As part of Measuring Broadband America the FCC launched the FCC Speed Test app to collect anonymous performance data on mobile broadband coverage across America.
The program uses the FCC Speed Test app for Android and iOS devices to test the performance of volunteers' smartphone mobile broadband services. Broadband performance data is being collected that includes upload and download speed, latency, packet loss and jitter, as well as the wireless performance characteristics of the broadband connection and the model of handsets and versions of operating systems tested.
These FAQs are designed help to address some of the common questions people might have when using the app.
The application is designed to run on both the Android and iOS operating devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Toggle any of the blue on/off switches located on the main Test screen and you will be able to choose specific tests to perform. The "Latency," "Jitter," and "Packet loss" tests are all done at once and can only be switched on or off as a group.
Go to the settings and select "Mobile data" to choose how much data the app can use each month.
To disable background tests on an Android device, go to the "Test scheduler" under settings and toggle the "Allow periodic background test" switch. Please keep in mind that the program's success is highly dependent on the background tests to provide the public with the most-complete information about the performance of nation's mobile broadband infrastructure. Apple devices do not support background testing.
If you are using this app to test your fixed-line broadband speeds (using the Wi-Fi test) then it is important to note that your Wi-Fi connection may not be completely representative of the internet speeds you are purchasing from your provider. Many things can impact these results, for example how many other people are using the connection in your home when you run your test or how far away you are from your router. We also carry out hardware based testing for the fixed-line program (more information can be found here: https://www.measuringbroadbandamerica.com/test-methodology) as that eliminates any of the in-home factors, like the two mentioned above, that could impact on performance. Because of this we would recommend running the tests at different times to see if this helps.
Different speed test apps use different test methodologies so some variation in results should be expected. Many things can impact the speeds you might see including where the servers are located (either inside the ISP's network or outside the ISP's network) and how the measurements operate. The FCC Speed Test app uses test servers hosted with a major CDN (content delivery network) in ten cities across the US. We locate our test servers outside of the ISP's networks in order to provide a neutral basis for comparison. The test methodology for the FCC Speed Test app is outlined in more detail here: https://www.fcc.gov/general/measuring-mobile-broadband-methodology-technical-summary
The FCC Speed Test app carries out measurements against test servers in ten cities across the US. These test servers are deployed at neutral peering locations, and are connected to major Internet exchanges, typically at 10Gbps or greater. When the FCC Speed Test app selects a server, it runs a short latency test to determine which server is closest in terms of latency. Note this server may not be the one that is geographically closest to you. The app runs tests against the chosen test server and these results are then displayed in the app for users to view.
The app will establish the type of connection your device has at several points during a test sequence, the app checks whether the form of connection is cellular or Wi-Fi. If the connection is over a cellular network the app will also specify the type of cellular connection (3G, 4G, 5G). It is important to note that 5G is a relatively new technology and is not as common as 4G. Some connections will be noted as 5G by the carrier (displaying 5G at the top of the screen), but a large proportion of the data will be carried over a 4G connection. In these cases, the app may record the test as being carried out over 4G rather than 5G. As the technology to deliver 5G connectivity becomes more common it is likely that the reliance on 4G will reduce and data on 5G connections will be provided over 5G fully. In this scenario the app would record a 5G result.
The data from your test is automatically shared with the FCC (anonymously). However should you wish to raise a specific concern or complaint you are able to do this through the Broadband Data Collection site: https://www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData/consumers or alternatively through the Consumer Complaint Center: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/115002206106
Select "Charts" in the menu bar. There you will be able to see a daily summary of test results, separated by "Download," "Upload," "Latency," and "Packet Loss." In addition to a chart of your tests, you will also see a list summarizing your latest test results.
If you want to see the full results of a specific test, tap on any of the test results below the chart. Press the back arrow to return to the chart.
Select the arrow next to "Date range." A menu will let you choose different time periods ("Day," "Week," "Month," or "Year").
The app will test the broadband performance of the connection (cellular or Wi-Fi) that is active when running a test. You can see which network connectivity was used in any given test by toggling open the "Your internet connection" drop-down menu on archived results. Be sure to disable Wi-Fi before testing if you wish to test cellular performance. You can see tests over different networks by selecting the "Data source" drop-down menu under "Charts." From there, select "All," "Mobile," "Wi-Fi," or specific technologies or SSIDs of Wi-Fi networks you have connected to over tests you have run in the past.
In the case of cellular networks, access to the Internet is entirely through the cellular network provider’s infrastructure and the performance tests reflect that infrastructure’s behaviour.
With Wi-Fi networks, the combined performance of both the Wi-Fi access point and fixed Internet service provider’s network contributes to the overall network performance assessment. Hence, the test results over Wi-Fi may not reflect the performance attainable on the fixed Internet service provider’s network.
The app provides data for the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America Program's mobile-performance measurement effort, an initiative to gather crowdsourced data on cellular network performance across the United States. The anonymous data collected from tests run on the app will also be used as part of The Broadband Data Collection to help improve the mapping of broadband coverage across America. The FCC mobile performance testing software, developed in cooperation with SamKnows Inc., uses smartphone-based technology to collect broadband performance data, with the highest commitment to protecting participants' privacy. The anonymized data is freely available (MBA-Mobile Data) to consumers, academics, policymakers, and any other interested parties.
It helps to provide a more accurate view of typical network performance. Randomized tests distributed in an unbiased manner over various time periods and locales provide a more statistically valid approach to data collection. (You can disable scheduled background tests at your discretion or if they interfere with device performance.)
* NOTE: Scheduled tests cannot be run on Apple devices due to iOS security features. As a result, the only option for such devices is manual on-demand testing.
The FCC has taken significant measures to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of volunteers for this program. No personally identifiable information is collected. We also use privacy measures developed and reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and academic researchers to ensure that any data that could potentially identify specific smartphones (e.g., location and time stamps) is anonymized. The FCC is committed to ensuring that only network data is collected and made available to the public.
Data related to the radio characteristics of the handset, information about the handset type and operating system version, the GPS coordinates available from the handset at the time each test is run, the date and time of the observation, and the results of active tests are recorded on the handset. The files are transmitted to storage servers at periodic intervals after the completion of active test measurements.