27 September 2016
- Ofcom launches crowdsourced project for better mobile phone services
- Results will boost information on service quality and coverage
Ofcom is calling on the UK's 20 million Android smartphone users to join its first crowdsourced research project for better mobile phone services.
By downloading the Ofcom Mobile Research app, mobile users can join a nationwide panel of volunteers who will help gather valuable information about mobile coverage, reliability of voice calls, mobile broadband performance and users' experiences and habits.
The app automatically measures the performance of mobile and Wi-Fi networks; users don't need to manually run any tests. The highlights of its findings will be displayed on the app's home screen. From time-to-time, the user will be asked to briefly rate how well they feel their service is performing.
Ofcom's research aims to build an independent benchmark for both consumers and industry. It will help mobile customers make purchasing and switching decisions, and will be used to enhance Ofcom's mobile coverage maps and consumer research.
The data collected by the new app - such as app use, voice call reliability, signal strength, location and data speeds - will be anonymised and collated to build a nationally-representative dataset.
This will then feed into various Ofcom research projects, including a new study comparing telecoms operators' quality of service in spring 2017.
About the app
More and more people are using their smartphones for diverse, demanding applications. Activities such as streaming music or video calls can put strain on mobile networks, and Ofcom wants to better understand how current trends are likely to affect future demands.
When a user downloads and installs the Ofcom Mobile Research app, they will be asked some basic questions such as their age group, gender, occupation, postcode and home broadband availability.
The app will log when another apps are in use to help Ofcom understand usage trends across volunteers. But it does not record precisely what other apps are being used for - for instance it would log that the YouTube app was opened, but not what was watched.
Data protection and usage
Ofcom takes data protection very seriously. Therefore, all users' data will be completely anonymised. Ofcom is working with a technical partner on the project - P3 Communications.
P3 has experience of collecting anonymised data for public companies - such as the Germany railway network, Deutsche Bahn, for which it helped develop a mobile coverage app. Data will be anonymised and P3 and Ofcom will ensure the data collected is not attributable to any individuals. Participants can opt out of the research at any time by simply uninstalling the app.
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