Its not all flat like parts of the USA.

      I used to watch a British drama/comedy about a Scottish policeman on a small island. It was called Hamish Macbeth and starred Robert Carlyle. He was last seen on a show that was set in the most remote location (SGU)

      • I was attempting to be humorous. Evidently, I was a bit too cryptic.
        • by sa1lnr (669048)

          I was attempting to be humorous.

          You weren't even remotely successful. :)

          • I thought it was (relatively) funny. If I happened to be modding this discussion I might have given it a 'funny'. But the sense of humor (along with the general sense of pretty much anything besides angst) is gone from here.

            We really need blinky emoticons. Come on 'Taco - if we can't have Unicode, could we at least get emoticons?

            Please?

            • I think it's funny that you rail against the lack of sense of humor (apparently gone from the good old days of "hot grits") and completely miss the parents joke.

      • by Smauler (915644)

        I'd be interested to know whether there's anywhere in England that is even remotely remote. I'd wager you _couldn't_ be a few miles away from a road or house, anywhere in England. I'm guessing some of Northumberland or perhaps Yorkshire would be the most remote places... perhaps the peak district, or somewhere up near Carlisle.

        I know there are some areas of Scotland that are pretty remote - there are more people living in London than Scotland, so that's to be expected, right? Wales doesn't really have th

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      In the UK remote is beyond crawling distance to the nearest pub.

    • by PhotoJim (813785)

      Or Canada. 90%+ of the country has no coverage but 98% of the population has coverage because Canadians tend to live fairly close to the US border (the climate is warmer there).

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @10:02AM (#37078792) Journal
    Obviously, in areas with comparatively early cell build-outs, there are very likely going to be areas where less-than-bleeding edge is all you get. So, if you live in one of those, paying a premium for some zOMG 4G++!!! burn-through-your-monthly-data-cap-in-10-minutes device is not a good plan. Ok. So much is obvious.

    The relevant question is, do recent devices fall back gracefully, and how do older or 2G only devices compare to their contemporaries in terms of things like antenna quality? Having a 3G device; but being limited to 2G capabilities in a 2G area is simply an inevitable inconvenience. If, however, 3G devices that just silently fail outside of 3G areas, or take excessively long times to fall back, or do some silly little dance where they switch between a hopelessly weak 3G signal and the available 2G tower every couple of seconds, or if contemporary RF design is based on the theory that all customers loath antennas and live 300 meters from a cell tower, then the fact that some areas are 2G only starts to factor into your buying decision...
  • There are still many places in the USA where there is no 3G, or limited 3G while 2G coverage is decent. As a result, turning off 3G is needed if you want reliable service.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Phones also need to get a lot better at switching between the various types of connections.

  • Besides, the "late-night aggressive shopping" is better in Tottenham.

    • As the good Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz is unfortunately too dead to note:

      "Looting is Consumerism by other means."
      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        Actually, he would have said something like: Looting is the extension of consumerism by other means (yet more radical and if in any way possible to be avoided).

        He also defined war rather nicely as "a means to force ones will upon the enemy". To stick with the parallel, looting would be a means to acquire consumer goods against the will of the shop owner ... see, Clausewitz was a bore.
  • The 2G phones were designed at a time when the manufacturers still thought people gave a shit about coverage or battery life.

    Apple has shown us all that they don't. Give 'em a slick user-interface and an App Store, and they'll just accept the poor coverage and the need to charge the phone every day.

    • by plover (150551) *

      As you've noted about battery life and radio performance, they are neither shiny nor black, so they were omitted from Apple's design consideration. Which boggles the mind of us engineers who thinks that a cell phone's very utility is defined by its radio performance and battery life.

      Contrast that with the Motorola engineer. They put up a laundry list of functions, like "it's got to have 172 hours of battery life, must have a range of 3 miles, talk time of 360 minutes, store 1200 contacts, and weigh less t

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        Contrast that with the Motorola engineer. They put up a laundry list of functions, like "it's got to have 172 hours of battery life, must have a range of 3 miles, talk time of 360 minutes, store 1200 contacts, and weigh less than 100 grams."

        That may be the way of the Motorola hardware engineer. Unfortunately, the marketing department then get the software engineers to load the battery-and-privacy killing MOTOBLUR onto their nice hardware. They also have locked bootloaders when other Android manufacturers

        • by plover (150551) *

          Oh, I know. I didn't want to get into the whole lockdown / DRM / AppStore / SIM-locking / kill-flexibility-to-stifle-competition bits. That's the extra crap poured in by a company trying to commit evil. Apple and Motorola are certainly notorious for being the worst, but all of the phone makers are complicit with some set of lowlifes such as the RIAA and Verizon.

          I've often thought a cool advertisement for HTC would be to show a picture of the various (legitimate) Cydia repositories, and say "Look at all t

      • I like the Architect point of view, that it must first function, but aesthetics are very important as well. Striking a balance in an elegant way is the most impressive, imho.
    • by farnsworth (558449) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @04:42PM (#37080930)

      The 2G phones were designed at a time when the manufacturers still thought people gave a shit about coverage or battery life.

      Apple has shown us all that they don't..

