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FCC releases Android speed test app to gather data on cell carrier performance

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Cell tower STOCK
Cell tower STOCK

The Federal Communications Commission has released a mobile speed test app for Android to help the agency crowdsource data about wireless performance across the country. The app, simply named the FCC Speed Test, doesn't have the best looking design out there, but it doesn't necessarily need to: once installed, it'll automatically check a phone's connection speed in the background when the device is not in use. While that'll allow individual users to clearly see how well their own data provider is performing, it'll more importantly allow the FCC to gather a wide amount of data on cellular carriers nationwide — that is, if its app gets enough users.

The results will turn into maps and infographics

But the FCC seems to be confident that it will. Early next year, the commission intends to release an interactive map online that'll detail, in general, how well each data provider does in different locations. As the year goes on and it gathers more data, the FCC intends to make the map more and more detailed, adding in more local results, speed variations, and packet loss reports. It's also promising infographics.

An iPhone version of the app will be submitted for publication by late January, which should help the FCC receive more results, though it'll likely have a harder time automatically collecting data. It was also previously reported that the FCC plans to make apps for both Windows Phone and BlackBerry as well. Of course, the app isn't just to satiate curiosity around sluggish speeds: it'll help the FCC determine how well carriers are living up to their promises. "Transparent information about service performance does not just enable consumers to select among service offerings in a meaningful way," FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn says in a statement. "It also creates incentives for providers to improve those services."