Data led approach to tackling mobile and broadband connectivity notspots leads to tangible improvements and new initiatives
Over 3M connectivity data points gathered per month during the first 12 months of Cambridge Ahead’s crowdsourcing initiative #CambsNotspotter.
In March 2016, Cambridge Ahead, the business and academic member group dedicated to the sustainable growth of Cambridge and its region, launched #CambsNotspotter – a crowdsourcing initiative aimed at identifying gaps in mobile and broadband connectivity across the region. The initiative encouraged Cambridge employees and residents to participate by providing usage data from their home, office and mobile connections to understand current connectivity provision and determine development requirements. The data gathered enabled Cambridge Ahead to evidence how actual connectivity compared to that provided by the operators to Ofcom, as well as identify any specific local challenges.
12 months on, the data shows a significant move towards 4G, which provides very fast internet access. An improvement in 4G coverage is shown, as operators continue to increase deployment and the number of people using 4G mobiles (and therefore measuring 4G connectivity) increases. Between January and March this year 9.56M data samples were collected, which when compared to the initial data pull of 8.77M samples collected in the first three months of the #CambsNotspotter initiative between May and July 2016, shows 4G availability (from any operator) increasing from 52% of locations measured to 74%.
In general, the availability of mobile data connectivity in the Greater Cambridge area has also improved and overall user experience is better, although there are still significant notspots in some areas. However, the proportion of locations measured which have no or only weak data-connectivity available (from any operator) has dropped from 19% to 12%.
The amount of qualitative and quantitative data secured enabled Cambridge Ahead to hold meetings with various operators, including EE, Three and Vodafone, all of whom accepted that the data was accurate and shared their plans to resolve the identified notspots by early 2018. Cambridge Ahead will be meeting with the operators again at the end of this year to ascertain progress against agreed objectives.
Many organisations championed the use of the ‘OpenSignal’ app, including Cambridge University who encouraged staff and students to participate in the #CambsNotspotter initiative to ensure as many connectivity data points as possible were collected across its sites.
Jon Holgate, Head of Cambridge University’s Information Services Network Division commented: “The university has a lot of mobile phone users and we’ve encouraged as many of our users as possible to sign up to the app. Connectivity is important for everyone at the university and to that end we are also investing heavily in deploying publically accessible wireless connectivity across the city centre; we are extending our fibre optic networks and we are working with local businesses and local groups, such as Cambridge Ahead, to improve the connectivity more generally.”
Faye Holland, Cambridge Ahead’s Connectivity Project Group Chair added: “Our objective over the last 12 months has focused on understanding where we need to improve mobile connectivity and the data collected has been invaluable in terms of highlighting the various notspots, both in the city and further into the region. As a result, we have seen proactive efforts to effect change from numerous sources, one example being one of our major employers in the region, who now deploy internal office and home signal boosters to ensure their staff continue to be able to work in as flexible a way as possible in line with their overarching ‘flexible working’ ethos. I would encourage everyone to continue to participate by downloading the ‘OpenSignal’ app from Google Play or the App Store and using the data to open up conversations with mobile operators on actual vs contracted service.”
The work of Cambridge Ahead’s Digital Connectivity Group will now focus on:
- Continued discussions with mobile operators to ensure they are delivering against expectations and by default are addressing the notspots across the region. Cambridge Ahead will also assist the operators with data on future commercial and residential schemes to assist with expanding services ahead of demand.
- Meeting with both landlords and commercial agents to help raise awareness of the issues within certain types of buildings and agree how they can be part of the solution by, for example, providing access to Open Reach boxes and allowing mobile phone mast upgrades on their buildings.
- Initiating a pilot programme providing secure, open-access Wi-Fi for businesses based on the eduroam model, which is already used globally for academia.
The Cambridge Ahead Connectivity Project team members are:
- Faye Holland – Project Chair, Founder and Director, Cofinitive
- Dr David Cleevely CBE – Cambridge Entrepreneur
- Charles Cotton – Founder and Author, Cambridge Phenomenon
- Bob Driver, CEO, Cambridge Wireless
- Brendan Fowler, Campus IT Infrastructure Lead UK & Enabling Functions, AstraZeneca
- Noelle Godfrey – Head of Digital Infrastructure, Programme Director Connecting, Cambridgeshire, Cambs County Council
- Jon Holgate – Head of Network, University of Cambridge
- Jane Paterson-Todd – CEO, Cambridge Ahead
- Tim Winchcomb – Consultant, Technology Strategy, Cambridge Consultants
- Richard York – VP Embedded Marketing, ARM
The #CambsNotspotter initiative continues to support the work of Connecting Cambridgeshire superfast broadband rollout, providing free public Wi-Fi with the University of Cambridge, and making smart use of technology to tackle city challenges as part of the Greater Cambridge City Deal.
- For information about Open Signal boosters for rural communities, discover what Vodafone is doing here.
- Understand how you can continue to improve your own level of connectivity via our short video here.
- Bob Driver, CEO, Cambridge Wireless talks about the importance of connectivity in helping to create sustainable growth for Cambridge here.