Thursday, August 13, 2015

Has Mobile Speed Growth Stopped in California?


This week, we posted the latest field test data from Spring 2015 on the CPUC web site. Whether due to increased traffic load, network optimization to improve other factors such as latency, or a combination of both, there appears to be a trend of slower phone speeds for the two dominant providers, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility. Note that, in contrast, we saw faster speeds on the newer tablet devices. This could be due to a newer category of radio chips in the tablets. The other two providers saw minor increases in mean downstream throughput. As mentioned, we did observe improved latency, and we would expect that to improve each provider's streaming media services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

As if to confirm that trend, the number of locations where the average downstream speed met or exceeded 25 megabits per second and the upstream met or exceeded 3 megabits per second dropped significantly, as shown below.


In addition to the Spring 2015 field test results, the latest analysis from Novarum (CalSPEED: California Mobile Broadband, An Assessment - June 2015) is now available on the CPUC web site. This report incorporates the Fall 2014 mobile field test results, and it has some interesting conclusions, namely:
  • Mobile broadband’s overall performance and quality has stopped improving and shows signs of degradation.
  • Mobile broadband continues trends of wide variation across California among carriers, locations of services, the growing digital divide between urban and rural.
  • Quality degradation is particularly noticeable in rural areas - in which quality metrics can be 2x worse than in urban.
  • Penetration of rural LTE shows signs of stalling.
  • There is substantial variation between user devices on the performance and quality of service.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Can First Responders Use Streaming Voice from Your 911 Call Location?

Did you know?
The majority (greater than two-thirds) of 9-1-1 calls in 2014 were made on cell phones.

What we did...
We compared the location of where 9-1-1 calls that went through successfully with an estimate of mobile VoIP coverage based on our Fall 2014 mobile field test results.

Below, in blue, is the estimated AT&T mobile VoIP coverage, where locations showing an estimated Mean Opinion Score (MOS) of 4 or greater are shown. Please refer to my May 26 blog post about how we calculate MOS and what it means.

Below, in red, is the estimated Verizon Wireless mobile VoIP coverage, where locations showing an estimated Mean Opinion Score (MOS) of 4 or greater are shown.
Why do this?
We wanted to get a better understanding of what parts of the state could support real-time streaming services for emergency responders who went to the location of the 9-1-1 call.

What's in the 9-1-1 data?
These images show not only mobile (cell phone) based 9-1-1 calls, but also home telephone 9-1-1 calls. For estimated mobile VoIP coverage, we looked at AT&T and Verizon. We did not consider other providers, because their coverage was significantly smaller.

Why should I care?
As FirstNet prepares to put out for bid a nation-wide interoperable mobile network for emergency first responders, it's important to understand where existing providers have coverage that supports streaming services such as VoIP, and where they don't. These two images provide a starting point for the discussion.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mobile Field Test Maps @ FirstNet Consultation Jul. 28-30 in Sacramento



This week, we had the wonderful opportunity to present results of our mobile testing to FirstNet at the California State Consultation, arranged by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in Sacramento. The meeting brought together roughly 200 stakeholders from the first responder community at the tribal, federal, state, and local levels to learn about the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority's plans to roll out a nation-wide interoperable public safety mobile network using a dedicated 20 MHz in LTE Band 14.

A large part of the discussion centered around coverage of tribal and rural areas of the state, and to assist participants in their understanding of coverage today, CalOES used a series of poster-sized maps created by the CPUC and CSU Chico's Geographic Information Center. Pictured above is an image of the federally recognized tribal reservations and Rancherias with Verizon and AT&T estimated OTT MOS >= 4 coverage. Other poster topics included fire threat areas, earthquake zones, state parks, 9-1-1 call locations, population density, Yosemite Rim Fire, and FirstNet proposed initial coverage objective.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Water Saving Technology in California's Ag Land: A Coverage Comparison

Which Mobile Provider Has Better Coverage to Power Water Saving Technology in California's Ag Land?

In a July 5 article on water technology in the Los Angeles Times, addressed some of the challenges Silicon Valley is having in developing water saving technology for farms. Part of it is the difficulty in demonstrating value to farmers, part of it is a culture divide. "The next generation of precision agriculture — a world of wireless sensors, cloud-based data crunching, aerial imaging and app-based decision-making — may germinate in Silicon Valley, but it will have to take root here [California's Central Valley], where growers soak up about 80% of the water diverted for human use."

A more immediate problem might be mobile coverage. We did a recent analysis with the help of Cal State University Chico's Geographic Information Center of mobile coverage in California's agricultural areas. As we've published before in this blog, we relied on the mean minus 1 standard deviation values of test locations at 1,990 points across the state from the Fall 2014 field test. We then filtered for agricultural land using Classes 81 and 82 in the National Land Cover Database. Surprisingly, Verizon appears to have better coverage than AT&T in California's agricultural lands. One major caveat is that our field tests are performed only on roads, so it will take additional testing on agricultural lands, out in the fields, to get a more accurate picture of mobile coverage there.

Verizon Wireless Served Map (mean minus 1 standard deviation)



Legend:
Green: Greater than or equal to combined 6 megabits per second down and 1.5 up
Yellow: Below 6 megabits per second down and/or 1.5 megabits per second up
Red: Below 768 kilobits per second down and/or 200 kilobits per second up

 



AT&T Mobility Served Map (mean minus 1 standard deviation)



Monday, June 29, 2015

Fi Comes to CalSPEED


We were happy to see the first Fi tests run on CalSPEED last week. Fi is one of  Google's latest projects, and it combines Sprint, T-Mobile, and WiFi networks to provide seamless service. Click here for coverage of the April 2015 announcement by Google.

Here's a summary of last week's tests:


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Backhaul Sleuthing in Rural California


As part of our investigation into why rural mobile performance is so much worse than urban, we had our testers run trace route tests to see where each provider sent traffic on its backhaul network. We just received the data output, and it's over 36 megabytes in comma delimited format. More than 16,000 tests, some with more than 20 "hops." It will take some time to decipher everything and draw conclusions, but one thing seems apparent immediately: AT&T has fewer hops than the other providers to get to the same destination. This may be one factor in AT&T having higher overall VoIP capability than the other providers (fewer hops, lower latency). Here is a table of the average number of hops to the West server for each provider:


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Alpha testing of CalSPEED for iPhone begins now

We have just begun alpha testing the iPhone version of CalSPEED. The screen shot above, taken from an iPhone, shows that there's still work to do. For example, users will not need to enter a location ID (as our field testers have to do when we do mobile testing). The second image below is a draft version of the user interface that is being developed.