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.