Monday, November 23, 2015

iPhone CalSPEED On Track For December Submission

We've been testing CalSPEED for iPhone, and we've been happy to share the beta version with enthusiastic members of the broadband community who've tested it out it remote areas of California. We've just upgraded the user interface as well as the back-end latency test algorithm (more accurate), which means we are on track for submitting CalSPEED to Apple in early December for review and (hopefully) approval for distribution on iTunes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Japan: A Look Into America's Mobile Future?

For as long as I've been working in mobile telecommunications, Japan has always been the leader in mobile network development. A recent look at one of Japan's crowd sourcing apps, RBB Speed Test, shows some pretty amazing speeds for mobile data. While we might expect to see a maximum download of 60-70 megabits per second (Mbps) in California, in Japan, it's more than three times as fast. For upload, we're used to seeing between 5-10 Mbps; for the crowd source results below, the increase is not as large (17.1 Mbps).

See the table below for the top ten speeds from November 13. Number 1 was a test run on NTT DoCoMo's LTE network using a Sharp SH-01H (link to GSM Arena here) (link to Sharp's Japanese page here).

Friday, October 30, 2015

CalSPEED Shooting for 10K

Above: actual CalSPEED test locations

By all accounts, the CPUC's crowdsourced mobile testing project, CalSPEED, is an unequivocal success. Since its launch two years ago, we have had over 9,000 tests performed. We added an auto-update feature so results are shown in the interactive map within 24 hours. We have an iPhone version of the app in beta testing right now and plan to have it available to the public in December. Moreover, because streaming video is such an important feature for mobile we will be adding a video quality metric to the scorecard.

Mobile Data presented to Assembly Select Committee on the Digital Divide in Rural California

On October 27, I presented an overview of the CPUC's broadband programs to the Assembly Select Committee on the Digital Divide in Rural California. One of the key points was the apparent discrepancy in served households between wireline and mobile after we adjust mobile speeds using mean minus two standard deviations. At the 6 mbps down / 1.5 mbps up or higher threshold, we estimate 57% of rural households and 2% of urban households are either under-served or un-served by wireline. For mobile, the number of under- and un-served jumps to 85% of rural households and 84% urban households.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Should Mobile Be Included in FCC's Definition of Advanced Telecommunications Services?

 This week, the CPUC filed comments with the FCC regarding Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (GN Docket No. 15-191, Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability).

The comments examine some of the phenomena we have observed over the past seven rounds of statewide mobile testing and suggest that the FCC defer its decision on including mobile broadband in its definition of advanced telecommunications capability until the FCC confirms that it has reliable mobile data, and that it has mobile performance benchmarks that include critical performance metrics such as latency and packet loss.

The comments are publicly available from the FCC's web site and can be downloaded here.

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.