The Moment of Truth – Why the Quality of Mobile Networks Differs

Many believe that a mobile application can measure the quality of mobile and fixed networks. Strand Consult’s new report “The Moment of Truth – Why the Quality of Mobile Networks Differs” describes the many factors that affect the network’s capacity, coverage, and the user’s experience.

The report assesses and compares the mobile apps which claim to measure network quality at a time when mobile networks are evolving from 2G, 3G and 4G to a combination of 4G and 5G. The next generation mobile networks are more complex and use technologies such as carrier aggregation, spectrum management, and multiple input/multiple output (MIMO). These innovations change how a network is built and operated and therefore how the networks performance can be measured.

As each network is constructed differently, making comparisons across operators difficult. The simple measurement collected and presented on a slick app and the user’s experience will also differ considerably for various reasons.

While the effort to bring facts and evidence to policy and regulatory discussions is welcome, network measurement data from mobile apps is increasingly presented without adequate scientific and methodological background. Users of the various apps are perplexed about wildly differing measurements reported by the individual app even if the tests are run at the same time, in the same location, and on the same device.

The same data may be used to praise a mobile operator one day but then to rank it in the bottom the next. Moreover, the performance of mobile operators varies widely across different apps. Vodafone, Orange, EE, Telia, Telenor, AT&T, Verizon, and Telefonica, and others have appeared either at the top or bottom of any one app report. This says more about the design of the app than the quality of the network.

The report “The Moment of Truth – Why the Quality of Mobile Networks Differs” reviews the prevailing mobile apps to measure networks and provides a common framework to judge their usefulness and applicability by better understanding their inner workings, potential and pitfalls.

Strand Consult’s report “The Moment of Truth – Why the Quality of Mobile Networks Differs” is offered either with or without a workshop. The report focuses on the many factors that influence the experience of network coverage, quality, and the capacity.

The report’s chapters include:

1. A review of the leading mobile network measurement apps. We describe and categorize how and which data the apps collect. We assess the marketing strategies of the apps in what they purport to measure versus the scientific state of the art of what can be measured.

2. An analysis of how the app interacts with the mobile phone and how the phone’s specifications can influence resulting network measurement. International examples are provided to demonstrate how wildly measurements can vary.

3. A review of the question of network quality in light of the relevant market factors. Network performance is mapped against factors such as gross domestic product (GDP), churn, ARPU, and so on.

4. An examination of the conditions for infrastructure development in the relevant country and different policies used by government actors for network deployment. It details how rollout policies vary considerably and compares these results to reported network quality, coverage, and capacity.

5. The report also examines measurement tools either mandated or preferred by telecom regulatory policies. The report examines the scientific basis for these tools and whether they can measure what they claim.

6. Viewpoints and analysis which are helpful to improve the discussion about the quality of mobile coverage and its measurement. The report can help to increase the scientific understanding of policymakers, press, and the public.

Strand Consult’s new report “The Moment of Truth – Why the Quality of Mobile Networks Differs” provides valuable scientific, policy, and market background to bring context to the growing popularity of network quality measurement by mobile apps. The report will help policymakers focus on the facts and other important scientific information when deciding how to measure network quality and what role apps should have in policy.

The report demonstrates that relying on mobile apps alone to measure network quality provides an incomplete and inaccurate picture of the network. The report is based in part upon 7 years of experience of working with mobile coverage policy, regulatory issues, and mobile measurement app initiatives across several countries.

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