Crowdsourcing as a Tool for Network Tuning

(Last Updated On: December 28, 2017)

Excellent mobile customer experience is now the #1 factor keeping happy & paying customers. As the network grows in capacity, coverage, and complexity (heterogeneous network = complexity), the cost of constantly tuning the network also increases. The core mobility vendors[1] are putting forward a variety of “customer experience” tools. These tools work as an integral part of the vendor’s solution. There is a smaller group of vendors[2] who operate as overlays to the network. These use passive probe throughout the network collect information on the customer experience. Finally, there is the terminal based tool that is pre-installed on customer’s cell phones[3]. These are comprehensive tools that allow the operator to know what is happening from the customer’s point of view. It turns every phone in the network into a “drive test” tool. In essence, this third group is a crowdsourced approach. Crowdsourcing as a tool for network tuning is one of the most cost-effective ways to the meausre customer experience. 

The alternative to CarrierIQ and V3D are the “crowdsource” tools. These tools – RouteMetrics, OpenSignal, Sensorly, and others – emerged as a cheaper alternative to CarrierIQ and v3D. These crowdsource tools require users to load the application. In return, the users gain a useful service – understanding what their current network performance is now AND seeing if the alternatives would be better (i.e. compared to other operators). Each of these tools uploads the measurement results into a central “big data” repository. Reports are then generated and provided back to the users and operators. These reports are the heart of their business model – getting many people to take measurements and then selling that data back to the operators.

There is an interesting side benefit of user experience through crowdsourcing. It puts public pressure on the operator to improve their network. Giving each user a comparison to other carriers would encourage customers to “jump” to the better service. This means operators cannot ignore these crowdsource user experience tools. It does not take much for customers to get a lousy experience, have that experience affect their work (or live), then look for alternatives.

Crowd Source Applications

The following are some of the crowdsourcing “user experience tool” that has been found and used. These tools are all being tested with Android and soon iOS. What follows are some initial impressions from a user’s point of view. The future post will get into more of the details for each.

RoutemetricsRouteMetrics (Apple Store & Google Play) – Offers the user with a way to test the network (speed test), compare carriers, and view the coverage maps. RouteMetrics also has background testing, allowing the application to wake up and take measurements – sending them to RouteMetrics (this can be turned off). The continuous testing is useful for those who are mobile – allowing for a “route test.”

OpenSignalOpen Signal (Apple Store & Google Play) – Based on the quality of the data, Open Signal, seems to be more one of the most popular of the crowdsourcing tools. The dashboard has a “compass” that points to the nearest cell tower. The test tool is basic, more for the average user. Gives more details of each test and a history – which makes it easier to talk to an operator’s customer support. It provides an E-mail test option that provides things like signal strength and details a customer support person can use to troubleshoot a quality issue. In some ways, Open Signal provides more geeky details, but in other ways, it provides easy simple interfaces. Open Signal, like RouteMetrics, has a background process that will test report. The settings for the background process can be managed by the user.

SensorlySensorly (Apple Store & Google Play) – Sensorly’s interface jumps straight into coverage maps. The speed test is simple but comprehensive. The most irritating part of the speed test is the sensitivity to poor network performance. It will give an error message vs providing details of why the network is poor. This makes it not a good tool for a customer support team working with their customers. There is a “map trip” function that is useful, but again hampered by the error message if the network performance is poor. Sensorly also has background testing, sending the reports to the home servers. Sensorly provides the most options to control the background “passive scanning.”

CellumapCellumap (Google Play) – Cellumap is an example of how not to build a crowdsourcing tool. The application displays data but has no speed test, no coverage maps, and no value provided to the user who downloads the application. The site looks to be inactive.

CellimapperCellmapper (Google Play) – Cellmapper is another tool that is asking people to download, test, and receive no value for using their phone to collect information on networks. The site – like Cellumap – looks to be not maintained.

Speedtest Speedtest (Apple Store & Google Play & Windows Store) – Speedtest is one of the oldest and most popular tools in use today. People want to know if their connection is fast or slow. Speedtest provides the answer and allows the results to be sent to whomever it is needed. Speedtest does not do background testing, but with its popularity, there is no need.

Cisco Data MeterCisco Data Meter (Apple Store & Google Play & Windows Store) – The Cisco Data Meter is part of Cisco’s VNI Tools. It provides interesting tools to test the speed of the connection and track the data usage over 3G, 4G, and WIFI. The testing tool is basic, but the monthly data tracking provides the user a useful way to track – with Cisco benefiting from the long-term view. The community gains with Cisco providing tools based on these VNI tools to do analysis (see VNI Free Resources).

Global Internet Speed Test Cisco Global Internet Speed Test (GIST) (Apple Store & Google Play & Windows Store & Blackberry ) – GIST is also part of Cisco’s VNI suite – older software but providing one of the only tools that work for the Blackberry.


What tools are missing?

If you know of any “crowdsource” tools that are missing from this list, please let e-mail at



[1] Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco, Huawei, ZTE, ALU, & Samsung

[2] Niometrics, JDSU

[3] Carrier IQ and V3D