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Testing and Mapping a Cellular Data Network?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the circles-and-arrows-on-the-back-of-each-one dept.

Communications 114

bgsneeze writes "In order to resolve an ongoing issue with a vendor, I have been trying to find a way to test different 3G data devices empirically. I would like to be able to chart signal strength, latency, and bandwidth. I would also like to create a map of the coverage area. I have a test 3G card from three different providers. I would like to be able to travel with the setup to several different locations and run tests. What software or techniques would Slashdotters use to test the different devices? Are there any free or open source software packages that will do this?"

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hack something in perl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247868)

hack something in perl or python that is not hard

Re:hack something in perl (4, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247938)

Why do it yourself when you can just wait for Google to announce they did it accidentally ;-)

Re:hack something in perl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248066)

for fun and anti-profit !

Good Luck With That (2, Insightful)

pushf popf (741049) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248162)

I would suggest learning that it's pointless to test for something you can't fix. You'll waste much less time and energy.

Your provider won't care even a Tiny Iota [futurama-madhouse.com.ar] about your results. If you show that their network is fine, they'll ignore you. Even if you prove their network is not fine and all the packets are routed though a Sinclair ZX80 in Clive's basement they'll still ignore you. If you're really lucky, you might get a nice, polite "Fuck you very much, We're not fixing it."

Knowledge is knowing that they have 3000ms latency between nodes. Wisdom is knowing that the only thing you can do is vote with your wallet.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248326)

If a telco asks you to prove that signal strength is a problem that's because they don't expect you to get an answer. They're gaming you; fobbing you off; putting the ball in your court. Even if you got a reasonable answer at your own time and expense then nothing will happen. Now is a very good time to switch telco and change all of your bank account numbers.

Re:Good Luck With That (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248418)

However, if you have 3G cards from three different providers, and your company wants to know which one to use to deploy their new fancy device, and they don't actually trust any of those providers (for good reason), it may be a good idea to go out and make sure with real world tests before you jump to one provider or another.

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32252990)

However, if you have 3G cards from three different providers, and your company wants to know which one to use to deploy their new fancy device, and they don't actually trust any of those providers (for good reason), it may be a good idea to go out and make sure with real world tests before you jump to one provider or another.

Yeah, you'd think that. Until the owner's son sees a compelling ad on TV and requires you to switch via fiat.

Re:Good Luck With That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248484)

parent has a good point...

if vendor is the wireless provider - The "issue" is rather important to define. Is it a particular device that is a problem? Are you trying to prove that the device isn't the problem?

if your conversations with the vendor are happening via a salesman (they tend to overstate)... then you need to talk to the engineers - (depending on the company) they will be able to provide coverage maps far more accurate than whatever you come up with.

 

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

wh1pp3t (1286918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248960)

Agreed. While I worked at a wireless provider, a very large account holder was ready to drop us because 3G bandwidth had deteriorated significantly. I've never seen engineering move so quickly with complete disregard for standard practices and required procedure.
Unless you have the ability to inflict significant monetary impact, they could care less.

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

rew (6140) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250954)

Right! And from the way the original question is posted, I'm thinking he has at least SOME monetary power over the providers...

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

uniquegeek (981813) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249212)

Unfortunately true.

I encountered the same issue, was naive enough to figure proving my scenario would mean something to them. (I had a cell phone which had no coverage where I lived - in a large city 0.5 km away from the largest university).

In the end, what did work was going to Visa and making a claim to refund charges on the basis that I was a sold a service and device that didn't provide the services and work anywhere near as advertised. Despite a "blah blah blah we can't guarantee 100% coverage clause" in the cell phone contract, I didn't get much argument from Visa. I had informed the cell phone company what I was doing and why, and I had plenty of documentation to back me up, so they realized pretty quickly it wasn't worth fighting me tooth and nail about it.

Re:Good Luck With That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249250)

Your provider

He didn't say his vendor was the cellular provider. Actually he said he was looking at three providers.

It sounds like some kind of "oh, we can't upgrade you to 3G on that gear because there's no service in that area. Oh, yeah, well sure their maps show it but it's not really there. Well, if it is, it's on the edge of the map and the bandwidth and latency are terrible. So we're not going to honor our contractual agreements with you."

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

dmihalko (966391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32252790)

+1 at my company, we switched cell providers due to dropped calls and started 2 year contract with the one that is supposed to have the least amount of dropped calls. the dropped calls pretty much stopped, but now experience inbound calls going at all. after testing signal strength throughout the buildings from ground level to roof, giving my CS, his boss, and field engineer my test results (which i was surprised i got this far) the end result: "you have a tower in line of sight from your building, its not our problem."

