Questions about coverage?

While it’s important to choose the right mobile device and plan to suit your needs, quality reception and mobile network performance are also key issues for mobile users.

Before buying a mobile service check the mobile service provider’s coverage maps and information to ensure that your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device will work where you intend to use it – at home, at work, during your commute and while on holidays.

Most Australians live in cities and the majority of people will experience good coverage most of the time. However, consumers should carefully compare coverage information before choosing a mobile service, particularly consumers living in rural and remote areas, to ensure coverage meets their needs.

Before purchasing a mobile service you should consider the following:

  • Buildings in cities can affect mobile reception and you can check with with your mobile service provider if the service will work in buildings, such as your home or office.
  • Mobile carriers can make statements about the ‘percentage of population covered’ by their network. This percentage doesn’t refer to the area that is covered by the mobile network. It’s the percentage of people who live in covered areas, however, there are large parts of Australia with few inhabitants that are not covered by some mobile networks.
  • So make sure you check the mobile service provider’s coverage map before buying a mobile service. Most providers have interactive online coverage maps. Coverage maps are a useful tool, however, they are intended as a guide and you should always check with the mobile service provider about detailed coverage information.
  • There are many factors that can impact on the quality of reception and mobile network performance, including: surrounding buildings; trees; topography; bad weather; interference from nearby electrical devices; other mobile users using the same base station, or even a mobile device fault/incompatibility. Talk to your mobile service provider if you are experiencing persistent problems.

There are ways you can safely and legally enhance your mobile coverage if needed.

If your mobile network performance and coverage falls short of expectations, there are things you can do:

  • Consumers have rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) when they purchase mobile devices and services. You may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund if there is a problem with your mobile device. You may be entitled to cancel your contract if there is a problem with your service. You can read more about consumer rights and guarantees that apply under the ACL at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s website (www.accc.gov.au).
  • Contact your service provider if your mobile network’s performance or coverage is not meeting your expectations and they can help you fix the problem.
  • For example, your mobile service provider can give advice on handsets or devices that will best meet your needs, depending on how and where you use your service. They may recommend an additional antenna or other equipment for your mobile device if you use it in rural or remote areas.
  • Your mobile service provider may also be able to provide tools to enhance reception around your home, office or other location. Installing a car kit, an antenna or femtocell (a small base station that can be used in a home or office) could improve reception.
  •  It’s important to note that mobile phone boosters are banned because they can cause significant interference to mobile networks and coverage. Mobile repeaters can only be used if they have been authorised by your mobile carrier. Unauthorised use can interfere with mobile networks. You should check with your mobile service provider before you purchase a mobile repeater. You can read more about the rules relating to boosters and repeaters by clicking here
  •  If you cannot resolve an issue with your mobile service provider directly, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (www.tio.com.au or 1800 062058).

How mobile networks work

Australia’s mobile carriers continue to make a significant investment in deploying and upgrading mobile networks.

Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, work by sending and receiving low-power radio signals. The signals are sent to and received from antennas that are attached to radio transmitters and receivers, referred to as mobile network base stations.

Mobile devices will not work without base stations, which must be carefully located to allow more people to use mobile telecommunications from more locations.

A mobile network is designed on a “cell grid” basis covering a geographic area. The number of base stations required for a given area will depend on the terrain and number of people using mobile devices. The more people using mobile devices, the more capacity is required and this usually means more base stations closer together.

Mobile devices and base stations are designed, built and tested to comply with strict science-based safety standards, which are recognised by national and international health agencies, including the World Health Organization.

Download our factsheet – Mobile Network Performance: What you need to know.