Comlinkdata announced today that it’s acquiring mobile network reporting firm Opensignal for an undisclosed amount. The transaction is expected to close by the end of this month.
Opensignal made a name for itself by taking measurements of operator metrics, like speed and coverage, and publishing them. Like other reporting firms, its results are often used by carriers in their marketing materials.
By adding Opensignal's mobile experience measurement capabilities to Comlinkdata's existing portfolio of market analysis and network performance solutions, the company will be able to deliver "unparalleled value" to clients globally, according to Comlinkdata.
Berkshire Partners is the majority owner and Silversmith Capital Partners is a minority investor in the newly combined entity.
“This acquisition is a major step forward in our efforts to create the must-have data and analytics platform that communications brands need to thrive and grow in an increasingly competitive market disrupted by 5G, fiber and gigabit Internet,” said Dave Isenberg, CEO of Comlinkdata, in a statement. “The addition of Opensignal’s acclaimed mobile network experience analytics and world-class team to the Comlinkdata portfolio will speed development of new solutions for customers in the mobile, broadband, and enterprise sectors.”
Comlinkdata acquired Tutela in 2019, and it will continue to operate capabilities from both Tutela and Opensignal, according to Opensignal CEO Brendan Gill .
“Most of what we report here at Opensignal is complementary to Tutela and vice versa as both companies measure different things,” said Gill in response to emailed questions from Fierce.
It will continue to be “business as usual” for the time being, according to Gill. The new company will maintain central offices in Boston, London and Victoria, Canada, as well as offices in Asia and globally.
“This marks a pivotal moment in the Opensignal journey,” Gill said in a statement. “We have long believed that improving connectivity starts with access to independent, reliable information. By combining forces with Comlinkdata and Tutela we will strengthen our position as a trusted, global standard for network experience insights and amplify our impact on the industry.”
While the U.S. carrier market has consolidated, there’s been a fair amount of consolidation in this market as well. IHS acquired RootMetrics in 2015, and in 2020, S&P Global announced that it was merging with IHS Markit. This past June, Accenture said it was acquiring umlaut, an engineering consulting and services firm with headquarters in Germany.
“There’s consolidation going on all around,” noted Bill Ho, principal analyst at 556 Ventures. “Data is powerful and how you spin the data is really how you get market traction.”
Drive-testing is one method, and one that RootMetrics has used for years. Another way of collecting data is from apps within handsets. Opensignal says the majority of its measurements are generated through automated tests, executed independently and at random intervals to capture what users are experiencing at a typical moment in time. All of the big U.S. carriers rely on these firms to one extent or another and use results in their marketing.
While there seems to be a lot of measurement firms and they get accused of playing favorites among the U.S. carriers, Recon Analytics’ Roger Entner said each of them measures slightly differently or puts something else into the mix so they’re not direct replacements of one another.
“They measure different things and you can prioritize different things,” such as the fastest or the most reliable, he noted.
For example, a lot of speed tests say “T-Mobile is the fastest because of 5G. OK, but 75% of the usage is in 4G, so does it really matter? It doesn’t matter if you have 500 Mbps when the fastest your phone pulls down is 25 megabits because that’s the speed of 4K video. All the other 475 megabits are wasted,” Enter said. “There’s nothing you do on your phone that needs 500 [Mbps]. It’s just the old, ‘faster must be better’” mindset.
In a nutshell, “it’s a multi-dimensional problem that has multi-dimensional, equally valid answers,” he said. “That’s why each of them has a business.”
The importance of certain metrics changes over time as well. Getting crowned with the “fastest speed” is something everyone aims for, but in 5G, “latency is going to be something that we all look for,” Ho said. It’s a big deal in mobile gaming, for example, which is often touted as one of the early use cases for 5G. “Latency is another metric that they’re injecting in there.”
The data from the measurement firms is perhaps more important in a three-carrier market like the U.S. is right now. “Competition is extremely intense,” Entner said. “The stakes are as high as ever.”
Article updated to correct attribution in graphs 6-8 to Opensignal CEO.