Use results for public shaming? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32253302)

I'd mod you Insightful, but if this telco has any competitors, a nice heaping pile of public shame could motivate them to take care of the issue...Post the results of the "cellular wardrive" online and send links to the competitors, ideally to someone in marketing if you can find the contact info. Again if there are competitors, maybe you can get a SIM from them and record data from that device simultaneously so you can compare the signal quality. The company with the best signal quality in the area would be very interested in the results.

As for capturing the data, it shouldn't be too hard on any Linux device as long as you can access the signal quality of the cellular modem. I know you could do it with a Python script or maybe even a shell script on an N900. The hard part will be using the data to produce a map visualizing the signal quality in different areas.

3G (1, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247882)

TFS:

...I have a test 3G card from three different providers...

Do you mean a 3G SIM for use in mobile devices?

If you mean the USB/PC card 3G adapters for computers, I doubt you'll be able to run them on Linux without using WINE or a VM or whatever, which may interfere with latency readings. Those adapters require you to install software(ATT Connection manager in their case) that's only supported on Windows and Mac, and that software is required to "authenticate" your computer and use the network.

Anecdote: I had ATT 3G in the metro San Diego area around 2007. Speeds and coverage were decent enough to browse the web, but too spotty for anything hardcore.

I've also said this a million times, but ATT connection manager takes 10 minutes to install and spins the hard drive like a defrag...waaaay overkill given the reported footprint.

Note: too lazy to dig up hacks and testamonials from Google.

Re:3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247920)

I have a Sierra 598U from Sprint, EVDO, and the only thing I needed their software for was to set the modem up the first time; works fine on SuSE 11 with KPPP as a serial USB device at 921Kbps. You can't get signal strength while it's got a connection, from Linux, though...

Re:3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248240)

AT+CSQ in minicom will give your signal level. Usually in a range between 0-33. Works on Verizon cards too. I put it in my chat script for the hell of it so I can see signal level in my logs.

Re:3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248380)

1337

Re:3G (1)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247958)

Most of the cell modems are made by Sierra Wireless and they've been pretty good about making sure things work in linux, at least in my experience. I've got a 598 USB Sierra card from sprint and it works fine as a backup connection for my headless Arch server.

Re:3G (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247996)

Even without Linux, it should be pretty trivial to whip up an app on Windows to track signal strength. I'd install the drivers and check if any new COM interfaces appear or .NET components for interacting with the software. If so, I bet finding out the current connection status would be pretty easy.

As far as actual throughput, there's a lot of software out there for that - even on Windows. You could also use native Windows logging facilities to track network packet rates, Mbps, whatever you want to.

Re:3G (1)

brentrad (1013501) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248058)

My work's Verizon USB 3G dongle installed in Windows 7 on my laptop automatically without needing a driver disc (I think it automatically downloaded an up-to-date driver from Windows Update when I plugged it in) and worked without installing the Verizon connection manager. It made a dial-up-networking connection automatically, and I entered #77 or something like that as the phone number - you can find out the parameters to enter with a quick google search. You can install the connection manager but it's not required.

So it's possible some of the new 3G dongles will also auto-install and work automatically in Linux also. The cell companies tend to like to buy the cheapest equipment to give to customers these days, so the dongle is probably a cheap Chinese piece - which tend to be very compatible standard USB stuff. Has pretty good speed and connection strength - I shared a user's desktop while my wife was driving us in the car on the way to see Avatar a while back - allowed me to get that taken care of before we got to the movie, and I didn't miss any of it. :) NE Portland Oregon near Lloyd district.

Re:3G (1)

ysth (1368415) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249202)

Gah. I read "My work's Verizon USB 3G dongle installed Windows 7 on my laptop automatically" and thought, now that's an aggressive IT department.

Re:3G (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248330)

If you mean the USB/PC card 3G adapters for computers, I doubt you'll be able to run them on Linux without using WINE or a VM or whatever, which may interfere with latency readings...........Note: too lazy to dig up hacks and testamonials from Google.

Sigh.......this is the kind of misconception that happens when you are too lazy to use Google. Those USB/PC card 3G adapters for computers work quite well on Linux, here is one example tutorial [wordpress.com] . Try not to give advice if you are too lazy to verify it.

