As life grows ever more mobile it is becoming increasingly more important in both our private and, particularly our working lives to have access to a strong, fast and reliable mobile internet connection. Whilst this is of course true for all parts of the UK, it is an issue keenly felt within the boundaries of Berkshire.
Being a region within the commuter belt for London means that a significant number of its population are working on the move, in need of reliable communications as they travel or spend time out of the office. In addition, Berkshire also happens to be a hub for a number of high profile technology and communications businesses, all of which would be demanding of cutting edge mobile technology.
Berkshire and the growth of 4G
Since the arrival of the smart phone in the middle part of the last decade mobile internet technology has been in frequent development, the goal always to make our communications faster, crisper and more reliable. In 2012 the UK was introduced for the first time to the 4th generation of this technology – aka 4G. Initially launched across 11 cities by network provider EE, 4G represents the most advanced and fastest form of mobile internet access currently available (until, of course, 5G inevitably comes along). With connection and download speeds up to 5 times faster than its 3G predecessor, 4G has seen a monumental advance in mobile capability.
Whilst the big towns of Berkshire weren’t a part of the initial launch the region has had some connection with its development with Slough chosen by O2 back in 2009 as a testing zone for its network.
However, the region then had to wait for the second and third rounds of 4G roll-out before its residents could claim any significant access to the technology with towns such as Bracknell, with its propensity for high-tech industries, becoming some of the first areas of the county to receive it – via the UK’s largest provider EE.
The Current Situation in Berkshire
By 2014 the UK was receiving its 4G coverage through four main providers: EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three. This is seen a more widespread roll-out of the technology and a significant rise in the numbers of people and regions able to benefit with Berkshire, in particular, finding a vast upsurge in 4G coverage across the county.
However, whilst it’s true that 4G now exists across the length and breadth of Berkshire, the reality is that your connection is largely dependent on your mobile provider and indeed, the proximity you are to the masts set up to receive and distribute the signal.
Far and away the biggest provider of 4G in the UK, EE has made a substantial roll-out of its coverage across Berkshire throughout 2013 and 2014 with most towns in the area having access to its 4G signal by the end of October ’14. According to EE’s coverage chart – as of March 2015 – all major towns from Wokingham around to Bracknell and Reading benefit from strong signal access to its 4G network.
Vodafone rolled their super-fast network out across Berkshire through the second part of 2014. Whilst overall UK coverage is still behind that of EE, at a local level their coverage is now pretty widespread, particularly within the more built up, urban areas, claiming a fairly consistent coverage along the M4 corridor from Reading to Heathrow Airport.
O2’s roll-out has been somewhat behind that of EE although is now covering a much more significant areas of the UK. Regarding Berkshire, the coverage has increased manifold in the past 12 months and, according to their onsite coverage checker, are now able to offer super-fast connection speeds across the county. The caveat to this is that there are reported dead zones in more off the beaten track locations while the further away from London and the M25 region you move, the less comprehensive the coverage appears to be.
Three’s coverage across Berkshire is somewhat more sporadic than their competitors as it stands in March 2013. Whilst offering some excellent coverage and fast speeds in major towns such as reading and Bracknell, move away from the centres and it is altogether more patchy. Furthermore, as you head to the west of the county, into more rural areas and towards Newbury Three have, as yet not delivered any 4G coverage at all.