The BBC has launched an Android app to measure the country's mobile 3G signal. Aunty Beeb is crowdsourcing the data, to build up a picture of the nation's signal strength.
- On the one hand, this sounds like a useful project, to help people choose a mobile network.
- On The Other Hand, it lacks a certain something: it pays no attention to actual data throughput, just measuring signal strength. I'm having a terrible case of dÃ©jÃ vu.
Plus, today's skateboarding duck: Carl Sagan animated GIF...
Aunty's Rory Cellan-Jones waxes proud:
We're mounting an ambitious project to try to map mobile coverage...and, if you have an Android phone, you can be part of it. ... [D]ownload an app which will record the signal you're getting on your phone...and feed the data back to our research project.
The UK 3G survey app has been developed by Epitiro, the firm behind Ofcom's recent report on mobile broadband speeds. ... It will record phone signal data all the time the phone is switched on. ... The aim is then to plot the findings on a map which will be searchable by postcode.
John Hunt blows his horn:
Some network operators are calling for a standardised way to measure mobile coverage as some operators grossly exaggerate their expected coverage. This project...may help to name and shame those who are reporting coverage incorrectly.
Ben Woods has context:
Ofcom conducted research into mobile broadband speeds in the UK...and published it in May 2011. The telecoms watchdog found that "the availability of 2G, 3G or HSPA networks, and the performance delivered, vary significantly." ... An Ofcom-commissioned consultant 'not-spots' report from April 2010 found that more transparent coverage information should be available.
However, the BBC noted that the survey will not include collecting speeds of connectivity in specific areas.
Richi's rant: Aye, there's the rub. Just like the Ofcom DSL survey, the app doesn't measure actual network speed. So, this is interesting, but ultimately a wasted opportunity.
Many of us know from personal experience that a strong 3G HSPA "7.2 Mb/s" signal means nothing if you can only achieve 2G-EDGE-level, 0.3 Mb/s throughput. This is becoming increasingly common, thanks to the network operators throttling their customers.
I'm looking at you, T-Mobile UK.
Gareth Halfacree has other criticisms:
...[It] comes at a real cost to the consumer: power consumption. ... [T]he app constantly checks the handset's location and data connectivity...no matter what the phone is doing, the GPS receiver and mobile data connections are constantly switched on, even when the handset is...connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Rather more seriously, the app also lacks any way to exit the background task. ... The BBC's aim is certainly laudable, but Epitiro's app seems a poor way to go about it. ... [Users are] unlikely to keep it installed for long.
But Robert Leedham says it's not all bad news:
While it all sounds a tad dry at the moment, it could be a lifesaver come that dodgy staycation spent in the Outer Hebrides.
The UK 3G Survey is free to download from the Android Market, all data recorded is anonymous...according to the BBC.
Today's Skateboarding Duck...
- "Best Carl Sagan animated gif ever!"
[hat tip: b3ta]
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. His writing has previously won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.