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How fast is your internet service? New app for mobile broadband mapping based on user experience
Speed, quality and access to the internet – fixed, mobile or Wi-Fi – are a common concern of most citizens these days. Collective user experience is a key to making an informed choice about which operator would be the best for you.
Have you wondered how good is the quality of signals for the smart phone in your area? Is there a Wi-Fi or 4G broadband coverage available while you are on the move? Or, do you want to check if your telecom operator allows access to your favourite internet services such as internet telephony?
Download NetBravo, a free app developed by the JRC, and there is your answer. What’s more, you will join a growing community of users to help create an interactive map that shows the general quality of broadband signals not just in your own area but all around Europe. The app works on your smartphone quietly in the background to record the quality of mobile and Wi-Fi signals and periodically sends the data back to the JRC server where the broadband quality map is updated each day.
How does NetBravo Work?
NetBravo constantly listen to the radio waves around us. It monitors the quality of various wireless signals picked up by your smartphone free of charge. The app records technical parameters of the signals that your mobile device is able to receive – Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G, and GSM. As you move around, the app continues to take snapshots of the signal quality around you.
If you have a Wi-Fi connection or broadband service on your mobile, you can also run tests to check the speed and quality of your mobile internet connection. Since the quality of your internet service also depends on the other users sharing the connection with you, the results vary with time of the day as well as your location. When there are many users taking snapshots of the internet quality at different times in different places, the result is a reliable picture of broadband quality in various places.
In addition, you can run advanced tests to check if your operator allows access to the open internet respecting the principle of "net neutrality": for example it can tell you if you will be able to make phone calls over the broadband – a service known as a Voice over Internet (VoIP).
How does NetBravo manage data?
The data collected by NetBravo is saved locally on your smart phone and can be sent back to the NetBravo server when it is convenient to you. The upload is done when there is a Wi-Fi connection available, thus avoiding the extra cost of mobile data traffic for you. Aggregated and anonymised data are processed by the server and shown on an interactive map on the NetBravo website. The map can tell us, for instance, whether our mobile networks are capable of delivering broadband connectivity in parts of the country where the fixed line service is patchy, whether coverage across cities and suburbs is consistently good, and whether some operators are supplying a better quality service than others.
How to use NetBravo?
NetBravo is available for smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android. It is free to download and does not contain any advertisements. It uses very little bandwidth and power to minimise the drain on your phone’s battery. You can customise the settings on the app to be as active member of the NetBravo user community as you like.
To use NetBravo you only need an ordinary mobile connection you do not need to subscribe to a mobile broadband service.
Benefits of Broadband Mapping
By monitoring the quality of experience of wireless signals and putting it on a map of Europe, NetBravo helps in ensuring a level playing field for all market players and a guaranteed open internet for the creation of a Digital Single Market. It can also help national authorities and the European Commission to assess the growth of the broadband infrastructure. It can answer questions such as:
- Whether the various mobile phones operators provide a good quality mobile signal in all parts of Member States;
- How crowded are the old and new Wi-Fi channels in Europe and whether they are being used efficiently by Wi-Fi access points;
- Whether Internet service providers are blocking some protocols on their network, therefore hampering access to the open internet and violating the principle of net neutrality;
- What is the progress towards achieving the Commission's target of 30 Mb/s broadband speeds in the EU by 2020?
The Internet and digital technologies are transforming our life and the way we work. These changes are bringing immense opportunities for innovation, growth and jobs but they are also posing policy challenges which require coordinated EU action. The creation of a Digital Single Market is a key priority of the European Commission to ensure that citizens and businesses can seamlessly access and use online services under conditions of fair competition.
In this context, in October 2015 the first EU-wide Net Neutrality rules were adopted which will enter into force on 30 April 2016. These new Open Internet rules will avoid fragmentation in the single market, creating legal certainty for businesses and making it easier for them to work across borders: users will be free to access the content of their choice, they will not be unfairly blocked or slowed down anymore, and paid prioritisation will not be allowed. This means, for example, that the access to a start-up's website will not be unfairly slowed down to make the way for bigger companies who can afford to pay a premium to guarantee access to faster lanes of the information superhighway. Net Neutrality ensures that no service provider, be it big or small, will be stuck while serving its customers because it does not pay additional toll charges to Internet service providers.
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