If your off to uni soon it’s fairly easy to pick the handset you want, you’ve probably got preferences from past experience of which phone brand you like and which you don’t, you’ve seen the features on your friends phones or maybe, like me, you trawl through the Internet picking up all the rumours and just want the latest gadgets regardless of whether or not you’ll use the new features. Either way you’ve most likely found the phone you want. Now it’s time to consider what Network you should get it on.
Many don’t even consider this, they’ve had their mobile with the same provider for years and are more than happy with the service they’ve received. However for many students heading off to university this is the first time that you’ll be spending significant time away from home. If your uni is more than an hour’s journey from home you might find that the signal in your new accommodation isn’t up to the standard you’re used to. The last thing you want is to be tied into a two year contract with a provider who’s got a patchy service where you’ll be spending two thirds of the year. (You don’t want to miss out on spur of the moment house party’s and cinema trips just because you didn’t have any signal.)
Here’s a few tips you can follow that might save you from being “cut off”.
Local Knowledge is always best, later we’ll talk about how you can check the network coverage remotely from your computer at home but these really aren’t full proof. What they don’t account for is if there any obstacles between you and the mast that might be blocking signal. The best way to find out the best signal for uni is to ask people who live in the local area and ask somebody subjective. Luckily Carphone Warehouse stores are spread throughout the country and you’re likely to find one near your university. As they offer all the major phone networks they shouldn’t be biased so give them a call and ask if they know which network offers the strongest signal in the area. Secondly you could speak to the student union. Most universities have unions made up of current or ex-students and they’ll be more than happy to let you know what their experiences are.
Once you’ve done this research you then have another two sources of information. The first offers a biased view, the networks coverage map. All the networks offer coverage maps of the uk, simply type your networks name and coverage map into Google and the first link will probably give you the information you’re looking for. The problem with this method is that the data on these pages hasn’t been tested. For example it might show you have amazing signal at your new uni, this is because they know a mast is close by and should cover your new accommodation. What they haven’t done unfortunately is driven to every postcode in the country to check the signal. As this is the case this information is really hypothetical. The next option you have is to go to http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/.
Site finder shows you exactly which masts are near your uni and who looks after them. From this you should be able to find two or three masts and decide which network has the best
signal for you. It might be worth bearing in mind however that in your second year you’ll be moving out of student halls into a rented house so take a look at the wider area and see who has the most masts in the area. You can also see what type of masts they are GSM or UMTS. GSM is the older technology that gives you good signal but not so good for data, UMTS sites offer the 3G speeds so great for internet type functions on your phone. If you think you’re going to use the internet on your phone you probably want to look for a network with a local UMTS mast. The issue with this system is the same as before, although you could be living right next to a mast if your building is made of reinforced concrete signal might not penetrate the fortified walls. The other draw back to site finder is that the site doesn’t show if the mast is actually functioning. You might not be aware of this but masts break down all the time. We don’t notice as usually if this happens there is another mast nearby that you’ll use instead. If you choose a network based solely on the fact that they have one 3G mast next to your uni, it’s possible that it might not be switched on and you won’t get the signal you were expecting. The masts are constantly being repaired but we don’t recommend putting all of your eggs into one basket
As you can see there isn’t a sure fire way of checking you’ll get good signal at uni but if you follow at least two of these tips you should find yourself with plenty of signal to keep in touch with your family back home and more importantly, with enough signal to meet up with your new friends at uni. If you want to see what offers we have for students check out the following page and why not enter our competition to win a student survival kit over on our Facebook page. Let us know what you think in the comments below.