Go from 3G ‘Notspot’ to Hotspot

The BBC have published a really cool map of 3G coverage in the UK. The data was gathered by 44,600 volunteers who installed an app on their Android phone over three weeks in July. We’re going to use it to help you figure out if you can go from notspot – an area without 3G coverage – to hotspot, just by adding an antenna to your USB 3G dongle.

You can have a look at the full map on the BBC website, but for now let’s have a look at a screenshot below.

It shows the 3G map centred over our offices in Birmingham, with spots with 3G coverage highlighted in green, 2G zones in purple, and no coverage zones in black. Areas without a highlight weren’t surveyed.

The BBC 3G map of our area

If you’re in an area that’s shown as black or purple on the map, but you’re within a few squares of a green 3G box, then attaching an antenna to your 3G USB dongle could grant you full 3G coverage. There are a range of range-extended antennae available, so let’s have a quick look at the three types: omnidirectional, directional and outdoor.

Left to right: Omnidirectional, Directional, Outdoor

Omnidirectional: If you’re in a solitary purple or black spot, where you’ve got 3G all around, then the omnidirectional antennae could be a good choice. These are the simplest to use, as their facing isn’t as important as their positioning.

Directional: If you’re just outside of a coverage zone, then by pointing this directional antennae at the nearest 3G tower you should see significant improvement. These antennae typically give much more signal gain than omnidirectional antennae, but must remain on target to be effective.

Outdoor: These antennae are for more permanent installation, when the best spot is outside. These directional antennae are built to resist weather conditions such as rain, ice or dust.

To make sure your antennae will be easily connected to your USB 3G dongle, have a look at this 3G Dongle Antenna Compatibility guide. For most dongles, you can get a universal connection:

So if you’re struggling with 3G coverage, check out your 3G coverage with the BBC map and then pick up an appropriate antenna!


So there you go – with a little help from Mobile Fun and the BBC, you just might be able to get 3G coverage where you couldn’t before. If you found this helpful or had a question about the the options you’ve got, please let us know via the normal social media channels, or leave a comment below. Thanks!