Ofcom already has a handy online tool for checking mobile and broadband coverage across the UK, but sometimes the bigger picture can hide the little differences. In addition to the regulator’s own data and that supplied by providers, Ofcom wants to build a more detailed map of mobile network and WiFi performance using crowdsourced, user data. To that end, it’s launched the Ofcom Mobile Research Android app, which runs in the background and collects data on call reliability, signal strength, connection speeds, app use, and of course, location.
Ofcom has put out a call for volunteers to download the app and document their mobile experience, with both numbers and the occasional questionnaire. Not only will their data be used to improve the coverage checker, but also in various other Ofcom projects, such as a report on quality of service across networks, due out next spring.
Beyond any battery drain concerns you might be having, Ofcom is keen to stress that all data is anonymised and only top-level information on app use is recorded — the regulator will know you used the YouTube app, for example, but not what you watched. Ofcom is also out to research the habits of users, you see, to “understand how current trends are likely to affect future demands.” As you’d imagine, pushing the privacy aspect is key to getting people on board with the project, because it’s hard to create a “nationally-representative dataset” when only three phones have the app installed.