The FCC is stepping up its data collection on mobile broadband service, bringing its information on wireless on par with the statistics it holds on fixed Internet access.
The Commission has already taken steps to produce accurate measurements of fixed broadband service, but its data on the performance of mobile broadband has been limited.
Under a newly announced expansion of its broadband measurement program, the FCC will use "statistically sound methodology" to analyze cellular service on smartphones and other devices.
“We know from experience: Transparency on broadband speeds drives improvement in broadband speeds," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, citing improvements in wired broadband linked to its performance studies.
The agency's new Measuring Mobile America initiative "will empower consumers and encourage improvements in mobile networks and programs,” Genachowski said.
The program has already been approved. Commission staff will go over methods for collecting and analyzing data at the FCC's next open meeting on Sept. 21.
CTIA and a number of top wireless operators have already committed to cooperate with the agency's effort, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless.
Last month, the FCC released its first-ever report on the nation's Internet access to include information on mobile broadband. The report used separate sets of data from the State Broadband Initiative and Mosaik Solutions.
The two sources offered conflicting findings on the availability of high-speed wireless service, with the state data showing mobile broadband was more widely available than the statistics collected by Mosaik Solutions.
The State Broadband Initiative reported that just 19.7 million Americans lacked access to wireless service with speeds of 3 Mbps or higher. Mosaik found that between 94 million and 150 million Americans did not have access to mobile broadband at those speeds, with the variance depending on whether it included HSPA+.
In that report, the FCC expressed concerns about the accuracy of the data, saying both sets of information likely "overstated" mobile broadband deployment.