Is Telstra Blue Tick accurate for rural phone reception? (smartphone)

Telstra Blue Tick is touted as an objective and independent testing of a phone’s ability to receive a signal in rural and remote areas with limited tower coverage. It has been a subject of considerable debate in Reddit and Whirlpool forums. As our insightful readers have often pointed out, it usually does not reflect real-world use.

The Telstra Blue Tick methodology is ill-defined and done in a test lab – not in real life. It is like proving we all like vanilla ice cream when it is the only one ever offered to taste.

We did lots of digging and found that until recently, it was only tested on the 3G network – let’s face it, any phone has decent 3G reception. Now Telstra et al. are closing that network, compromising 000 calls and rural and remote phone use.

It is now tested on VoLTE (Voice over LTE) using band 28/700MHz. This is the lowest frequency band that has the strongest signal over the longest transmission distance to and from one tower. It can typically transmit up to 20km—20% further than Band 5/850MHz and many kilometres more than higher-frequency 4 and 5G bands. The higher the frequency, the shorter the signal distance and strength.

Let’s face it: every phone we have tested has a reasonable band 28 single-tower phone reception strength measured in -dBm and power in femtowatts (fW) or picowatts (one pW is 1000 fW). I cannot recall any of the more than 200 phones we have reviewed failing Telstra’s wholly inadequate single band/tower test.

Telstra Blue Tick does not represent real-world use

In my opinion, Blue Tick has never lived up to the reality. Many readers have proven that time and again.

It is a simple marketing tool that a smartphone vendor pays for. We understand that it costs a motza to have a phone listed as a Blue Tick.

In our discussions with all other vendors, they regard Blue Tick as a waste of money paid to Telstra for a ‘nothing’ meaningless requirement.

CyberShack Testing Methodology – simple, accurate and independent

We use a Boost sim on the Telstra retail network. This is the same network that Telstra uses – not the inferior wholesale network it sells to Woolworths, Aldi, etc. Read Telstra’s Retail Vs Wholesale mobile plans – the catches you need to know.

We go to a known ‘black spot’ (1-2 bar) on the lee side of Blackwall Mountain. A Telstra/Optus/Vodafone tower is <500m away on the opposite side, facing Woy Woy to the north (Central Coast). There is an Optus (3G/900/1200, 4G+(700/900/1800/2100/2300/2600) and Telstra (3G/850, 4GX/700/1800) on top of The Mantra Resort about 2km line-of-sight to the south.

We have used the same location, test regimen, and test software since 2018, and the results are consistent. In addition, we also have new software that takes snapshots over about 10 minutes to reduce environmental variables and report the minimum, maximum, and mean results.

We also use a control group of phones to ensure environmental issues don’t affect the results. Our current reference 4/5G devices include the OPPO Find X5 Pro 2022 (Qualcomm SD8 Gen 1), the Samsung S24 Ultra 2024 (SD8 Gen 3—we used the S23 Ultra SD8 Gen 2 before that), the Google Pixel 8 Pro 2024 (G3 Tensor—essentially a Samsung Exynos 2400), and the OPPO Reno 10 2023 (MediaTek 7050).

The control group covers the three main modems: Qualcomm, Samsung Exynos, and MediaTek. Without fear of contradiction, Qualcomm is the only one that can find and use all four towers. Samsung Exynos and MediaTek are getting better at finding the main tower at higher picoWatt strengths but have NEVER seen the other four towers at usable strengths.

5G – when you can get it (and that is not often)

We do not focus on 5G as so few readers can reliably get it, falling back most times to 4G. When it is critical to test 5G phone signal strengths we use a drive-by method starting at Kariong, where there is a massive 5G tower servicing most of Gosford and drive to East Gosford.

CyberShack’s view – Telstra Blue Tick is marketing and best ignored.

Looking at the current Telstra Bluetick list, our testing corroborates that the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra using a Qualcomm SD8 Gen 3 is suitable for cities, suburbs, regional, and possibly remote areas. However, it did not have as strong a signal strength as the previous S23 Ultra with the SD8 Gen 2.

We totally disagree that the S24 and S24+ are suitable for regional and remote areas. These use the Samsung Exynos 2400 SoC (similar to the Google Tensor G3), and Samsung would only release these pre-release units for review if we agreed not to test phone signal strength (we have that in writing). Similarly, our tests show city and suburb coverage only for the following Samsung 2024 so-called ‘Blue Tick’ phones

  • Xcover7 uses a MediaTek Dimensity 6100
  • A55 5G 2024  uses an Exynos 1480
  • A35 5G 2024 uses an Exynos 1380
  • A15 with a MediaTek Dimensity 6100+
  • S23 FE 2024  uses an Exynos 2200

We are not saying these phones are deficient in any way – perfect for those living in cities and suburbs with decent tower coverage. But they are not regional and remote-use devices unless you have a nearby tower.

Our rationale is simple yet effective. We believe testing in real-life scenarios, particularly in black spots, provides the most accurate assessment of a phone’s reception capabilities. So far, our approach has not led any reader astray.

All we want is for Telstra to get off its lazy backside and test phones out of the lab. Go to the worst reception spots in Australia, the local blackspots, and see which can get a signal. That would involve some effort, of course, and the admission that its Blue Tick is nothing more than a thinly disguised marketing ploy to sell more phones.

Telstra is inivted to respond.