What is Important in Cell Service?

by Colin Berkshire

Colin here.

We’re evaluating cellular networks the wrong way, and it is resulting in cell companies gaming the system to the detriment of their customers.

Consider this article: “Sprint is No Longer the Worst Network, Says RootMetrics Study.
The article places great emphasis on data speed.
But is data speed important? Of course you say yes—you are trained to say yes. But why is speed important?
Let me suggest that you need 2 megabits of speed so that you can watch videos. But anything faster that this doesn’t make the video any better. The video is not clearer, it is not brighter, its in no way improved. A consistent 1 megabit would likely be enough.
And, why do you need speeds above 2 megabits other than videos? That 5 megapixel image arrives in a couple of seconds no matter what the speed.
So I think that a carrier that delivers a consistent and reliable 2 megabits gets a checkmark in the box. That is all.
Here is how we should evaluate cellular carriers:
DATA QUALITY: Do you get 2 megabits of speed in all of the areas that on the carrier’s map show “good” coverage? Let the carriers clearly define their coverage areas, but within those areas there needs to be rock-solid consistent, omni-present 2 megabit speeds.
VOICE QUALITY:  Within the coverage areas that the carrier publishes, what percentage of cals are good quality. That is, they are not dropped and the parties don’t attempt to re-establish a connection. (I word it this way since all too often a connection will be poor and the parties will re-dial a new connection…and carriers do NOT show this as a dropped call.)
VOICE CLARITY: What percent of the calls on the network are high definition (HD) audio for devices that are HD capable? That is, if a device is physically capable of HD audio, what percentage of the calls actually are HD. We need a way to look at jitter and breakups since Verizon’s HD audio is clear and clearly terrible at the same time, with their choppy audio and one-way or dropped connections.
A key aspect of my proposed system is that a carrier is free to define whatever their coverage area is. It can be a city of a state.
Carriers need to show detailed maps showing only two colors: “Good” and “Not Good”. This way, consumers can see if the places that they need service will have good service. If you have looked at coverage maps they will offer nearly identical shades of some color to indicate coverage ranging from excellent to poor. You can hardly tell the shades apart. (Verizon is the worst at gaming the system this way.)
Let’s quit focusing on who has 5 or 10 or 43 megabits of speed. That’s irrelevant to the smartphone experience.
Let’s focus on clearly documenting the areas where service is “good” and make sure that within these “good” areas the data is reliably and consistently delivered at 2 megabits and the voice calls are reliable and clear.
I don’t expect either Verizon or AT&T to go for my plan. Honesty isn’t in their marketing language.