CPUC's second field test building consistent picture of mobile broadband performance

6 March 2013 by Steve Blum
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Spring up, Fall back.

More mobile broadband performance measurements are available and accessible to Californians, thanks to field testing done by the California Public Utilities Commission and mapping and analysis done by Jim Warner at U.C. Santa Cruz.

Warner, who is a network engineer for the University and chair of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium’s technical expert group, took the data collected in the CPUC’s first and second rounds of mobile data field testing and fed it into Google maps. The CPUC took readings at 1,200 locations in each round, for the most part repeating measurements at the same locations. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon service was tested using both a smart phone and a netbook.

“It is comforting to see that in some speed tests, Verizon results were above 40 Mbit/sec – fully six times faster than the California broadband definition,” Warner wrote. “This means that the equipment used for the tests is not coloring the results.”

Warner shows, as an example, Verizon has reasonably consistent improvement in the Monterey Bay Area. On the other hand, to my eye there’s little difference in Verizon’s coverage in the Gold Country.

Along I-80 in Solano County, to take another example, some of AT&T’s results are better, some worse. That supports Warner’s observation that “tests were done throughout the day at times that were not controlled for network loading by other traffic. Tests done early in the day might face less cross traffic congestion than tests later in the day.”

In other places I checked, the variance also went both ways. That tells me that something other than new construction is the cause. But you can look for yourself and come to your own conclusions.