Could Crowdsourced Data Put 4G Networks on Auto-Pilot?

Nokia Siemens Networks (s nok) (s si) today launched a mobile application to measure and report real-time 3G connectivity service, adding a new tool for global network operators to better understand broadband bottlenecks. The Mobile Quality Analyzer for Mobile Broadband app captures network performance data and supplements the information with optional feedback from subscribers. By aggregating the crowdsourced data on how fast connections are or where calls are dropping, carriers can gain detailed network performance data at little-to-no cost.

With such real-time information, operators gain a vital tool in creating networks that can adjust to traffic loads automatically in real time. While operators can already optimize their network with centralized, in-house measurement, Nokia Siemens Networks, which makes gear for telcos, could potentially embed similar quality measurement software in its LTE equipment to get such data at the point of network use. Verizon Wireless (s vz) has already indicated it’s looking for such a solution on the LTE network it’s about to deploy.

If the approach of getting network data from a large audience of mobile broadband users sounds familiar, it should be. Earlier this year, I spent time chatting with the Root Metrics team about their Root Wireless application for Android (s goog) and BlackBerry (s rimm) smartphones. The software measures key metrics in real-time: dropped calls, signal strength, and 3G data speeds for example. The user data is gathered in the background and shot off to Root Metrics, where the information from all users is aggregated to create detailed coverage and signal maps.

Although both tools are similar, a key difference between the two approaches is the audience: Nokia Siemens Networks is targeting its service at the network provider to better manage 3G network performance, while Root Metrics is meant to help consumers understand what level of data service to expect in particular locations today. Both services could play a factor in the future of mobile broadband, although the company that builds network hardware for operators may have an advantage. That means a company like Root Metrics will either be on the outside looking in or continuing to shop its useful service to consumers.

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