ScottishstormPeople outside the UK’s big cities are up to 4.5 times more likely to suffer failed calls on their mobile phones than those who live in the metropolises, research by the Countryside Alliance and mobile analytics firm RootMetrics has shown. As part of a campaign by the Countryside Alliance to map mobile phone reception, people across the UK have been taking signal samples with their smartphones using RootMetric’s free CoverageMap app. Data compiled from the app and professional testing shows that people living outside major cities have a much poorer service from their mobile phone contracts. One extreme example is in the vicinity of Leicester, where there is 13.7 times more chance your call will go to dead air than in the city itself. 

Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: “Our research shows mobile performance, particularly internet access and call rate, gets worse the further you get from major cities.

“This is perhaps understandable in terms of population density and the logistics of connecting more remote communities. However the fact that someone with extremely poor service in part of the country can pay the same as someone with excellent service elsewhere clearly shows something needs to be done.”

The Countryside Alliance recommends four improvements:

  •  National roaming: This should be a priority for the Government and mobile phone operators. It would reduce the number of “not-spots” in the country without the need to build new masts or increase the current infrastructure.
  • 4G rollout should have a clear and tight schedule to ensure that rural areas have access to its benefits by the 2017 deadline.
  • Mobile Infrastructure Project: should be closely monitored by the Government to ensure the project stays on track and delivers coverage to the 60,000 not-spots, within budget by March 2015. This includes holding mobile operators to account if they are slow to occupy the new infrastructure.
  • Planning regulations: these must be simplified to enable Government targets for digital connectivity and customers’ demands for service to be met.
  • The Countryside Alliance campaign continues and we hope to create a true picture of UK phone reception in rural areas that we can use to lobby Government and phone companies. For information on how to use the app and to see results so far,


  • The odds of having a call blocked are 13.7 times higher outside Leicester than in the city
  • The odds of a call failing in the Hull area are 5.6 times higher outside the city
  • The odds of call dropping are four times higher outside Bristol than in the city
  • The odds of a text failing to send are 9.7 times higher outside Birmingham than in the city
  • The odds of a text failing to send are 8.4 times higher outside Cardiff than in the city
  • The odds of a text failing to send are 4.2 times higher outside Edinburgh than in the city
  •  24.3% of the UK does not get any 3G signal from any operator (OFCOM Infrastructure report 2012 update)
  • 12.8% of the UK does not get any 2G signal from any operator (OFCOM Infrastructure report 2012 update)
  • Between 2010 and 2011 use of mobile phones to access the internet increased from 24% to 51% (Office of National Statistics, Statistical Bulletin Internet Access – Households and Individuals, 2012)
  • In 2013 there are 82.7m mobile phone subscriptions in the UK (Ibid)
  • Mobile not-spots have cost the British economy £1.3bn (Daily Telegraph, 31 May 2011)
  • Issues surrounding rural connectivity are central to the Countryside Alliance’s presence at party conferences this year.