There are few things as frustrating as having your internet connection drop out when you're in the middle of using it.
It doesn't matter whether you are sending a work email with an attachment or trying to show some friends a funny cat video – having to start loading everything again can quickly become irksome.
With this trend in mind, it may not come as much of a surprise for some that a report from the UK consumer champion Which? found mobile internet access is not as reliable as might be expected.
Carried out in collaboration with independent mobile coverage experts OpenSignal, the study found that smartphone users in the UK were only able to access 4G broadband services an average of 53 per cent of the time across the four major networks.
This data was revealed as part of the latest OpenSignal State of Mobile Networks: UK report, which specified that EE customers enjoy the best 4G coverage on average, as its users are able to reliably access a 4G signal 60.6 per cent of the time.
Vodafone ranked second, with its customers able to connect to 4G services 57 per cent of the time. O2 followed in third place and Three came last with their customers able to access 4G 56 per cent and 39.8 per cent of the time respectively. When 4G signal drops out, users find themselves relying on the slower download speeds offered on 3G.
The statistics were gathered from data collected from more than 30,000 registered users of OpenSignal's mobile app, which takes a background reading of the smartphone's connectivity status every 15 minutes. This makes it possible for the firm to calculate the proportion of time users can access 4G.
While Three was the poorest performer in terms of accessibility, it fared much better when it came to download speeds, offering an average 18.7Mbps. This is a significant increase on the corresponding figure recorded last year, when the average speed was 12Mbps. EE also performed well, with its 4G speed clocking in at an average 17.8Mbps. O2 was third at 12.1Mbps and Vodafone the slowest at 11.8Mbps.
Brendan Gill, chief executive officer of OpenSignal, indicated that 4G mobile broadband performance could improve with a little more effort from network carriers.
“While it's clear the UK is making progress in building out powerful 4G networks, it's obvious there is still some work to do to extend coverage further. We encourage everyone to help us track the UK mobile market by downloading our Android or iPhone app and contributing to our coverage maps and speed data.”
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd urged phone companies to increase their efforts to bring the UK up to speed with the consistency of 4G offered in other parts of the world.
“Almost everyone now uses a mobile phone service and it's not good enough that the UK is lagging behind so many countries with our 4G network coverage. Increasing 4G access should be a priority for mobile providers and Ofcom must continue to push them to make this a reality.”