Mobile signal survey results: Introduction

3: Introduction

North Huish Parish Council had received concerns that long-term problems with mobile telephone signal, which had previously been an inconvenience, were becoming a serious impediment for parishioners. In particular, an increase in ‘two-factor authentication’ which requires users to receive one-time passwords or codes by SMS text message are locking Avonwick residents out of online services such as banking and payments.

The council was concerned that parishioners were being disadvantaged by the level of signal in the village and that the official estimates of coverage were over-optimistic. As a result, the council undertook a survey in February 2020 to determine the strength of mobile telephone signals in the village of Avonwick, and to see if particular networks or areas had better coverage than others.

4: Survey method

In order to obtain a representative sample of ‘real world’ signal strength, we decided to ask parishioners to check signal level with their own devices, rather than attempting to use a single device to survey the whole village. The council set up an online survey, including ten questions (Appendix 1). The survey was advertised to every household in Avonwick by hand-delivering leaflets and by advertising the survey online. The adverts invited every adult telephone user in Avonwick to answer the survey.

There was no limit to the number of entries that the survey could accept, and multiple entries from the same address were accepted in order to gain responses from all telephone users within each household. However, each survey response included the address of the respondent as a mandatory field in order to plot signal strength, which helps to identify duplication. In addition, 66% of respondents gave their personal contact details, which enabled a small number of duplicate submissions to be removed.

We asked respondents to state the signal strength in terms of ‘bars’ as shown on their devices’ display, as this indication is well understood by the general public. We assume that different devices will allocate bars at different signal strengths, but believe this is still a reasonable indication of signal presence, particularly as in most cases the signal strength was clearly low by any measure. We also asked respondents to indicate whether the signal they received was ‘useable’ or not to try to determine what level of signal might be acceptable.

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