The FCC will be rolling out a new free app for Android next spring that lets users submit speed data to the agency for analysis, the Washington Post reports. The app is part of a broad-based effort to gauge actual download and upload speeds by mobile devices on the four major carriers and CTIA-The Wireless Association. The data will be collected and collated and measured against advertised speeds. The stated purpose of the project is to make sure consumers are getting what they're paying for.
The app, simply named FCC Speed Test, will be available free of charge. It will not be available for iOS, only Android. The reason for this might be attributable to the fact that the FCC wishes to focus more on low-income consumers, who tend to prefer Android over iOS due to the former more often coming in lower-priced packages.
"Smartphone sales outpace laptop sales and a significant portion of Americans (particularly minorities and low-income households) rely on a smartphone as their primary connection to the Internet," the report reads.
Presumably the collated data results will account for the various mitigating factors affecting download and upload speeds in actual practice. In 2011 the FCC completed a project similar to the FCC Speed Test app project, but for land-based broadband Internet connections. The agency reported that carriers generally performed at, above, or only slightly lower than their respective advertised speeds. But as we reported then, the results were extremely debatable.
Whether the results from FCC Speed Test will be of any value remains to be seen. It's fair to say more information is better than less information. The question is, will consumers automatically assume the FCC numbers to be reliable, and will they then be the smarter for it? We'll make a point of inspecting the results as they come in, which could be as soon as summer of next year depending on how quickly the communications regulatory body moves.