gr8signal: measuring SA’s mobile networks

An independent, crowdsourced measure of South Africa’s mobile network coverage

By - November 4, 2012
gr8signal thumbnail

LucidView, a company that specialises in network data analysis, and MyBroadband, a company that specialises in awesome, have launched gr8signal – a service to independently measure mobile network coverage in South Africa.

Gr8signal’s initial release is for Android only, and lets users anonymously report whether they are receiving good signal quality from their cellular provider.

Developed with the help of Toby Kurien, the gr8signal app gathers data such as the cellular signal strength and GPS co-ordinates reported by an Android smartphone and sends them to LucidView’s servers.

The data is processed and displayed on a map on the gr8signal website.

Tim Haak, lead developer at LucidView, explained that new data is pulled to the map every few hours, so users won’t see the map updating in real-time.

gr8signal Android screenshot

gr8signal Android screenshot

He also emphasised that the only moderately personally identifying piece of data collected are device identifiers, which are needed mainly to be able to clean up data from a misbehaving device, Haak said.

“We take privacy very seriously,” Haak said. “We collect as little as possible personal information and anonymise everything as best we can before displaying it on the site,” Haak said.

Other things the app handles conservatively are cellular data and the device’s battery.

Haak explained that by default the app only uploads the data it has gathered when connected to a Wi-Fi network. It also only logs data points when the signal strength has changed significantly, Haak said.

Both these options can be changed in the app’s settings by unchecking “Wi-Fi only” and switching on “Turbo Mode”.

LucidView also plans to add more features to the app and site, Haak said, such as letting users view and download their own data and showing which networks have the best coverage in a particular area.

Another piece of data that ’s collected which LucidView plans to use in future is whether a device is connected via GPRS, EDGE, 3G, or HSPA.

This would ideally offer additional insights into the quality of operators’ radio networks across South Africa.

The app is available for download from the Google Play store immediately and some coverage data is already displayed on the gr8signal website.

Gr8signal coverage map - the beginnings

Gr8signal coverage map – the beginnings

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