It’s not as if you needed an excuse for not going to the gym, but a recent survey has found that mobile coverage in the U.K.’s exercise establishments is so wimpish it’s affecting people’s attitude to training. What makes the survey interesting isn’t the predictable surfeit of places where the signal is poor, but the combination of that information with people’s attitude to it. While it’s disappointing that people can’t be separated from a connection for the time they spend sculpting their bodies, it’s even more surprising that they will seek out a gym with better connectivity rather than change mobile network.
This might be because we see mobile coverage as much of a muchness, all the network lie about having great coverage when we know that they all drop calls and have not-spots. But if the survey is correct not enough people are complaining. I’ve just churned from Three to EE particularly because of poor coverage, dropped calls and some other technical problems–like taking over a minute for a call to start ringing–and at first blush EE does seem very much better. But we will see.
The combination of a scientific coverage survey and attitudinal research probably says more about the British public than about the British mobile networks. The research, by mobile network survey company GWS claims that one in five British gym-goers have stopped exercising to try and resolve issues with poor phone network. You might ask why anyone needs mobile coverage in a gym and it seems that Instagramming pictures of their buff selves is the thing people like to do with half of gym bunnies saying they are heavily reliant on their phones to stream music (34%), record progress on apps such as Strava or MyFitnessPal (26%), take selfies (20%) or browse social media and the internet (17%). The study, which represents the first test of its kind evaluating mobile network performance in gyms, reveals that all of the big mobile operators are having trouble extending their networks indoors.
The GWS’ team of engineers tested mobile network performance gathering nearly 13,000 task samples (covering voice and data performance) inside and outside 30 of London’s top gyms including Pure Gym, Gymbox, Nuffield Health and Bannatyne Health Club.
They found it takes nearly twice as long to download a song inside gyms compared to outside, which could hinder momentum when exercising. Similarly, network reliability noticeably decreases indoors, as nearly 4 out of 50 data tasks fail inside gyms. One central London location has only a 37% success rate for data tasks and only a 15% call setup success rate for voice calls inside–compared to 92% data and 100% voice success rates respectively when outside. As a general trend, 1 in 10 calls fails inside gyms compared to a much stronger performance outside where only 2% fails.
The advice to gyms then is to look at signal boosting solutions and make sure the Wi-Fi is good. That’s a lot easier than getting the networks to sort out their coverage.
Simon Rockman is the publisher of CW Journal read by the wireless and associated communities.