Re:3G (3, Informative)

fandingo (1541045) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249170)

Dan Williams, the guy behind Network Manager, does a lot of work to get cellular modems working in Linux. There seems to be lots working and steady process on others.
His blog http://blogs.gnome.org/dcbw/ [gnome.org] is informative and frankly pretty hilarious in a geeky way.

Props to Dan for doing a great job.

Re:3G (1)

Cato (8296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249374)

As well as Network Manager, I'd recommend umtsmon and wvdial for USB 3G modems - the former tracks your data usage, the latter is just a standard PPP dialler that can be put into scripts.

Re:3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32250770)

Is this the same network manager that doesn't reliably work with the wireless in a single laptop my family owns? ( Prism, atheros, broadcom, ibm, and a few other chipsets if you care, also this is mostly tested on ubuntu/debian, but i've had the same issue testing the software on other distros )

Every single one of these laptops has issues with dropouts and/or horrible throughput until I remove Network manager and install wicd.

I never have to make any other changes, and apt-get usually doesn't even add/remove/change and other packages. Just removes Nm, and installs wicd.

Please forgive me if I don't run out and buy a dongle/sign a contract.
If he can't get the system to function when working drivers are already installed, I'm not very confident in your statement that he's doing a great job.

I'm especially hesitant when a bash script i wrote 4 years ago to activate wpa-supplicant still works today.

Re:3G (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249456)

Anecdote: I had ATT 3G in the metro San Diego area around 2007. Speeds and coverage were decent enough to browse the web, but too spotty for anything hardcore.

There's nothing wrong with that. Softcore on the bus is cool, but people always bitch at me when I'm watching hardcore.

Protip: Use headphones and sit in the back.

Re:3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249492)

Young whippersnappers...

These things are modems and they're controlled like modems, you know, like back in the day when going online meant hearing the synchronization sounds for 10 seconds. There is a relatively standardized ASCII command set (called the "AT commands" or "Hayes standard") which tells these 3G fobs what to do and they return their status in clear text. All you need for seeing various status information is a terminal program for the serial port and a command reference.

Re:3G (2, Interesting)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249806)

Those adapters require you to install software(ATT Connection manager in their case) that's only supported on Windows and Mac, and that software is required to "authenticate" your computer and use the network.

(Disclaimer - I work for Vodafone, albeit as a lawyer)

I have never tried with one of the PCMIA cards, but, most Huawei modems will work fine under Linux - you might need usb-modeswitch to flip it into modem mode (as opposed to mass storage mode), but, otherwise, it should not be a problem.

If using Network Manager (works automatically under Linux Mint 7 and 8), or tinkering with ppp (this was not difficult using Xandros on an Asus EEE 701), is not your thing, Vodafone has also released a version of the Vodafone Mobile Connect client for Linux, which should work with any provider's SIM. More details at Betavine [betavine.net] . It's gui-driven, and should be usable by those without a particular interest in how/why things work.

We also do our best to support those in need of assistance, irrespective of provider, but, since it's just a few of the R&D team, and (very occasionally now) me, it really is a "best efforts" rather than a "guaranteed support" environment.

Re:3G (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250738)

You'd better tell my employer. They think that the USB 3G units they're using for a Linux embedded device work just fine, thanks.

Re:3G (is better on Linux) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32253162)

@Ethanol_Fueled: Why are you offering advice based on your imaginations? Been drinking fuel?

Using only Linux, I connect via ATT wireless with Sierra & Option 3G modems. Last year I also used Hauwei modeon Alltel & VZW. In 2006 & 7 I used Sierra modems on VZW.

First connection with 3G modem & NetworkManager is easy. Click, click, click, choose GSM, enter "*99#", enter "isp.cingular", apply, OK & OK. No PWD, no UID, no proprietary software.

Even you could do it.

1st (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247886)

First

Are you kidding? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247888)

Obviously this can only be used for terrorism.

Funny Story (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32251474)

Back in 2001/2002 I was doing drive testing for US Cellular. One day we were cruising through some random suburb of northern Illinois. My driver that day was an Iranian American. Nice guy, but not the usual bleached white skin tones folks are used to seeing in such a location. Someone called us in to the police as possible terror suspects, driving the neighborhood around with "computer equipment".

So we got pulled over by a fleet of police. Took about 5 seconds for them to realise what we were doing and we went on our way.

As to the original question, we ran two phones, one that would continuously make short duration calls to test the ability to the network to identify and connect new call, and another that would try to stay online for as long as possible, testing the network's ability to hand off calls from one tower to the next.

