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FCC releases Android app to test mobile broadband speeds

Crowdsourced Android program will collect various information about data speeds and signal strength achieved on users' smartphones to present a performance comparison for consumers.

FCC's Speed Test App for Android. FCC

The Federal Communications Commission released an app on Thursday that the agency hopes will help it generate an accurate comparison of wireless carriers' mobile broadband speeds.

The app, dubbed Speed Test App for Android, is designed to collect information about the performance of participating smartphone users' mobile broadband services nationwide. The four major US carriers have agreed to participate.

The app will measure upload and download speeds, latency, and packet loss, as well signal strength and the manufacturer and model of the tested device. After a few months of data collection, the FCC plans to publish an interactive map early next year to help consumers determine whether they are getting the mobile data speeds they expect.

"Knowledge about how various mobile broadband providers compare, at specific locations in a geographic market, will aid them in choosing the provider that best suits their needs," FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. "Transparent information about service performance does not just enable consumers to select among service offerings in a meaningful way. It also creates incentives for providers to improve those services."

The program will run periodically in the background and is designed to use no more than 100MB of data each month, the FCC said. Automated testing can be disabled, allowing the user to execute manual testing, but the FCC warns this could lead to biased results if testing occurs only at specific times or locations.

The app is available for download at the Google Play store. The FCC said an iPhone version is currently in the works.