FCC to test and define mobile broadband service definition and speeds

September 6, 2012
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    What is “mobile broadband” anyway? The FCC is seeking the public’s help to define and test these speeds to ensure acceptable service and competition among carriers.

    Define “mobile broadband.” Chances are that you have a vague description of what mobile broadband should mean, but don’t know exactly how to define it. In fact, a recent study says most people don’t actually care about what 4G does, even though the term often sways consumers into buying into a device or brand due to the name.

    Mobile broadband has been a marketing term, as much as “4G” is — thanks to the different prevailing standards like WiMax, LTE, HSPA+ and the like. Unlike wireline services, though, there is no formal and technical definition of mobile broadband at this time.

    Given this seeming confusion, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants consumers to have definite information on what “mobile broadband” should be. This way, you won’t be hoodwinked by a carrier into subscribing to a “mobile broadband” service, even if this is limited, throttled down, or is in fact poor in terms of point-to-point speed or latency.

    The FCC is therefore seeking to define what mobile broadband should mean, and is asking the public for help through its Mobile Broadband Services Testing and Measurement Program.

    The program aims to create “comparisons and analyses that are valuable to consumers and spur competition among service providers.” The move has already been given a commitment by major wireless carriers and the CTIA an international association for wireless telecoms industry.

    The meetings will be open to the public, and the FCC wants to have access to expert inputs, especially from the research and academic community. Seating is limited, though, so if these public meetings are your thing, you pencil in 1:30PM to 3:30PM Eastern on September 21. Do call or email ahead. Details are on the press release below.

    Show Press Release

    FCC TO LAUNCH MOBILE BROADBAND SERVICES TESTING AND MEASUREMENT PROGRAM

    CG Docket No. 09-158

    On September 21, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission will hold an open meeting to discuss a new program to measure mobile broadband service performance in the United States.

    The National Broadband Plan (NBP), developed by the FCC, made recommendations to improve the availability of information for consumers about their broadband service. The FCC has undertaken a series of projects as part of its Consumer Empowerment Agenda to realize this charge, including launching a broadband speed test app and, most significantly, undertaking a comprehensive effort-in partnership with industry, the public research community, and other stakeholders-to provide the first detailed and accurate measurements of fixed broadband service performance in the United States. This past July, the FCC released its second Measuring Broadband America report, showing significant improvements in broadband performance and service offerings as compared to the first report roughly one year earlier.

    The FCC now proposes a program to develop information on mobile broadband service performance in the United States utilizing the collaborative model underlying the success of its fixed broadband program. As the Measuring Broadband America program has proven, the broadband performance data produced by the statistically sound methodology of the program allows comparisons and analyses that are valuable to consumers and spur competition among service providers.

    In addition, the experience gained within the Measuring Broadband America program has proven the value of working with a broad range of participants including industry and the public research community on the complex technical challenges related to broadband performance measurement and study. The FCC notes that in launching this effort we have already received commitments to cooperate by major wireless carriers and CTIA-The Wireless Association®. With the launch of this open meeting, the FCC looks forward to the participation of other critical stakeholders, including the public research community.

    At the open meeting, Commission staff from the Office of Engineering and Technology and the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau will discuss with interested parties the technical methods for performance testing of mobile broadband Internet service, methodological approaches to remotely acquiring and analyzing such data, and other methodological considerations for the testing of mobile broadband performance.

    The meeting will take place on Friday, September 21, 2012, from 1:30PM-3:30PM Eastern, in the 6th Floor South Conference Room (6-B516) at 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554. Parties interested in attending or who would like further information may call James Miller at 202-418-7351 or Walter Johnston at 202-418-0807 or via email at James.Miller@fcc.gov or Walter.Johnston@fcc.gov. Seating is limited.

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    • yunclehead

      The concept sounds promising. I’d like to see all the vague hyperbole cut out of the carriers performance claims and be able to accurately compare services. I think the “4G” label should be concisely defined in ad copy. Also, I’d like to see what (meaningful to the laymen) changes the carrier made to justify their 4th “G” claim.

      But, as is the case more and more in the United States, any government body can be ravished by the whims of political power brokers who are beholden to big corporate “donations”. And the FCC will right from the start be beholden to some degree to the major trade groups for their cooperation and endorsements. Major trade groups are usually financed by, you guessed it, corporate contributions.

      I can only hope this new program doesn’t get sold down the river before it has a chance to announce any real, unbiased, and useful findings.

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