Friday 28 October 2016

International report highlights large gaps in Irish mobile phone signals

Published 16/10/2016 | 10:54

Differences of up to 60pc in the quality being experienced by Irish mobile users Photo: Deposit
Differences of up to 60pc in the quality being experienced by Irish mobile users Photo: Deposit

An international mobile operator survey claims to show big gaps in voice and data quality between Irish operators.

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 P3’s research, which consists of thousands of voice and data tests in cities, towns and main roads, claims there are differences of up to 60pc in the quality being experienced by Irish mobile users.

 In towns such as Kilkenny, Portlaoise, Mullingar and Westport, as little as 25pc of some operators’ users are experiencing proper mobile voice coverage.

 And up to two thirds’ of some operators’ users are getting sub-par data quality on the country’s main arterial road routes.

 The research, which did not include a geographical breakdown by individual regions or cities, was commissioned by Vodafone Ireland’s parent company, Vodafone Group.

 However, a spokesman for P3 said that the study was “independent” and that his company stood over the results as an accurate representation of voice and data network quality across Ireland. The spokesman said that Vodafone did not influence the criteria by which the tests were measured.

 Nevertheless, the research claims that Vodafone Ireland scored the “best in test” in virtually every metric, including voice and data services in cities towns and major roads.

 It claims that Vodafone achieved scores of 88pc, 85pc and 69pc respectively for cities, towns and roads in voice quality tests. By comparison, it claims that “operator 2” scored 47pc, 25pc and 48pc respectively in voice tests for cities, towns and roads. And it claims that “operator 3” scored 72pc, 63pc and 46pc respectively for voice tests in cities, towns and roads.

 Ireland only has three network operators, Vodafone, Three and Meteor.

 A recent national drive test survey by Comreg showed a more mixed set of results, with Meteor and Three sometimes scoring higher than Vodafone in individual regional metrics.

 Similarly, networking testing by RootMetrics in July showed mixed results.

 That research, which consisted of between 9,000 and 13,000 tests in multiple Irish cities and counties, measured factors from data speed to dropped calls and texting reliability.

 It found that the biggest disparities between the three major networks occurred in terms of call quality. In Dublin, Vodafone recorded the best call quality with Three losing out most. However, the situation was reversed in Cork, where Vodafone suffered the worst recorded call quality and Three recorded the best.

 The RootMetrics data suggested that the biggest disparity in dropped calls occurred in Limerick, where Meteor scored best and Vodafone scored worst. For network speed, Vodafone came out top in all three cities and in Dublin and Cork for data "performance".

 Three topped "network reliability" levels in Cork but came third in five out of six metrics for Dublin usage.

 P3’s testing occurred over 12 days in August using Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 4 smartphones with sim cards from Vodafone, Three and Meteor. It measured 2,200 voice calls and 1,700 data sessions per operator. Service reliability was also tested.

 54pc of the testing occurred in cities, 21pc in towns and 25pc on primary roads and motorways.

 A spokesman for P3 said that the testing allows for national roaming and does not penalise an operator which does not have its own mast but which shares facilities with another network.

 Vodafone Ireland have been quick to pounce on the P3 “best in test” results.

“We have used €550m of investment over the last three years to enhance services for our customers in relation to improved call reliability and quality, while simultaneously rolling out superfast 4G and 3G to deliver a compelling and seamless mobile data experience,” said Max Gasparoni, head of network in Vodafone Ireland.

 However, a spokeswoman for Three challenged the findings of the P3 research.

“We find it hard to take seriously claims regarding the mobile networks in Ireland, based on a report which was commissioned and paid for by Vodafone, which seems to conclude that Vodafone’s network is superior across the board,” she said.

“Three is investing €300m in its network which will roll out a state-of-the-art 4G network across Ireland. That work is well underway and will be completed by 2017. Strong performance is being seen in areas where work has been completed such as Ennis where access to 2G & 3G has increased by 40pc and access to 4G has increased by 500pc.”

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