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.

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