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HOTSPOTS OR 'NOTSPOTS'? Mobile broadband test shows where city's slow.

Byline: Helen Turner

CARDIFF'S mobile broadband "notspots" have been revealed.

Roath, Heath, Pontprennau and Tongwynlais all had "notspots", so called because they have no or very much slower mobile broadband coverage, according to a UK-wide survey.

Many other areas were reliant on older 2G technology, which is around 10 times slower than 3G.

There were also six notspots in the Penarth, Cogan, Dinas Powys and Swanbridge areas, four in Barry, and several in Bridgend.

However, when the Echo yesterday visited a supposed notspot in the Victoria Park area of Canton, we had no problem with our 3G coverage.

Cardiff-based testing company Epitiro was commissioned to develop an Android smart phone app for the BBC, which once downloaded by volunteers collated information about the speed of consumers' 3G mobile broadband across the UK.

More than 1.7 million hours of data was collected from 44,600 volunteers between July 18 and August 8, before the BBC published an interactive map allowing consumers to discover the extent of mobile coverage by postcode.

Jon Curley, founder of Epitiro, said coverage was limited in Roath, where he lives.

"I certainly don't have any coverage in the morning, 2G or 3G," he said.

"But it does improve as I leave my home and come towards the city centre, I tend to pick up a 2G and finally a 3G signal. What the map is showing is overall a very, very good picture.

"I think we are seeing the vast majority - 75 to 80% coverage with 3G service. However, there are some surprising areas even in city centres such as this where there is only 2G or in some cases no service.

"It certainly varies very much from operator to operator and again on a localised basis even in the city centres."

A poorer signal means slow or no internet coverage through mobile phones, now a daily part of many people's lives as they send e-mails and surf the net through their mobiles.

Consumers who were able to receive a data connection only got a 3G signal 75% of the time, and for nearly a quarter of the time they had to rely on 2G, the survey found.

Epitiro, whose clients include telecoms regulators in Singapore, New Zealand and Bahrain, recently conducted a study for Ofcom regarding mobile broadband across operators.

The study into 3G coverage will help consumers and operators, according to head of marketing Iain Wood.

"I think this type of measurement is bound to be a benefit to operators," he said.

"At a glance they can see where they are doing well and where they are working not so well."

Interest in the distribution of mobile broadband coverage will only increase, he added.

"Smart phones are the number one phones coming out, compared to just a basic voice feature phone," he said.

"3G is the premier technology at the moment in the UK - our technology makes sure you can see where it is available."

David Rosser, head of the CBI in Wales, said efficient mobile broadband was essential for today's businesses. "Mobile connectivity is getting more important month by month," he said.

"It improves flexibility or working practice and it improves your ability to stay in touch with your customers and suppliers. Increasingly people are expected to be contactable all day every day - being out of the office is not a reason not to be in touch."

Cardiff-based estate agent Thomas George said prospective tenants usually asked about 3G coverage.

"People who are renting are demographically in the 20 to 40 age bracket, and 80% of them have iPhones or Android phones," he said.

"Which is why companies like us have apps now. It's imperative they get a good reception, they are using their phones more than laptops."

* The map of Cardiff made from data collected by testing company Epitiro, showing the speed of broadband across the city. Roath, Heath, Pontprennau and Tongwynlais all have notspots, meaning they have no or slower mobile broadband coverage

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 25, 2011
Words:671
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