The Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program is an ongoing, rigorous nationwide study of consumer broadband performance in the United States that developed out of a recommendation in the National Broadband Plan to improve the availability of information for consumers about their broadband service. In September 2012, the FCC announced it was expanding the MBA program to include information on mobile broadband service performance in the United States. The program uses the FCC Speed Test app for Android and iOS devices to test the performance of volunteers' smartphone mobile broadband services. Broadband performance data is being collected that includes upload and download speed, latency and packet loss, as well as the wireless performance characteristics of the broadband connection and the model of handsets and versions of operating systems tested.
Download Speed: Incoming throughput in megabits per second (Mbps) utilizing three concurrent Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections
Upload Speed: Outgoing throughput in megabits per second (Mbps) utilizing three concurrent Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections
UDP Latency: Average round trip time of a series of randomly transmitted User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets distributed over a long timeframe
UDP Packet Loss: Fraction of UDP packets lost during UDP latency test
How it Works
The FCC Speed Test app is available for Android phones from Google Play and for iOS from the Apple App Store. The application will measure mobile broadband performance in four active categories: download speed, upload speed, latency and packet loss. To better analyze wireless broadband performance, several other passive metrics are recorded, such as signal strength of the connection, and device manufacturer and model. The application tests run periodically in the background.
By default the Application is configured to use no more than 100 megabytes (MB) of data each month for automated testing. Any additional tests you initiate will also consume between 100 kB for the smallest packet loss test and 40 MB for a complete suite of tests. At any time you can change the amount of data the Application uses by increasing or reducing the "mobile data cap" in the settings menu. You should ensure that your monthly broadband usage, including the data used by the Application and Service during the Program, does not exceed the data allowance included in your mobile broadband package. Your carrier may charge you for any data used in excess of your package's data allowance. While the tests are engineered not to interfere with a user's broadband Internet use, the application can also be configured not to perform any automated background testing.
Manual Testing vs. Automated Testing
We encourage volunteers with Android phones to use automated testing. The FCC Speed Test app automated testing function can be disabled and the app can be configured to start a test only when manually executed. iOS devices do not have automated testing capability and can only execute the speed test manually. It should be noted that manual testing can lead to biased results when performed only at specific times or places, and may provide a less accurate picture of overall broadband performance. Automatic background tests contribute more-valuable, high-quality data that help inform our reports and provide the most accurate data about mobile broadband performance.
Finding More About the Technical Details More detail about the technology behind the app can be found in the Mobile Broadband Methodology Technical Summary.
Data Visualization Tools
The FCC is committed to providing exciting and useful ways to understand the mobile broadband performance data collected. Subject to the efforts the FCC takes to protect the privacy of volunteers, results will be presented in a variety of dynamic ways to analyze broadband performance.