Mobile Usage Shifts Indoors But Results In Poor Service


People are increasingly relying on mobile phones for business, although complaints of poor network reception in doors are increasing

One in four people are now complaining that poor service from their mobile phone networks is negatively affecting their work.

A new survey of over 200 UK mobile users in September and October from wireless communications expert ADC revealed that 60.8 percent of users rely on their mobile handset for their job, while 38.5 percent stated that this was their main work phone.

However, evidence is emerging that networks are struggling to cope after almost two thirds of respondents complained of less than perfect mobile service in their workplace, with 27.6 percent stating that their work has suffered due to poor reception.

There has been many question marks of late over the ability of mobile networks, which were designed to carry voice, to cope with the rising demand for data from mobile broadband users. However, it seems that the survey has identified poor in-building coverage as a particular issue.

ADC found that the majority of people are now using their mobile phones inside buildings, as opposed to outdoors and on the move. But networks are not keeping up with this trend and ADC says that many users complain of coverage blackspots and insufficient service when using their phones inside.

Its research points to particular problem areas inside buildings, after 44.3 percent of respondents complained of poor signal in lifts and stairs or stairwells. A quarter also experienced problems when located anywhere away from the building’s exterior and its windows. Other problematic areas include conference rooms (28.5 percent); ground floor/basement (24.9 percent); and even their very own desks (22.3 percent).

“Poor in-building coverage is nothing new and with an increasing amount of mobile use taking place indoors, finding a solution to this problem is long overdue,” said John Spindler, VP product management at ADC.

“It is a physics issue,” he told eWEEK Europe. “The higher the frequency, the less able it is to penetrate buildings. I don’t think the survey comes as a surprise to me, but it reinforces what we see happening.”

Spindler pointed to stats he saw from Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo, which found that 70 percent of its signals were being delivered indoors, and that data was from a few years ago.

“When you think about history of cellular, it was first introduced to cover motorways and for people travelling to and from places, but usage patterns have shifted dramatically. We are seeing more and more businesses utilising handsets, as it is a very powerful tool for employees being reachable, enhancing customer service, running applications on their handsets, etc.”

“When you see stats like 60.8 percent of users rely on their mobile handset for their job, while 40 percent relying on mobile for their job, that is just the tip of the iceberg. We are going to see the numbers go up,” he said.

Spindler advises that more and more smaller cells need to be created.

“When you install an inbuilding system, you are essentially creating a cell site in that building, which is a dedicated resource for those business users, and they are not have to compete for capacity on a neighbouring cell site, so it is extremely efficient,” he said. “So from our view point things need to change, and this is borne out by industry pundits, the old spray and pray concept won’t work anymore.”


Businesses can use in-building wireless systems, but Vodafone in the UK is offering a femtocell – an indoor base station with backhaul over the user’s broadband network – for smaller offices and home.

Hardware vendors including Ubiquisys are offering business grade versions of femtocells to support larger numbers of users.

Author: Tom Jowitt
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