Ofcom turns consumers into network performance researchers via Android app

Ofcom's Android-based mobile service app

Ofcom, the UK media and telecoms regulator, handed research of the country’s mobile coverage over to consumers with the release of an Android app that will measure key performance metrics.

The regulator said the app will measure mobile coverage, voice call reliability, the performance of mobile broadband and Wi-Fi networks, and the experience and habits of wireless users in the country. Ofcom added that the data gathered by the app will help it to build an independent benchmark, and to improve its existing mobile coverage maps.

In a statement, Ofcom said all data collected by the app will be anonymised and split into two sets: “raw data, such as network performance information, and data collected from a nationally representative panel of users across the UK’s towns and cities.”

The app was developed by consultancy P3 Communications. Ofcom noted that this company will also use the raw data “feeding it into its own research and making it available to third parties, such as the mobile operators.” The consultancy has previous experience of collecting anonymous data for public companies including the Deutsche Bahn rail network in Germany, Ofcom stated.

Further details released in a consumer-facing FAQ page reveals that the coverage app will also collect information on the time consumers spend using other apps, but not what they were used for.

Utilising the Android operating system opens the door to a potential research base of 20 million people, Ofcom stated. Once downloaded, the app will run automatically, and consumers will be able to access highlights of the data it gathers relating to network performance. Users will also periodically be asked to rate the performance of their network. Consumers who later wish to opt out of the service can do so by uninstalling the app.

Ofcom launched a mobile and broadband service checker service in March as part of a push to simplify the process for consumers when selecting a mobile network operator (MNO). The service checker adds to a mobile coverage check service the regulator launched in August 2015.

For more:
- see Ofcom’s announcement
- view the regulator’s FAQ section
- view P3 Communications website

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