Mobile broadband test results speeding back to the FCC

27 November 2013 by Steve Blum
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The FCC’s mobile broadband speed test app for Android is a hit. In its first two days, it was downloaded and installed on 30,000 devices. It’s been out now for two weeks, and its getting a 4.4 out of 5 rating on the Google Play store.

Those first two days produced 40,000 reports from all over the country. The FCC says that all 50 states and all the major carriers are represented in the data received so far. It’s proving popular with Californians. 3,500 tests were run in and around Los Angeles and 2,700 in the San Francisco Bay Area, the top two reporting regions in the country.

Source: FCC.

The free app runs in the background, periodically testing cellular and WiFi broadband connections and reporting the information – completely anonymously, the FCC claims – back to a central server. It can also be triggered and viewed manually. The app tests download speed, upload speed, latency and packet loss, then bundles the results together with location, signal strength and device characteristics and ships it all off. By default, it limits itself to using no more than 100 MB of data in a month. Users can change that setting.

So far, the FCC is not releasing either the raw data or compiled results, but at least some of that will come in time. As with the California Public Utilities Commission’s CalSpeed app, (rated 4.8 on Google Play) it should provide useful ground truth about mobile carriers’ coverage claims. So far, CalSpeed test results have shown that actual performance rarely comes close to what’s promised.

If you’re interested in the details, the source code is available on GitHub.