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'Crowd-sourced' data used in Ofcom mobile report is 'inherently flawed'

Monday, June 19th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A network testing company says the data used in Ofcom’s report on mobile performance is “inherently flawed”.

Ofcom’s report ‘The consumer mobile experience’ uses crowd-sourced data to look at the performance of voice and data services.

But RootMetrics, an independent mobile testing firm, said it doesn’t go far enough and should have also included scientific data.

“It may seem like a good idea to use crowd-generated data but, in our experience, it doesn’t come close to painting an true picture of mobile performance in the UK,” said Scott Stonham, general manager for Europe at RootMetrics.

“Crowd data is inherently flawed from a scientific perspective because of relies on self-selecting – rather than random – data collection.”

Ofcom’s data came from an app, developed by the regulator, which ran regular background tests measuring network availability and performance.

It was downloaded by 6,632 people between September and December 2016 and, of these, 4,288 people kept the app on their phone for at least a week.

Ofcom found that 95% of 4G data downloads and 92% of 3G downloads are successful. It said 69% of users are happy with their overall service.

According to Ofcom’s research, 4G customers are connected to wi-fi 69% of the time when using apps. Of the time they are connected to a cellular network, 65% is on 4G, 30% is on 3G and 5% is on 2G.

'Detailed overview'

Connection speeds when using YouTube and Chrome are faster over 4G than 3G and 4G networks are also more responsive than 3G.

Ofcom said that once initiated, less than 1% of calls are dropped due to loss of service and 90% of people are happy with the performance of their network when making a call.

It also said people in urban areas are more likely to be satisfied with their service than those in rural areas (72% compared to 56%).

Mr Stonham added: “While we welcome this report by Ofcom, we would question the accuracy of the data used to assess UK call performance.

“In order to build an accurate picture of what coverage and performance is like in their area, consumers need data that is rigorously scientific, comprehensive, independent.

“We don’t feel this report goes far enough in providing the detailed overview consumers deserve when choosing the best network for them.”

RootMetrics last week released its first report analysing the video streaming performance of major network operators in London.

EE came out on top with a score of 4.5 out of 5. Vodafone and O2 both scored 2.5 and Three scored 1.

RootMetrics said EE customers can expect to stream a video in 720p 95% of the time, while the provider also recorded the fastest average speed for loading the start of a video at 2.17 seconds.

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