MOBILE phone signals in Oxford are less reliable than in neighbouring areas and the UK average, new figures have revealed.

A map created by OpenSignal, a company founded by Oxford University graduates to provide data on mobile phone reception, has shown the city lags behind Swindon, Reading and High Wycombe when it comes to signal reliability.

People who use one of the main four providers – Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone – will also find their service is reliable only 84 per cent of the time on average, compared to 89 per cent in Swindon, High Wycombe and Reading. Across the UK the average is 87 per cent.

Reliability means how often people can expect to pick up a phone signal from their provider.

The average data download speed in Oxford is also less than Reading, Swindon and High Wycombe across the main four networks.

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An average mobile phone user in Oxford will get a download speed of 4.71mbps (megabits per second) compared to 6.20mbps in Swindon, 6.21mbps in High Wycombe and 7.78mbps in Reading. On average a song would take five seconds to download on a 4mbps connection.

Upload speeds are also slower than Reading, but Oxford does better than Swindon and High Wycombe in this category.

One positive for Oxford mobile phone users is that when they do get a signal, they can expect four bars of strength on average.

Oxfordshire county councillor for Wolvercote and Summertown Jean Fooks said: “It seems sad that Oxford, which is a big place, does not have the signal we need.

“I have had constituents contacting me and telling me the signal is awful.

“It is the 21st century and we have made good progress with superfast broadband but the signal is not good enough.”

Jericho resident James Catchpole, 33, said networks are not interested in dealing with unreliable signals.

He said: “Vodafone used to work but since three months ago that has gone down almost completely.

“Whenever I go outside I always see a neighbour waving the phone about trying to get signal.

“I think I have spoken to them three times but it was clear that they were not going to do anything about it.”

“It is just an inconvenience.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said reliable phone signal was important for people and businesses in the city.

He said: “It’s really essential these days, for everyday family and social life as well as business and leisure, to have a decent mobile signal.

“It would be good to hear from the phone companies what they can do to make things better for everybody, including sharing masts to make the most effective use of the infrastructure.”

Mobile phone companies defended the level of coverage, with some denying there was any problem with signal.

O2 spokeswoman Avni Thakrar said: “O2 2G and 3G signal is good. Improving coverage is a priority for us and we invest £1.5m every single day in our network to offer the widest possible connectivity for our customers.

“We’ll also be investing £1.5bn over the next three years to extend this further.”

An EE spokeswoman said: “OpenSignal’s map is built on 40,000 of their national users and we do not feel this is representative of our coverage.”

Three and Vodafone declined to comment on signal strength in Oxford.

Oxford Mail:

  • David Cohen

VODAFONE customers in Burford told the Oxford Mail they had suffered severe signal problems for months.

David Cohen – a former mayor of the town, who runs the Burford Needlecraft shop in High Street with his wife Jan – said he had to spend hundreds of pounds using a landline phone, despite still paying his Vodafone contract.

In October, he switched to rival mobile firm EE after getting little response from Vodafone.

Mr Cohen, 64, told the Oxford Mail in November: “I couldn’t get a signal inside the shop, or outside, unless I walked up the hill.

“The reason I joined Vodafone was because they had a good service but EE has been far better.

“Not only was I not receiving phone calls but it was costing me landline charges on top of the contract. It’s just useless and their attitude annoyed us more than anything.”

Vodafone spokesman Jane Frapwell said: “We did have some signal problems back in July which were resolved and our records show that the local site is up and running and carrying traffic normally.”

Putting the networks through their paces

Service provider: Three, Reliability in Oxford: 87 per cent Case study: Ben Ricci, 30, Abingdon, finance assistant at Oxford University.

Oxford Mail:

  • Ben Ricci

“I’ve been with Three for just over 10 years now and towards the beginning the coverage was pretty laughable – even in big cities.

“Now, however, I rarely have any problems with signal at all.

“The signal is great in Oxford city centre, mostly 4G, yet it starts to waiver on the outskirts, especially down Cowley way.

“I live in Abingdon and I get 4G in my flat in certain spots.

“Obviously, there are a few grey areas but on the whole I’m well connected most of the time.”


Service provider: EE, Reliability in Oxford: 82 per cent Case study: Cathryn Setz, 31, research fellow at Oxford University, from Iffley Road.

Oxford Mail:

  • Cathryn Setz

“I’m on a £40-a-month contract with EE. I get maybe one bar at work in central Oxford.

“I put up with it because the phone can be distracting, but it’s not what I pay for.

“At home I get two bars, very occasionally three, but there are whole patches where the signal just drops out completely, inexplicably.

“EE seem to think Oxford is well covered, but it’s not. I tried querying it, but it hasn’t improved.”


Service provider: Vodafone, Reliability in Oxford: 83 per cent Case study: Ali Hodkinson, 25, trainee priest, Cowley Road.

Oxford Mail:

  • Ali Hodkinson

“I’ve been with Vodafone ever since the sepia-tinted glory days of the Nokia 3210 and, as such, I’ve never really known any different.

“While cellular signal is almost non-existent around Cornmarket and the High Street, phone signal itself isn’t too bad in town and up Cowley Road.

“Inside, however, is a different story.

“It might just be down to living and working in stone buildings, but calls are constantly dropping or sounding distant, even with full signal.

“I’ve just upgraded to a 4G contract, but I’m not holding my breath.”


Service provider: O2, Reliability in Oxford: 82 per cent Case study: Simon Jeffries, 27, distribution centre operative, from Chalgrove.

Oxford Mail:

  • Simon Jeffries

“I have found the signal to be very intermittent both in and out of Oxford city centre.

“My village is especially bad, often needing a balancing act to achieve two bars of signal, let alone 3G.

“In the city centre I get full 3G in a few areas, but have to try to find them again to get bus times, directions, etc.

“It’s not much good having shopping or sightseeing apps if you can’t access them.”

Dodgy reception appears a common problem for users

TO try to find out for myself how bad mobile phone signal is in Oxford I went on a journey around the city, writes Luke Sproule.

Oxford Mail:

  • Luke Sproule

Phone signal is poor in my flat in Cutteslowe, so I made my way to Summertown first to see if it was an isolated problem or part of a wider trend in North Oxford.

In fact I discovered the signal in Summertown is fine, at least when I was there, with four bars and 3G access.

I then made my way around the ring road to Littlemore, where things were not so good.

Signal here was just a couple of bars and no 3G access, which I found surprising in such a populated part of the city.

Finally I stopped off in Botley and again reception was poor.

I was struggling to get any signal at all at times, and although occasionally I would get two or three bars it was very volatile, and would drop quickly.

It was an unscientific experiment, but I would not like to be relying on 3G in Oxford when signal remains so patchy.

  • OXFORD compared with other South East cities: Average signal strength: UK: Four and a half bars Oxford: Four bars High Wycombe: Four bars Reading: Four bars Swindon: Four bars Download speed: UK: 4.38mbps Reading: 7.78mbp High Wycombe: 6.21mbps Swindon: 6.21mbps Oxford: 4.71mbps Upload speed: UK: 0.69mbps Swindon: 6.2mbps Reading: 2.52mbps Oxford: 2.12mbps High Wycombe: 1.75mbps Reliability: UK: 87 per cent High Wycombe: 89 per cent Reading: 89 per cent Swindon: 89 per cent Oxford: 84 per cent

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