Look on the ofcom website for a map showing comparative coverage for the different networks, which can be modified to show different signal types (e.g. 4G [hah!], 3G, gprs). Not perfect or wholly accurate but useful indication of (theoretical) coverage.
I cover the west coast of Scotland for work and the west highlands for hillwalking, I've used all three and when my work migrated my phone to EE I wasn't happy expecting a poorer service.
I've had to eat my words since then and admit it seems the best overall, so much that I changed my private phone to the EE network as well.
Still patchy as they all are but definitely better for data coverage and seems to be competitive on voice coverage as well.
> I've found it no use at all for the weaker data coverage - it frequently says there's some when there isn't.
> It seems to work quite well for voice/text coverage, though.
Data is a different issue to voice. My understanding from locals and people in/close to the industry is that Vodafone data coverage in the Highlands is appalling (which it is) because their data-specific infrastructure provision in the region is poor/non-existent. You can get plenty of signal bars on the phone but zip data coverage. This has certainly been my experience on my visits to the Plockton area this year: sitting in the garden of the Plockton Hotel overlooking the beach with a clear view of the mast on Carn a' Bhealaich Mhoir, a full set of signal bars on the phone and no mobile data whatsoever. (This is actually what the Ofcom map shows: Vodafone basically has no mobile data coverage in the North West. It's not clear to me how they are allowed to get away with this.)
However, if you want to be able to call or text the emergency services if the ess aitch one tee hits the fan up on a hill somewhere then voice coverage is the key, and Vodafone seems to have fewer and smaller white areas on the Ofcom map than the others. Some providers do manage better in a few specific areas, though.
The sooner Ofcom mandates network roaming within the UK the better IMO.
I was told by an engineer once that this is because the masts are often far apart while still in line of sight (near enough anyway). The mast emits a strong signal which your phone picks up as full coverage, but your phone isn't strong enough to actually use it.
> I was told by an engineer once that this is because the masts are often far apart while still in line of sight (near enough anyway). The mast emits a strong signal which your phone picks up as full coverage, but your phone isn't strong enough to actually use it.
But that should be the case for any mobile provider, shouldn't it, not just Vodafone? The mobile data issue seems to be much worse with Vodafone than any other mobile provider. They're fairly notorious for it in the NW. The Ofcom coverage map supports this view, too.