If you are planning on testing a decent sized area, I would recommend using a similar system. If you're just going to go to specific hot spots and run a couple of tests at each location, I wouldn't go to such lengths though.

-Rick

Don't waste your time (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247898)

http://www.cellularmaps.com/coverage_finder.shtml

Re:Don't waste your time (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248032)

http://www.cellularmaps.com/coverage_finder.shtml

Proof that every Ask Slashdot submission should have been an Ask Google, You Unresourceful Fuckwit.

Re:Don't waste your time (4, Interesting)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248082)

These are simply links to the coverage maps advertised by the providers, in which service quality is frequently exaggerated, if not blatantly false.

For example, AT&T (my provider) claims "good" coverage in two neighborhoods in my home town, Pasadena, where I know for a fact that there is no coverage, or worse, sporadic one-bar-then-no-bar coverage that drains my cellphone battery in an hour. And even worse, they show "best" coverage throughout San Marino, a town in which I can never make or receive calls on AT&T.

Re:Don't waste your time (1)

xixax (44677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248814)

The data is outright modelled and cannot take into account a bunch of factors that limit the actual signal strength. I had a somewhat heated discussion with a saleperson who was convinced that their telco had actually sent someone with a meter to measure the reception at 100 metre intervals across some wild and rugged terrain. It would be funny to take some samples and quantiatively demonstrate the exaggeration in each provider's coverage maps, the tabloid media would lap up the right analysis.

Xix.

Re:Don't waste your time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249400)

The coverage along Duarte Rd. between San Gabriel Blvd. and Sunny Slope has always had a hole in it for some reason. Even AM radio goes nutty there. South Pasadena has a sizable hole in Verizon coverage in neighborhoods near Garfield Park. AT&T's coverage sucks almost everywhere.

MyTrueCoverage/Root Mobile (3, Informative)

mtmra70 (964928) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247932)

http://www.mytruecoverage.com/ [mytruecoverage.com] is a good site to show coverage. You can install an app on your phone then manually run tests. The results usually take 12-36 hours to post to the website.

Re:MyTrueCoverage/Root Mobile (1)

rsanford (711146) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250970)

FYI -- This supports only Android and Blackberry.

Multiple ways to do this... (2, Informative)

ThermalRunaway (1766412) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247934)

I assume that you are not working with a network operator? They have plenty of tools to do drives and plot out signal. Also, chip makers have these tools. I used to work for a large mobile phone chip maker and we had internal test setups that can be driven around in a car to plot signal, etc. Also, we developed a small device FPGA based device that could be tuned to various channels and recover the "sync" and "paging" channels of a CDMA system. You could do the same for UMTS, EVDO, etc. If you just wanted raw signal strength, all you really need is dBm for whatever provider and tower you are looking at. You could then compare strength between providers. However, this isn't really apples to apples. CDMA based systems can literally pick up signal out of horrid conditions and low signal powers... much than, say, a GSM based system. So if you were comparing purely 3G to 3G, that would be valid, but not in the 2G realm. Just get a phone for each provider, turn on the engineering mode to get the phone's reported dBm reading, and then plot the values as you drive around....

Re:Multiple ways to do this... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249486)

I assume that you are not working with a network operator?

It looks like he is trying to independently verify/disprove his cell provider's claims. They are about as likely to send a network engineer to evaluate his situation as BP is likely to send a scientist to evaluate the situation at the bottom of the Mexican Gulf.

Re:Multiple ways to do this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249912)

So it's pretty much guaranteed they will send someone? That's what I call service.

iperf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247952)

iperf for doing throughput tests.

Big Money; Lots of variables (5, Informative)

TheOddOne (208550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247980)

Empirical testing with wireless CELLULAR networks can be very tricky; A few things that you will need to keep in mind is that for testing, you want to make sure your transceiver setup is perfectly reproducable; Same card, same ANTENNA, same position of antenna. When performing your testing, your signal strength will depend on several factors: Distance from the site, antenna type/gain, and specifically what sector/node on the site you happen to be on. while driving in a straight line, you may find that you approach steep nulls near the border of a cells sector boundary. Alot depends on the ability of your particular card to handle the handoff between sectors/sites.

  Your latency measurements will also vary according to the individual usage of the sector/site that you are currently on, and additionally vary with time and also variable bandwidth allocation to the sites from the main switch.

There are quite a few test sets and software suited that are commercially available and are tailored for this use, and are used heavily by the mobile data/cellular industry in their drive testing and coverage verification methodologies.

Good luck to you on your testing.

