Our network explained in plain English
There are lots of techie terms when it comes to networks. So, to help you get your head around them, we've explained them in plain English.
4G and LTE
We've now launched our 4G network and we'll be rolling it out across the UK over the next few months. It's a phone network that's faster than 3G. And our 4G is on a low frequency, which means signal travels further into homes, offices, shopping centres and other buildings than any other 4G signal available. It's sometimes called LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution.
2G and 3G
As 3G networks use the latest technology (3rd generation), you can use data quickly and easily where connection speeds allow. 2G is slower (2nd generation), so it isn't as good for going online. But it's fine for calls and texts.
3G+ and EDGE
3G+ uses a technology called HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) which increases your 3G internet connection speeds even more. If you're within a 3G+ cell, and your device supports HSDPA, you'll notice a 3G+ symbol on your phone screen. Similarly, EDGE increases 2G internet connection speeds.
Base stations (also known as ‘sites’ or ‘masts’) contain the transmitters that provide signals. They usually comprise a group of antennae and a cabinet to house the equipment. Base stations can be sited on top of buildings, added to existing masts or built specifically to reach particular areas or users.
The antenna connected to a base station provides a signal for a specified geographic area known as a cell. Cells can vary greatly in size, depending on the need in that particular area. In a low population area a cell might be 5 km across, while in a busy city it could be just 100m wide.
Some operators refer to ‘population coverage’ (the number of people their signal reaches). But that doesn't explain what the coverage is really like where you need it. Our coverage maps give you the full picture. We show indoor coverage as well as outdoor, the types of services available and any future plans.
The faster your data speed (measured in megabits-per-second), the better your web browsing experience. Speed depends on a number of factors, such as base station capacity, the quality of your device, and signal type, strength and location. Because speed is shared between base station users, it also depends on the number of other people using their devices at any one time.
To use your mobile device, you need a ‘signal’ from your operator. You’ll see the strength of that signal displayed - usually in the form of bars - on your phone screen. The stronger the signal, the more bars you'll see. Signal can also be referred to as ‘coverage’ - so a coverage map displays signal strength in different areas.
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