Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Roadrunner & Wile E. Coyote

This week, we were treated to an amazing photo by tester Steve Crews of a roadrunner with mountains in the background. The team finished Week 2 having completed 46% of the 1,990 locations (see map image below, completed location shown in red).

Average speeds shown in table below are in kilobits per second (Kbps), so divide by 1,000 to get megabits per second (Mbps).


Friday, October 14, 2016

Two CalSPEED Locations in Destroyed City of Homs, Syria

As I've said in earlier posts, back when we launched CalSPEED in 2013, we didn't restrict distribution to only the United States. We added the restriction because we didn't want people running tests all over the world. CalSPEED is designed to be used by California residents so they can understand how their mobile provider is performing. Nevertheless, we occasionally still see tests appearing in unexpected parts of the world.

At the end of 2014, there were three tests performed at geographic coordinates that appear to be in the City of Homs, Syria. A quick look at those locations in Google Earth reveals the destruction of that city from years of war. See before-and-after photos in The Guardian here.

A New York Times' article on the destruction of another Syrian city, Aleppo, estimates the number of displaced people around the world is equivalent in number to the entire population of the United Kingdom or France. It would seem that number includes all displaced people, not just Syrians, but these images of Syria, even from Google Earth, are devastating.

Here's what part of Homs looks like from Google Earth:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Believe Me, It's Radar Enforced!

My favorite is the "Radar Enforced" road sign collection. Product of a frustrated highway patrol officer? Below the nine photo collage is a cryptic fortune cookie message.

Week 1 Progress Map

The red dots indicate which locations our testers have completed as of the end of last week. The blue dots are locations that will be tested this week and in coming weeks.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bravo! Photos from Week 1

I am constantly amazed at the geographic diversity of California, and the photos coming in from our field testers are proof. Their photos are wonderful. I'm adding a few of them from Week 1, but feel free to follow their progress on Instagram at cpuc_broadband_testing.

Mobile Internet Getting Faster, But Less Reliable?

Hey Everyone, Good News! Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are able to deliver increasingly faster downstream speeds to your smartphone. The question is, how reliable are those speeds? Can you bank on getting 50 megabits per second every time you try to download a large photo to your smartphone?

The graph below shows the maximum downstream speeds measured for each of the four providers over the life of our mobile field testing program. During this multi-year period, we've seen the introduction of LTE networks by all four providers, and just recently Verizon announced the introduction of LTE Advanced, which promises a 50% increase in speeds.

 Newer technology = faster speeds.

Those of you familiar with this blog know that faster speeds sure are great, but more important is the reliability of those faster speeds. How likely will I be able to experience the faster speeds consistently?

One metric we collect is the standard deviation. A low standard deviation suggests that the speed measurements tend to be near the mean (average). Conversely, a high standard deviation suggests that the speed measurements are spread out over a wider range of values from the mean. Higher standard deviation suggests wider fluctuations in speeds.

The data we've collected suggest that as download speeds get faster, the standard deviation increases. For one session, you might get 2 megabits per second, and another session, 24.

Here is a graph comparing the mean downstream speeds between Fall 2015 and Spring 2016. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon seem to be delivering faster average downstream speeds compared to six months before.

Now, let's look at the standard deviation as a percentage of the downstream speed. Standard deviations have increased as a percentage of the average downstream speeds.

What does this mean? It's hard to say, but it appears the likelihood of getting the average speed at a particular location is lower than before. Here is what the average downstream speeds look like after lowering the mean downstream speeds by two standard deviations. Using this approach, we see a drop rather than an increase compared to the previous round of testing.