Are Opensignal, Root Metrics, Tutela useless mobile network apps?

Many mobile apps claim to measure the quality of mobile networks. Strand Consult explains why these measurements are useless.
Ericsson mobile subscribers on 4G networkOpensignal, Root Metrics, Tutela, among others, are the leading mobile apps that claim to measure the quality of mobile networks. The report did not mention the name of mobile network apps.

Strand Consult’s report called Moment of Truth – Why the Quality of Mobile Networks Differs describes the many factors that affect the network’s capacity, coverage, and the user experience.

Many believe that a mobile application can measure the quality of mobile and fixed networks, and some mobile apps even rank mobile networks against one another, as if they can make authoritative measurements. Most stories covering these apps have limited critical or scientific review of how these apps work.

The report describes:

# Which companies produce the apps which purport to measure mobile network quality
# How these apps work in practice
# How operators and the press can abuse, or be abused, by these measurements
# How do these measurements impact an operator’s image
# What several scientific studies from universities say about these kinds of measurements
# How can operators counter reports with bogus app measurements
# When to take these measurements seriously and why
# Cases: Practical experience from around the world

More Mobile in Denmark fact-checks Tutela Technologies which claims to “measure the real-world mobile network experience” based on anonymous crowdsourced data. More Mobile concludes that problems which Tutela purports to be caused by the network are actually caused by the mobile phones.

Strand Consult’s report assesses the mobile apps which claim to measure network quality at a time when mobile networks are evolving from 2G, 3G and 4G to a combination of 4G and 5G.

The mobile networks are more complex and use technologies such as carrier aggregation, spectrum management, and multiple input/multiple output (MIMO). These technological innovations change how a network is built and operated and therefore how the networks performance can be measured.

For example, a measurement from a 4G phone tells you little about the quality of a 5G network, but these sort of mistakes are common in such mobile app measurements which do not control network measurements for the diversity of phones.

As networks are constructed differently (even those within the same technology), making comparisons across operators difficult. The simple measurement collected and presented on a slick app and the user’s experience will also differ considerably for various reasons.

Strand Consult’s report explains the role of the mobile phone in relation to poor network coverage and experience. Notably these apps are sometimes used are used to weaponize policy mobile operators and to claim they have, for example, poor coverage.

The research report shows that the many of measurements presented have nothing to do with network operators, but everything to do with the user’s choice and configuration of mobile phone.