MARCH 31, 2015
As life grows ever more mobile, it is becoming increasingly more important in our private and 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 many 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 several high profile technology and communications businesses, all of which would be demanding cutting edge mobile technology.
Berkshire and the growth of 4G
Since the arrival of the smartphone in the middle part of the last decade, mobile internet technology has been infrequent development, the goal always to make our communications faster, crisper and more reliable. However, in 2012 the UK was introduced 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.
While Berkshire’s big towns 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 received 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 number of people and regions able to benefit from Berkshire, particularly 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 from 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 Bracknell and Reading benefit from strong signal access to its 4G network.
Vodafone rolled its super-fast network out across Berkshire through the second part of 2014. While overall UK coverage is still behind that of EE, their coverage is now pretty widespread at a local level, 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 it is now covering a much more significant UK area. Regarding Berkshire, the coverage has increased manifold in the past 12 months and, according to their onsite coverage checker, can now 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 4G coverage across Berkshire is somewhat more sporadic than their competitors as it stood in March 2013. While offering some excellent coverage and fast speeds in major towns such as reading and Bracknell move away from the centres, 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.