Networks: no, 4G isn't messing with your mobiles

20 November 2013, 19:34   By Jemma Crutchlow-Porter

AN increasing number of 3G customers are grumbling about dropping calls and poor coverage but the networks are adamant that the 4G rollout is not to blame.

4g mobile phone
Credit: LuckyStep/

The social networks are seeing a myriad of complaints from unhappy customers, who claim that the 4G rollout is affecting their mobile network.

All the major UK mobile operators have spoken out in an attempt to reassure customers that the 4G rollout is not having a negative impact on 3G.

However, recent independent tests do indicate that 3G services across all networks have become slightly less reliable since 4G launched.

4g twitter complaints

Social media backlash

Twitter and Facebook have seen an increasing number of people airing their views about deteriorating 2G and 3G signal.

There have been reports of dropping calls, lower internet speeds and generally poor coverage.

Users seem to believe that the sudden change in service level is down to the rollout of 4G - a claim that O2 and the other networks are keen to reject.

3g twitter complaints

Deteriorating 3G service

Despite the instant dismissal from the UK networks, figures from RootMetrics, which has closely monitored 4G performance, suggest that there really has been a drop in service.

To compare before and after 4G, RootMetrics brought up the July 2013 scores for internet speed and reliability of the top four providers' service in Bristol.

Leading the way was EE, with a RootMetrics reliability score of 109, followed by Three, O2 and Vodafone with 80, 70 and 54 respectively.

Vodafone were found to have the most call failures (3.4% of all calls studied), with O2 proving to be the most reliable (1.2%).

In October 2013, after the start of the 4G rollout for Vodafone and O2, scores for all four major networks were lower.

O2 only lost 0.2 points, Three 1.1 points and EE 3 points.

But Vodafone's score fell by almost 10 points, to 44.9.

Call failures also increased, 3.8% for Vodafone, 2.8% for Three and 1.6% for EE, while O2 was unaffected.

RootMetrics figures for London, Cardiff and Leeds all showed a similar pattern of decline.

EE has also received a slap on the wrist after Watchdog received complaints about its 4G service. The investigation found that customers were being asked to switch to 3G if they were having problems with 4G.

It could be this additional demand on 3G that is causing its poor performance.

EE did apologise but, unsurprisingly, rejected the claim that 4G services were causing a negative experience.

'Perception issue'

When speaking amid the social media backlash about the 3G service, Ronan Dunne, the CEO of Telefonica O2 in the UK, claimed that there aren't widespread service problems - and, if there are, they have nothing to do with 4G.

He believes that 3G customers just think they are being neglected in favour of 4G and it's merely a 'perception issue'.

Dunne emphasised the fact that it was near impossible for 2G and 3G speeds to be affected directly by 4G.

However, he did go on to say that he understood some customers were seeing a negative change, but that was nothing to do with 4G.

While the networks refuse to believe that the drop in 2G and 3G services is not a direct result of the recent 4G rollout, and in fact claim that a link between the two is technically impossible, it certainly is a coincidence.

Rollout of 4G

EE, or Everything Everywhere, was the first UK mobile operator to offer 4G following the service auction earlier this year.

At the time, they were the only network to offer the high speed service to customers as industry regulator, Ofcom, gave them permission to run the service on pre-owned spectrum.

Subsequently, O2 and Vodafone launched their 4G services in August 2013.

Three are the only major network yet to offer 4G but it will be available for new customers and as a free upgrade for existing customers from next month.

The news of Three's 'free' 4G service has kickstarted a price war among the networks, with O2 and EE slashing their current prices and smaller operators like Tesco offering low cost 4G upgrades.

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