Coverage maps: mobile networks

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BASE, Orange (Ex-Mobistar) and Proximus have rolled out radio infrastructure in Belgium and operate networks corresponding to different technology generations: 2G/GSM, 3G/UMTS/HSPA and 4G/LTE.

Difference between 2G/3G/4G?

GSM (2G system) was intended to only provide the mobile telephony service and message services such as SMS. Next the 2G networks evolved to provide data transmission services (called GPRS or EDGE). The 3G (UMTS) and 4G systems (LTE) aim at providing users with high-performance data transmission services with a view to Internet access from mobile terminal equipment, such as smartphones and tablets. The main difference for the user between 3G and 4G systems is the transmission speed, which is 6 to 7 times higher for 4G. The transmission of a picture by means of a 3G network for instance takes ten seconds on average but with a 4G network this might take only one or two seconds.

Mobile coverage provided by the operators

BIPT periodically collects coverage maps from the three mobile operators involved for each of the three mobile technologies rolled-out at the moment (2G, 3G and 4G). These maps also show the average coverage attained in each community in Belgium.

These coverage maps translate the presence of the network outdoor for a reference standard service but do not entirely reflect the actual quality of service, as experienced by the customer; this quality may be influenced by different factors, for instance the fact that the service is provided within a building or a vehicle, the type of terminal equipment used (conventional mobile telephone, smartphone, tablet), the type of service used (telephone service, data transmission), etc.

Validation of the coverage maps by BIPT

Before BIPT publishes the information on the mobile networks' coverage on his website, it carries out monitoring campaigns in the field by means of a professional measuring device (RF scanner) to verify whether the coverage data provided by the mobile operators, are correct. The data is validated in a statistical form according to a method determined in cooperation between BIPT and the mobile operators.

Each coverage map is represented with a percentage of reliability corresponding to the share of the pixels (an area of 200 m by 200 m) that have been declared by the operator as covered and that were validated during the monitoring campaign by BIPT. An area is validated when the signal level was higher than the minimum threshold demanded by BIPT for at least 95% of the measurements performed.

Each time that BIPT verifies the mobile operators' coverage maps through measurements, it publishes a mobile network monitoring report.

Virtual mobile operators

In Belgium mobile services are not only provided by the three mobile network operators (BASE, Orange (Ex-Mobistar) and Proximus) but also by a number of virtual mobile operators or MVNOs or by commercial partners. The following list shows by means of which network each of these mobile operators provides its services:

  • BASE (Telenet Group) : Carrefour Mobile, Ello Mobile, JIM Mobile, United Telecom, Mobile Vikings, Transatel, Vectone Mobile, VOO;
  • Orange (Ex-Mobistar) : Lycamobile;
  • Proximus : Scarlet Mobile, Schedom/Dommel.