      I think history disagrees with you. The first iPhone was 2G despite 3G radios existing and working in the wild. They didn't put a 3G radio into the phone until they were small enough and efficient enough. The tradeoff was low-bandwidth vs battery life, and Apple decided battery life was more important. There is nothing particularly cutting edge about any of the iPhone's hardware at all. They use solid parts with good specs, but they are never "the best" that is available at the time. They do this specifically to improve battery life and ensure basic functionality.

      You can complain about the UI and App Store all you like, but I don't think Apple has ever made a phone that sacrifices coverage and battery life for the sake of wowing customers.

  • The regulator went on to add that older phones passed the call testing with 97 percent success rate while latest Smartphones managed only 95 percent during the test.

    It's just 2% difference (and we don't have any information about statistical population). So if they tested 100 2G phones and 100 smartphones, 3 2G phones and 5 3G phones where not suited for the given area. Wow, big deal...

    • by PhotoJim (813785)

      2 percentage points, not 2%. Think of it as call failure rates of 3% and 5% and now you're looking at a 66.7% difference (.05/.03 = 1.666.., hence .666... or 66.7% increase).

      • by dokc (1562391)

        2 percentage points, not 2%. Think of it as call failure rates of 3% and 5% and now you're looking at a 66.7% difference (.05/.03 = 1.666.., hence .666... or 66.7% increase).

        Mathematically you are right, but what this 66,7% increase really means? If you have 0.000000000000000005 and 0.000000000000000003 fail rate (meaning in the real life that a fail rate in both cases is insignificant) you will also have an increase of 66.7%.
        Given statistic can be interpreted as a minor difference between 2G and 3G (as I see it) or like a significant 66,7% increase in the fail rate (as someone will see it from your numbers)

  • The article misrepresents the Ofcom report. Here's what the report actually said:

    However, in the more rural areas that the phones were tested, the feature/entry-level phones generally returned somewhat better performance than smartphones for call completion and call setup. This may be due to the reduced complexity of antenna on these devices and 2G phones not having issues in switching between 2G and 3G networks. These performance differences are likely in practice to be modest, and not necessarily a factor that consumers should base their choice of phone on.

    Source: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/telecoms-research/mobile-not-spots/mobile-coverage-for-consumers/ [ofcom.org.uk]

    They go on to say that this may be in part due to the complexity of switching between 3G and 2G and that it can be mitigated by turning off 3G in your smartphone in rural areas...construing this as "users should invest in mobile phones different than latest Smartphones" is a bit of a leap.

  • Most phone's and all smart phone's can switch settings and you can hard set the 2G if you like, so don't be silly and dumb down your device, just get smart and use the setting available to you,
  • I can verify the coverage is awful, but then not receiving any sort of reception at all is common. Making a phone call from some of the more rural locations is impossible.
  • well doh 2g tech with it's bigger cells has more coverage and more penetration with it's wavelength, especially if they're talking about 900mhz 2g! but why do you have separate operators for tech that's shipped in devices that has handovers between the technologies? I mean, I'm writing this over an edge connection but should I take this outside of this cabin to a better spot I'd get switched to pretty decent 3g. but having separate operators for these two technologies is a total fail of grand scale.

    I guess

  • Generally there are the good 2G networks that have rather lackluster 3G networks (O2, Vodafone)
    And vice versa (The others)

    But T-Mobile uses 3's 3G network (which I consider easily the best) and a combined T-Mobile+Orange 2G network (not as good as Vodafone's 2G coverage but really not bad at all). Seems a really good all-rounder. And they have nice modern Twitter based support where they actually answer you.

  • I found that out in the military. Navy, to be precise?

    We were at sea on training exercises, and had been off Oahu all week long. It was Friday, and we were supposed to be coming back into port on Monday, but due to some of our gear going *BZORCH*, we wanted to come in early for repairs.

    Naturally, we were down on CUDIXS, which meant no outgoing message traffic, which meant no talking to the port engineer in Pearl.

    I was on the O2 level with my old, 1-penny analog brickphone, talking to friends and family wh

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by YoopDaDum (1998474)
      Sometimes, but you have to be careful when comparing to understand the context.

      For example, 2G is usually deployed at 900 MHz while 3G is deployed at 2.1 GHz. The lowest the frequency, the better the propagation characteristics. But 3G at the same frequency is way better than 2G, so when operators "refarm" old 2G frequencies by switching them to 3G, then 3G coverage improves.
      LTE will be a mixed bag here: the most common frequency bands will be in 2.3 or 2.6 GHz for dense coverage (urban), but in the "dig
  • I'm in the heart of the USA. And one of the things I noticed about my brother, daughters, my male friend, and others, is all of their $500 smart phones just wouldn't receive calls sometimes. The phone just wouldn't ring. Now finally I and two other people on my phone plan have gotten Android phones, leaving only my mother with a non-Smart, basic flip phone. Although my phone has been fairly reliable, nephew tried to call me once and my phone never rang. And this is in an area with good cell phone coverage.
    • And this is in an area with good cell phone coverage. I even get 4G.

      Keep in mind that those may be two different things.

      For Verizon and Sprint customers, 4G is a completely different set of radios. Voice calls continue to use CDMA. So it's quite conceivable that you could have spotty voice and awesome data.

      At some point in the future, Verizon plans to support voice calls on their 4G LTE network and, ideally, phones can shut off the CDMA radio until they're out of 4G range. In the meantime, though, you're

  • And the "penetration" within buildings, and the battery life... it's something *known* in the design of the 3G systeme!

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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