A MOBILE phone map of Edinburgh has revealed shocking blackspots that leave thousands of people struggling to get a signal.
The “not spots” scattered throughout the Capital could help explain the frequent and sudden loss of mobile signals still suffered by customers in some of the country’s most built-up areas.
The map of the Capital – and a similar one for Glasgow – were produced by researchers at Edinburgh University who admitted urban coverage was “much worse” than expected.
Even parts of Edinburgh’s West End, home to numerous banks and businesses, has areas of weak coverage.
Leith Walk also contains numerous areas of “poor” reception.
And there were also significant “not spots” in Morningside, around Edinburgh University’s King’s Buildings campus and near the Royal Botanic Garden.
The maps are built up from thousands of samples of 3G mobile phone signal strength and are colour-coded.
Around a third are coloured red or purple, meaning a poor or fair signal and insufficient for a good quality connection.
The researchers said they found “many sections of restricted bandwidth and coverage across all mobile generators with the high probability that a call will cut out more than once”.
And they concluded: “Coverage at postcode level highlights a decidedly worse position than expected.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont described the results as “very surprising” and warned Scotland risked falling behind other nations in communications technology.
He said: “Residents in rural areas are all too aware how tricky it can be to get a decent mobile phone reception in huge areas of Scotland.
“However, to learn that our two main cities are suffering is very surprising, especially when you see the number of mobile phone masts being erected in cities.
“It’s important visitors to Scotland do not get a bad impression, and being behind other European countries when it comes to 3G signal does not look good.”
The report called for the Scottish Government to work with regulator Ofcom to set up roaming agreements across Scotland.
This would allow consumers to use another firm’s signal if their own was unavailable.
The recommendation has been welcomed by the Mobile Operators Association, which represents four UK network providers.
MOA executive director John Cooke said: “That’s important because the Scottish telecoms planning regime is far more restrictive than the corresponding system in England; that’s a disincentive to investment in telecoms infrastructure.”
Mahesh Marina, a lecturer who worked on the report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, said: “If the results of the study were compared with coverage maps made by mobile phone operators there would be a marked difference. This is because their reports measure outdoor coverage, whereas this report measured the strength of signal indoors. We spend 80 per cent of our time indoors and 70 per cent of our calls are made there. Outdoor coverage is generally very good in urban areas because of the density of phone masts, but signals can have trouble penetrating certain building materials, especially concrete. If all buildings were made of glass, there would be no issue.”
And if you happen to live in a coverage black spot, there are some steps you can take.
Mahesh Marina said: “You can purchase a device called a Femtocell, which acts as a small base station and will boost your signal. But making the infrastructure as dense as possible by erecting more masts would be the best way to improve coverage for everyone.”