Ask LH: How Can I Check Mobile Phone Coverage Before Moving?

Ask LH: How Can I Check Mobile Phone Coverage Before Moving?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m moving to country Victoria (Horsham) and I’m wondering how I can find out before I move what provider I should go with (or stick with.) I’m really stuck with what terms to Google search or how to find coverage maps. Is there a central resource with this kind of information? Thanks, Signal Seeker

Dear SS,

Each of the telcos does provide coverage maps for Australia from their web sites. For the wider Lifehacker community, here are all three as links.

Click here for Optus Click here for Vodafone Click here for Telstra

Bear in mind that even if you’re not being branded as using one of the big three, you’re using a reseller of one of their networks: the majority are on Optus (which covers Amaysim, Virgin Mobile, TPG, iiNet/Internode and others), with a few Vodafone resellers (Red Bull Mobile being the most prominent), while Boost and Kogan resell Telstra.

A quick check of Horsham shows that Optus and Vodafone both claim solid coverage, and Telstra has enabled 1800MHz 4G LTE in the city centre. However, as my own recent tests in Adelaide showed, there can be a world of difference between coverage maps and consistent and reliable coverage — which is why on that coverage map above from Vodafone, the company is at least honest enough to say “variable” coverage.

With that in mind, it’s worth doing a little extra research before you commit to a provider. If you have friends, relatives or colleagues in Horsham, check with them what they use and why; often on-the-ground experience over time beats the coverage maps by a massive factor. People online are wont to complain, but it can also be worthwhile searching for “telco name” and terms like “bad mobile coverage” along with your destination. Don’t take what you find as gospel, but use it to inform your final decision.

It may be worthwhile checking with your current provider what they’d be willing to do if you find you have no connectivity in your new location. Some may be willing to cancel out a contract on the quite reasonable grounds that they wouldn’t be able to provide service to you there — although in this case, at least on the surface, that looks unlikely.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • One more quick suggestion for when you get down there (or if you travel down before for any reason) is to consider buying a $2 sim (Optus and Voda both sell them in supermarkets, don’t know about Telstra). You can then check the exact coverage, with the device you actually use, in the locations you are likely to use it.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Working in a retail shop I never tell customers to trust the maps. Been burnt by that way too many times. Pickup a couple of test sims and try it yourself, if thats not possible (Had lots of people moving to the mines and hard for them to just test before they move) contact the employer/employees or someone there for a pretty good guide.

      The telco’s often make it hard for you to cancel a contract under the coverage guarantee. Having to go through sitting on tech support for extended times while they test, being transfered to supervisors etc sometimes even ending up with the Ombudsman which is a pain in the butt run around. So be cautious before you sign up.

  • Can I object to the phrase:

    cancel out a contract on the quite reasonable grounds that they wouldn’t be able to provide service to you there

    If you mean it in the cancel without the ETF interpretation. If you choose to move away from an area that DID have coverage to an area that does not have coverage – the telco shouldn’t have to subsidise your costs.

    If they didn’t provide a free/subsidy handset that would be a different story. Optus/Vodafone plans are based around you repaying the cost of the handset over the 12/24month contract. Or in the case of Telstra, you should just have to pay out the MRO cost (without discounts).

    Though if you’re moving somewhere that you can’t get Telstra signal, you won’t be using a mobile phone at all 😉

  • The maps are the creation of a fantasy artist. I live 500m from Highway 1 on the Brisbane – Gold Coast corridor. Most days I am flat out getting 1 bar of reception. Some days I get a ‘No service’ flag. I’m with Telstra who denies there’s a problem.

  • My experience with Optus in Horsham was that my phone showed full reception but it was incredibly slow. My mum lives down there and uses Telstra. She hasn’t complained about voice calls but has no real experience with data. Good luck in Horsham. I hear the Indian take away is the pick of the local food.

    I agree, the maps are often fanciful. Even Telstra shows reception in Blackwood (3458) but I have only known of one sms to have been received in the many years my partner lived there. I have friends who have signed up for Vodaphone in Castlemaine only to be able to cancel their contracts because they had NO reception. I have had passable rural reception with Optus in a number of areas but have recently resigned myself to the fact that I now live in the country and switched to Telstra. My partner has always had better reception on the same phone with Telstra.

  • You can legally terminate a contract if the Telco’s website shows that you have service, but the reality is different. All three carriers show that I have perfect reception for everything except 4G, when I actually have minimal reception. They have tested my signal and confirmed that I am in a blackspot.
    To cancel the contract you only need to state that you relied on the information on the website when making the decision to enter the contract.

  • The maps used by all service providers are all calculated using standard Government contours.
    So they are usually wrong.

    I have been arguing with Optus and Virgin on this problem of poor signal for months.
    And getting no-where.
    Our home location is shielded by two hills from the nearest repeater. My amateur radio signal strength software shows that I would have poor signal at mobile phone frequencies over this signal path.
    So why can’t the software used by Optus also show the correct signal levels?

  • Firstly, welcome to Horsham!

    Coverage here is pretty good with Optus and Telstra anywhere within 2 km’s from the centre of town (which is the majority of residents), I wouldn’t bother with Vodafone, as it gets very little service even in the main street. Also, if you’re looking for somewhere to live, stay south of the train tracks, things get a bit, ummm…”tough”… up there.

    P.S The Indian takeaway joint is ok, but the Thai joint is great.

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