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New FCC Speed Test App: How does your mobile broadband network measure up?

by: James Miller and Walter Johnson, Office of Engineering & Technology

November 14, 2013 - 12:57 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:491:]]Today we’re publicly releasing the first version of the new FCC Speed Test App for Android smartphones, as part of our Measuring Broadband America Program to cellular and Wi-Fi mobile broadband. The app is a first step towards accurately evaluating mobile broadband network performance, and is aimed at arming consumers with information to allow them to make fact-based, informed decisions when choosing and evaluating their mobile wireless providers.

Aggregated data collected through the app will also help to inform the FCC in its future policy decision making.  Our program is based on a collaborative effort involving consumer volunteers, the Federal Trade Commission, wireless service providers, researchers and others to produce the most accurate information possible on mobile broadband services in an open and transparent process. 

Measuring Broadband America currently provides the nation’s most accurate information on the performance of fixed broadband services for major Internet Service Providers.  Extending Measuring Broadband America to mobile services will provide valuable information to the public, industry and policy makers on both the performance and the deployment of broadband networks across the nation. 

Our first app is for Android users, and is available for free through Google Play (an iPhone app will be available soon).  Users can run their own tests anytime to learn about their own mobile broadband performance.  The app will also test key broadband service parameters like speed and latency on a regularly scheduled basis, and send anonymous test results securely to the cloud where it will be aggregated with all other users’ data.  Results of previous tests are stored on the phone, and the automatic testing feature will provide each user with a good understanding of the actual performance of their mobile broadband network. 

The FCC will rely on volunteers to download the app to help us get statistically valid data about mobile network performance.  Each volunteer’s phone that runs the regularly-scheduled tests will contribute to this effort.  With the help of volunteers for our current fixed broadband program, the FCC has been able to provide the most accurate service comparisons in the nation, which is then used by consumers, industry and policy makers to make informed decisions.  We look forward to developing tools and visualizations to help consumers use the mobile data in a similar fashion.  

Like all other speed tests, ours uses a small amount of data.  We limit the total monthly usage for these tests to a default value of 100 MB.  The data cap can be adjusted by the user to fit any data plan, but consumers should consider their normal monthly usage before downloading the app.  Visit our tip sheet for other questions.

Finally and importantly, consumer privacy is our top priority.  We used open, public meetings and worked with a diverse team of privacy experts, including federal partners, academia, and industry stakeholders, to develop our privacy policy and procedures.  Simply put, NO personal information or unique identifiers are collected, data is collected anonymously, and it may be further processed to ensure that consumer privacy is protected.

Today’s initial public release of the FCC Speed Test app is the first step toward learning more about the mobile broadband networks that we all use each and every day.  As we move forward, please send us your feedback at feedback-mba@fcc.gov on how we can improve the app and how we can present data in a way that is useful to consumers. We hope you will volunteer to help us in this effort. 

Updated: November 14, 2013 - 12:22 PM
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