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UPD Ofcom Asks UK People to Help Map Mobile and WiFi Network Quality

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 (10:30 am) - Score 740
ofcom mobile network tracking uk

The telecoms regulator has today launched its first “crowdsourced research project“, which asks owners of Android Smartphones’ to download its new Ofcom Mobile Research app, which will help them to build up a more accurate picture of Mobile and WiFi network performance across the United Kingdom.

The App itself is designed to automatically measure the performance of Mobile and WiFi networks (e.g. app use, voice call reliability, signal strength, location and data speeds); users don’t need to manually run any tests. The highlights of its findings will be displayed on the app’s home screen and, from time-to-time, the user will be asked to briefly rate how well they feel their service is performing.

After that the data will then be anonymised and collated to build a nationally-representative dataset, which must of course be fed back to Ofcom so that the regulator can use it to deliver more accurate maps and publish useful reports into UK service quality (the next one is expected during Spring 2017).

Ofcom’s technical partner on the project is P3 Communications and participants can opt-out of the research at any time by simply uninstalling the app. Sadly the app is currently only available to Android users, although there’s certainly no shortage of those. We assume that data will also be collected about the device being used as that can have an impact upon the results.

One potential problem with this approach is that the automatic testing could eat into your Battery Life, which might limit adoption because Battery Life is well known to be one of the biggest frustrations that consumers have with modern Smartphones. Still, we’ll give it a go for a few weeks.

UPDATE 11:50am

After snooping through the FAQ we thought it might be useful to highlight this piece about battery and data usage.

2.3 Does the app drain battery and use data allowance?

The app is designed so that it won’t affect your normal mobile use or use much battery. In order for it to properly work, your phone’s power-saving mode should be disabled, although you should not experience any additional battery drain. If the power-saving mode is switched on, it can trigger a message. So that the app works best, it’s advisable that you turn off power-saving mode. If power saving is on, the app will still be able to collect the data but you won’t get reliable measurements when you check the app’s dashboard.

The app will use a maximum of 3MB of data per month for its active connection test, and will only send the data collected overall over a mobile network if it cannot send it over Wi-Fi. The corresponding average data used depends on your overall smartphone use, but is typically no more than 1MB per day across mobile network and Wi-Fi.

2.4 Does the app transmit data while roaming?

Data is passively collected during roaming. Connection tests and offloading of collected data will take place according to your device settings (i.e. mobile data enabled/ disabled in roaming). Again, data offload is prioritised over Wi-Fi connection.

UPDATE 3:56pm

As one of our readers has pointed out, the FAQ also states that P3 can sell the mobile network data it collects to “third parties“, although the information itself remains “anonymised.”

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar TWKND

    Giving it a go, I have Opensignal installed and that sips battery so will what this is like.

  2. Avatar Chris

    I will give this a go as well, hopefully it is not too resource hungry, both CPU and data. I’m sure they will have considered that….

  3. Avatar arundel

    Might be worth mentioning that the user agreement also allows the “technical partner” to use the data (including what apps you’re using) for “commercial purposes” alongside that of pure ofcom research!

  4. Avatar Phil Coates

    I haven’t looked at it in detail but any idea how it copes with no mobile signal (like at home for me)in terms of telemetry?

  5. Avatar TheFacts

    So it needs GPS switched on, which uses battery…

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