--ToO

Re:Big Money; Lots of variables (2, Informative)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248392)

Please mod parent up: He's completely correct, and his simple methodology is a good example of best practices.

However, there are more impromptu ways to accomplish similar feats:

One obvious possibility is the test mode built into many (perhaps all) cell phone handsets. These will typically display a number of different datapoints, such as signal strength and error rate. If the asker is troubleshooting only troubleshooting GSM or CDMA (so that switching carriers does not necessarily entail switching radios, antennas, etc), and isn't interested in the accuracy or automation of doing GPS-based maps of cellular coverage, this might work just fine -- perhaps even for free.

All it would take is a map, a pencil, a copilot, and (ideally) an external antenna, to chart this stuff the old fashioned way.

With a quick Google search, I found a concise list of procedures [wpsantennas.com] for entering field test mode on a number of handsets. Other handsets, past and present, are likely to have information available at places like HowardForums [howardforums.com] .

And, indeed: Good luck. I've charted my share of wireless systems, and it is (at best) tedious to get good results.

Re:Big Money; Lots of variables (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32251762)

What?! You mean the study a colleague of mine (since exited the university for the more lucrative private sector), where he had 3 students with their own (random) cellphones in the car, and who periodically recorded how many "bars" they could see, wasn't worth of the article he published?

Random guesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32247984)

Don't know any software built for this, but the key tools would be:

Latency:
* ping / traceroute (if you don't know what these are...)

Bandwidth:
* wget/curl/whatever (fetch a file, time it, get end-to-end bandwidth)
* bing -- less-known, checks bandwidth by measuring the difference in RTT for different-sized payloads. Can measure bandwidth of a particular segment of the route, so e.g. terminal-to-tower vs. backhaul measurements.

Signal strength (and other connection parameters!) -- IIRC there's AT codes for this, but I'm really fuzzy on this end.

Logging/visualization:
* You'll probably want the data crammed into a GPX at some point, but I'd just log it in a flat file. This is really as simple as a shell-script loop running the various tests, fetching the gps position, and writing it out. No need for any synchronization, or loop delays -- just run the tests, format and write one line of results, and repeat.

* Process the results to pretty graphs later. I'd probably hack something together in GNU Octave/MATLAB, and it would be way to slow, and then I'd rewrite it in C because that's easier than vectorizing it properly in MATLAB, and _then_ I'd google around and find out that somebody else had already implemented a general purpose GIS data visualization system well suited to the project -- so don't be like me, try googling first. ;)

One idea (2, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32247994)

What software or techniques would Slashdotters use to test the different devices? Are there any free or open source software packages that will do this?

I would suggest the "grad student technique".
Find a nearby university and convince a professor to lend some (under)grad students to your cause.
It helps if you have friends that can refer you to professors/students who'd be interested in the challenge.

P.S. The only thing better than the "grad student technique" is the "summer intern technique"

Re:One idea (3, Funny)

stoborrobots (577882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249686)

P.S. The only thing better than the "grad student technique" is the "summer intern technique"

Especially if she's hot...

Test / Debug Mode (1)

Rhalin (791665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248008)

Many cellphones have test/debug modes that will give you all kinds of data regarding signal quality and strength. Can't say for bandwidth / latency though. You could check some of the phone hacking forums for a debug mode / debug drivers for your card(s), and see what kind of data you could get to.

Latency, and bandwidth are easy (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248026)

There's plenty of network monitoring tools around.

Signal strenght might be harder if the manufacturer of the device doesn't give easy access to that data (many cellphones can be switched into diagnostic mode; or some smartphone OSes have diagnostic software available). Maybe you can find some electrosensitive person?

Placelab? (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248038)

There is the Placelab.org [placelab.org] project, but their mailing list has died down over the years.

You could modify a wifi tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248040)

I am not aware of any tools that would work out of box but Kismet for instance has been used to do this on wifi points as well as a slew of other tools that can map wifi hotspots. The only real difference is the frequencies and communications protocols and you should be able to get going in no time. Google, "Kismet Mapping" for some examples.

Irrelevant testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248062)

I doubt any tests you come up with will be relevant in any way at all. Given variances in reception from device instance to device instance let alone (presumably) three different devices (from three manufacturers on two different technologies?) the reception will be variable. One could ask the store clerk which modem has the best reception to even the odds, but one could also ask him to come up with a means of developing cheap and efficient nuclear fusion - he's a ^%*%@ing store clerk which means he's a high school kid or an adult who can't get a better job, not the CTO of a multi-billion dollar company.

