FCC To Measure Wireless Data Speeds

Agency aims to rate mobile broadband service performance across the U.S.

Patience Wait, Contributor

September 6, 2012

2 Min Read

How fast is data access on your smartphone? The Federal Communications Commission wants to find out.

The agency announced plans Wednesday to measure the performance of wireless broadband services across the country. Under the program, called Measuring Mobile America, the FCC will work with major wireless carriers, research and public interest groups, and other parties to assess the performance of wireless services.

The program will be modeled after an existing initiative, Measuring Broadband America, that gauges residential broadband performance. In a report released in July, the FCC said consumers have used the data generated by that program for comparison shopping, leading to increased competition among service providers.

[ Learn more about the feds' mobile moves. See White House Releases Mobile App Source Code. ]

According to the FCC, the residential broadband survey has led to improvements in three areas: Internet service providers (ISPs) are making more accurate promises about network performance; ISPs are more consistent in delivering promised speeds; and consumers are subscribing to higher-speed tiers.

The new program is intended to gather data that can be used by consumers in choosing mobile devices, carriers, and service plans. "We know from experience [that] transparency on broadband speeds drives improvement in broadband speeds," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. Genachowski added that the effort should lead to improvements in mobile networks and programs.

Both programs are an outgrowth of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which addresses the condition of the nation's broadband infrastructure, availability of broadband service, and the role that broadband plays in industries such as healthcare, public safety, and education.

Later this month, the FCC will hold a meeting to discuss technical methods for testing the performance of mobile broadband service, methodologies to gather and analyze data remotely, and other study design considerations. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and CTIA, a wireless industry association, plan to participate.

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Patience Wait


Washington-based Patience Wait contributes articles about government IT to InformationWeek.

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