You pay for 4G, you get Edge. 14 years on from the UK’s 3G auction, you’re lucky to get 3G. You can fume, but the operators don’t seem to care.
Now they have to care, because RootMetrics is checking the quality of operators’ service – the strength of their signals, achieved data-rates etc – and reporting back to the public how operators’ performance stacks up against rivals.
“Our approach is to find what consumers experience in the wild,” says RootMetrics vp Julie Dey, “what we help users identify is which operator is best for them. We measure the coverage – it’s more than just availability – it checks on whether the service does what it’s expected to do.”
That includes measuring signal strength, the achieved data-rate and the percentage of dropped and blocked calls.
RootMetrics has its own staff for monitoring coverage but also has a crowdsourced app allowing people to put in their own readings.
Without being prepared to give precise figures, Dey said that “hundreds of thousands” of people were using the RootMetrics app to upload readings.
Recently RootMetrics piqued Vodafone by revealing that its coverage was the worst in the UK while EE’s was the best, although that’s probably not surprising when EE had the drop on Vodafone with 4G.
Asked how RootMetrics could get a fair assessment of coverage when data-rates vary throughout the day depending on how many people are using a base-station, Dey replies: “We collect thousands of samples characterising a specific area.” RootMetrics then uses the field data to come up with a “median” data-rate described by Dey as: “What you’re most likely to see.”
RootMetrics makes its headline data available to the public for free and sells its field data – the detailed readings – to the operators.
Dey reckons the RootMetrics findings are changing operator behaviour in areas where RootMetrics finds issues and has a positive message for users: “We’re seeing fantastic trends for LTE,” says Dey, “the speeds we’re seeing are really exciting.”