Telecommunications experts have surveyed Newcastle and North Tyneside for the first time to comprehensively map out the region’s mobile phone signal coverage and blackspots.
The majority of the region was found to have outdoor coverage from the four major networks, yet in some areas such as Woolsington or where recent developments have taken place to the west and north of Newcastle, signal was more limited.
Indoor coverage followed a similar pattern, however up to 10% of the city was potentially found to have no adequate 4G signal, including parts of Dinnington, North Gosforth, Chapel Park, Lemington, Throckley and West Jesmond.
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Consultants drove more than 1,800 miles during the project, measuring real-world 4G signal strength for the main four operators, EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.
Coun Joyce McCarty, Newcastle City Council’ s Cabinet member for inclusive economy, said: “Ensuring everyone in our area, regardless of location, age or income can access the social, cultural and economic benefits of good digital connections is essential.
“While we’ve made significant progress in increasing the availability of fixed broadband infrastructure, the levels of mobile coverage has been less clear due to the way it’s reported by mobile network operators, meaning it’s been almost impossible to identify any partial or total ‘not spots.’
“This piece of work rectifies that, accurately reflecting the on-the-ground experience that residents and businesses are likely to receive.
“Having this fresh understanding will now allow us to engage with the networks in order to collaboratively try and improve coverage for everyone.”
Over the past three years Newcastle City Council commissioned the City Listening project, which analysed social media comments to identify issues in communities that residents might not necessarily be contacting the authority about.
One of the key findings of that was concerns around mobile phone signal in some areas. And so, as part of a larger £58,000 project that aimed to ensure families and businesses had the means to learn or work from home during the pandemic, the survey was undertaken.
Carried out over a two-month period, the work by connectivity consultants FarrPoint recorded signal strength at almost 130,000 data points.
The maps created use a minimum threshold of -105 decibel milliwatts (dBm) for outdoor service and -95dBm for indoor service, the signal strength thresholds used by UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom.
Jenny Nelson, the council’s Digital Newcastle programme manager, said: “We want Newcastle to be the best connected city that it can be and we know that has become even more important with the growth in working from home.
“This exercise has given us the real experience of residents, businesses and visitors, which in some cases is different to the data published by networks, and with this street level detail we can look to work with mobile providers to improve coverage and hopefully rid our city of ‘not spots’.”
Dr Andrew Muir, CEO at FarrPoint, said: “We are pleased to support Newcastle City Council, using our mobile coverage mapping solution to provide an accurate picture of mobile connectivity in the region.
“We hope this will allow the council to make more informed decisions and improve 4G coverage for local residents and visitors as a result.
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