While having visited a colleague in his office yesterday I saw an interesting global map on the wall showing the current global GSM rollout status. The map was different from all other maps I’ve previously seen as countries which adopted GSM technology were not completely filled with a color marking them as "covered". Instead, the map showed the detailed coverage status in each country. The map together with even more detailed continental maps can be found at www.coveragemaps.com.
Here are some of my personal observations which quite surprised me:
The U.S.: When I last checked two or three years ago, GSM coverage in the U.S. was patchy at best. I still remember checking on Texas and finding an almost empty map. Quite a different picture now.
South America: Except for the rain forests, the continent is well covered with GSM now.
3G Rollout in Europe: The map gives quite a mixed picture varying from country to country. While the UMTS rollout seems to be quite advanced in some countries, there are lots of ‘GSM’ only areas in other countries:
Germany, U.K., Ireland, Sweden, Austria: These countries seem to be pretty well covered with 3G already. I can confirm this for Germany at least where Vodafone has dedicated coverage even in small villages (<5000 people). Nevertheless, it’s still patchy on the countryside. Same goes for Austria.
France: Quite disappointing, the green "GSM only" areas are still substantial. The map seems to be quite accurate as it compares quite well to the official map of Orange, France that can be found here.
Italy: This one is strange, only a couple of yellow "UMTS" patches here and there. But I don’t think the data is up to date in this case as Italy was one of the first countries deploying UMTS and the current Wikipedia entry on Vodafone Italy says that 70% of the population are now covered by UMTS. I tried to find coverage maps on tim.it and vodafone.it but it didn’t find any. Is my Italian so bad? If somebody sees maps, please tell me. The only info I found was on tim.it. On this page you can select you city and a database lookup reveals if there is coverage or not. No maps though… However, many cities I tried which were not covered on the map came back as UMTS covered.
Finland: Another strange case. The land of Nokia, the land of mobile phones and almost no UMTS areas on the map!? Can this really be!? Some of my Finnish readers, please check and comment. A link to a coverage map of a Finnish operator would also be nice…
Offshore: Also take a closer look at the GSM coverage spots in the North sea. They seem to be drilling platforms! Cool!