FCC Plans To Measure Mobile Broadband Performance

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The Federal Communications Commission today announced plans to measure mobile broadband service performance in an attempt to provide consumers with information regarding wireless data speeds.

A meeting is scheduled to be held on Sept. 21 to discuss the new program. Wireless industry trade association CTIA and wireless carriers have already made commitments to cooperate, according to the FCC. The commission is also seeking participation from other stakeholders, including the public research community.

The FCC said in a statement that it plans to use the same collaborative blueprint that improved the availability of information to consumers about fixed broadband service. In its Measuring Broadband America program, the FCC launched a fixed broadband speed test application. The commission also spearheaded an effort to provide the first detailed and accurate measurements of fixed broadband service in the United States. The FCC said that fixed broadband performance and service offerings significantly improved year-over-year in its reports on such services.

“The broadband performance data … allows comparisons and analyses that are valuable to consumers and spur competition among service providers,” according to an FCC statement.

Now the commission wants to develop a similar program for mobile broadband. The upcoming meeting will touch on technical methods for mobile broadband performance testing, how to remotely acquire and analyze the data and other considerations for testing wireless data networks.

Consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog responded immediately to the FCC announcement, saying that merely measuring mobile broadband speeds is not enough. The group submitted a petition to the FCC last month asking the regulator to require carriers to disclose data speeds in their advertising.

The group noted that wireless carriers make frequent advertising claims regarding network speeds, stating their networks are “faster” without providing a clear basis for such claims.

“Having accurate information about how fast a smartphone downloads data is essential when I consumer chooses a device and carrier,” said John Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog. “But unless the information is clearly disclosed in advertisements and at the point of sale, it is inaccessible and virtually useless.”

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