Ofcom names and shames mobile networks with worst rural service

Communications regulator finds EE’s the best network to be on when you want to make calls from a rural location, while Vodafone is best avoided if you live in the countryside…

New research from UK communications regulator Ofcom has shown just how wrong you are if you think mobile networks are all the same when it comes to delivering reliable signal.

In some rural areas, if you choose the wrong network, as many as one in five phone calls you try to make either won't connect at all or will cut you off unexpectedly mid-conversation.

So, which are the best and worst mobile networks? According to Ofcom, EE's the most reliable network, coming out on top for rural areas as well as the UK as a whole.

Vodafone was found to be least reliable, ranking fourth out of the four major networks. Over 20% of Vodafone calls made in rural areas were disrupted or failed to connect.

Mobile network

Calls completed successfully (%)



Overall (UK)


97.5 (2nd)

93.7 (1st)

97.0 (1st)


97.7 (1st)

87.4 (2nd)

95.3 (2nd)


96.0 (3rd)

86.0 (3rd)

94.5 (3rd)


95.3 (4th)

79.9 (4th)

92.6 (4th)

Ofcom explained its research like this: "Data on 'blocked' and 'dropped' calls was collected from the four mobile networks - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

"Blocked calls happen when the user is in an area of coverage, but can't make a call - this can be because of heavy demand on the mobile network.

"Dropped calls occur when a call is connected, but terminates unexpectedly. This can happen when a user moves into an area with poor or no mobile signal."

An Ofcom survey found one in five mobile phone users experience a blocked or dropped call at least once a week. However, more than half of the people surveyed said they never or hardly ever had a problem getting mobile signal where they live.

Interestingly, 70% of customers in rural areas are satisfied with their mobile service, compared to only slightly more (78%) in towns and cities, which are generally better connected.

The reason why it's only a small difference is probably because people in rural areas have lower expectations when it comes to mobile reception. People in urban areas are more likely to expect a good service at all times, which, due to a range of external factors, is unrealistic.

Before signing up to a mobile phone plan, you should always check the reception in your area - not just at home, but where you work and so on - for whichever network you're joining, using the coverage checker on their website.

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