3 and Orange 3G dispute gets ugly


3 and Orange engaged in a heated exchange last week about the respective strengths of their 3G networks.

3 will issue figures to Ofcom this week it claims prove it has the best 3G coverage in the UK, in the process contesting claims made by rival Orange in its advertising that it has the leading 3G coverage.

3 complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in September last year over Orange’s mobile broadband campaign, which claimed it has the highest 3G coverage in the UK. It is awaiting a response still from the ASA to its initial complaint. 

3 says Orange compared 3G coverage statistics from their websites, which at the time said Orange had 93 per cent population coverage whilst 3 had 91 per cent.

But 3 reckons the comparison is unfair, since it measures population coverage differently. Its findings are based on more “conservative methodology,”  which takes in to account “geographic clutter” that can affect coverage within a cell site area.

3 will send its results to Ofcom, the ASA and Orange this week to prove Orange’s campaign was misleading and inaccurate. Orange maintained last week it had at the time of the campaign, and still has, the strongest 3G coverage.

But 3 has since increased the number of its cell sites to 10,105, increasing coverage to more than 93 per cent in the process. It claims Orange has around 8,000 sites at present.

3 expects to have around 13,000 sites by October, increasing its coverage to around 98 per cent.

A 3 spokesperson said: “3’s figure for outdoor population coverage now stands at over 93 per cent, based on our own methodology, which is far more conservative than that used by other mobile operators.

“These figures not only cement 3’s position as the UK’s biggest 3G network operator, but help reinforce its place having the UK’s greatest outdoor population coverage for 3G.

“Currently all mobile network operators use their own internal measurements to arrive at 3G population coverage statistics. However 3 is seeking a common standard with independent monitoring to ensure consumers receive the facts and accurate data.

“3 is ready and willing to provide an independent body, such as Ofcom, with the data used to compile these figures – figures that we believe better reflect real-life experience than the more flattering methods chosen by some other operators.

“3 is actively lobbying for a common standard of measurement of 3G population coverage that will enable consumers to make a genuine comparison between networks.”

An Orange spokesperson said: “Covering 93 per cent of the population, the Orange 3G network covers more people in the UK than any other network. The figure 3 has published on its website shows we have a greater 3G population coverage than it does and, at the time of going to press with our advert, we felt this was something to shout and to tell our customers – and theirs –about.

“In the absence of an independent industry wide standard for network measurement we can only rely on the data which is made available to the public from our competitors, and compare it to our own.

“We are very proud of the network we have, but don’t believe 3 has the right or independent authority to sit in judgement on the accuracy of another operator’s data. We strongly believe it’s not how many masts you have; it’s where you stick them.”