Does poor mobile coverage at work really have to be a given?


“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes…and unreliable mobile phone reception at work.” The great ‘founding father’ Benjamin Franklin knew the certainty of the future, but maybe now we should add the bit he missed. Why? Well what would he have thought 250 years ago if the candle he needed to work by wouldn’t light?

Consistent mobile connectivity is a puzzling problem that we face. When you consider the extremes man has gone to develop amazing technology that can read your mind, create cameras to film the movement of light, and smart glasses for the blind – it’s truly mind boggling that poor mobile phone reception is still a major problem.

Recently we polled 2,000 UK office workers and found that a startling 43 per cent of ‘higher managerial’ personnel at UK businesses have admitted they have to stand by a window to make or take work calls on their mobiles; a clear indication that the problem of patchy mobile signal in the workplace is a significant problem.

Our research also indicated that UK businesses are losing over £30 million a week as employees spend an hour or more hunting for better mobile reception. This equates to a UK total of 2.53 million hours a week spent. For a mid-sized enterprise of 200 employees, that’s a loss of £2,800 a week from this downtime; a figure that really highlights the economic motivation for businesses and indeed operators to solve this problem.

There are a wide range of problems that businesses will face if they cannot improve the mobile reception for their employees. In an age of increased sensitivity and a greater emphasis on privacy, many employees choose to make work calls away from the desk. If an employee is tied to their desk, having to use a fixed line phone, the mobility element of working that is so prominent and important in modern day working, is a write off.

There are certain conversations that just cannot be had with others in earshot, and this isn’t to say that they are top secret; but sensitive discussions about new business, contracts, and personal issues about individual employees (especially the case for managers) have to be had in a private setting.

It’s a ‘no win’ situation for many employees – you can’t bring yourself to use the land line phone for private conversations, but nor can you rely on your mobile, when you’re served with sub-standard mobile coverage.

While there is a problem for businesses and mobile operators, there are now technologies that can rectify this age-old constraint. Small Cell products use low power, mobile technology in book-sized devices for the office, sourced from the operators, they allow businesses to solve patchy indoor mobile reception for all their employees.

Inadequate mobile phone coverage is thought of as inevitable – ‘as certain as death and taxes’ – but the inevitability is only created by the historic acceptance that you’re not always going to get perfect indoor mobile reception from the masts outside.

This is no longer the case, nor should it ever be accepted as the norm.

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Gavin Ray

Gavin Ray

Gavin heads Product and Marketing units within IPA and blogs about the shape of the industry, the ever shifting commercial landscape of telecoms and how they influence products and propositions to market. His background includes a number of years running European Network Management in Cisco, building national data backbones across Europe while in AT&T and a stint as a VC investing in and advising all kinds of Enterprise IT and Telco high growth technologies.

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