Then we get throughput testing. Where's the bottleneck? Is it the card, your PC, the reception, the time of day, the number of users on the network, the mobile network, the mobile backhaul, the carrier's IP network, the Internet itself, or the server you're downloading data from. Just by luck of peering connecting to Speedtest.net on Verizon at a particular location could be 12 hops away and from AT&T it could be 3. Move two blocks down and the numbers could be reversed.

Now, if you can convince everyone on every carrier to send tracking data including GPS location, carrier position, presence of 3G network, signal strength, latency, and bandwidth tests then you're getting somewhere. But one guy with a laptop and a dream of taking down a carrier isn't going to fly unless you use the Chewbacca Defense.

Obligatory reference: (5, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248132)

Can you ping me yet?







How about now?

Stats The Cellular Provider Sees (2, Informative)

deathcow (455995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248138)

At least, this is what I see working with SNMP data coming off dumps from the cellular base transceiver stations attached to our towers.

Every 15 minutes, every GSM handset measures the perceived strength of the tower signal it is using, this is reported to the tower, and we record them all. Also every 15 minutes, the strength of the handset signal, from the perspective of the tower is sampled and recorded.

These readings go into buckets, for example if a reading showed a -78 dbm signal, it goes in the -78dbm bucket. Before long, a histogram can be generated with the datain the buckets, and we can see typical distribution for receive performance - for both handsets and the tower. Different towers have very different "signatures" in this data.

You may go around sampling receive performance, (which would be interesting) but I don't think you'll be able to map how well the cellular system is receiving from you.

Re:Stats The Cellular Provider Sees (2, Informative)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249392)

You may go around sampling receive performance, (which would be interesting) but I don't think you'll be able to map how well the cellular system is receiving from you.

Which is most often the limiting factor.

The base station is transmitting at 50-100 watts ERP, but your handset (modem) is transmitting at less than a watt.
Sure the base station has pretty efficient recieve antennas, possibly with tower mounted pre-amps, but if it can't see your signal, it can't do much with it.
And a signal path needs to work in both directions to be able to do something useful with it.

Modelled data (1)

xixax (44677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248144)

Most providers use modelled data to estimate signal strength as it's too expensive to actually measure every point within their coverage. You might be able to obtain and use modelled coverage (which is mostly based on putting virtual towers into a digital terrain model) and undertake some validation. This would provide a meaure of the optimism usually present in modelled coverage. Actual coverage is usually going to be less due to buildings, weather, trees and other rubbish you rarely see in a DTM. Validation of published coverage maps would also require far fewer observations ("field work") than creating your own map from scratch.

Suck the whole lot into Quantum GIS (FOSS) and generate a text dump of obesrved/modelled coverage to analyse statistically in R (also FOSS).

Xix.

After what happened (1)

Tigersmind (1549183) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248148)

After what happened to wardriving be sure you legally have your butt covered. Especially if you prove the network sucks >.>

Re:After what happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248176)

Wardriving is not a crime. Saving packet dumps, however...

3G Coverage != Good Speed (2, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248218)

I wouldn't worry about charting the signal strength for 3G. You can be in a densely populated area showing five bars of 3G and your speed and latency can still be dog shit depending on how many people are hitting the tower, similar to your cable modem. It might be worth it to record whether or not you have 3G just to help map out your general coverage, but that doesn't mean you'll have great speed. Although, you can find something like that here [cellularmaps.com] .

As for speed I like to use a util called iperf [ucf.edu] for measuring speed from one device to another across a network. You may have to open ports on your firewall or setup a VPN, which will add unwanted overhead, but you will get a good idea of which carriers have the best speeds. You can also run the simple tests using other websites like here [speedtest.net] or here [pingtest.net] .

Re:3G Coverage != Good Speed (2, Insightful)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249484)

I wouldn't worry about charting the signal strength for 3G. You can be in a densely populated area showing five bars of 3G and your speed and latency can still be dog shit depending on how many people are hitting the tower, similar to your cable modem. It might be worth it to record whether or not you have 3G just to help map out your general coverage, but that doesn't mean you'll have great speed.

Also, if your 3G network is based on CDMA (WCDMA, HSPA, HSDPA) then signal-to-noise ratio is as important as raw signal strength. SNR in both the downlink (what you receive from the base station) path - which you might be able to measure, and the uplink (what the base station receives from you) -which you have no way of measuring directly.
And while you might be able to control the signal level somewhat, you have very little control over the noise part of the equation.

Re:3G Coverage != Good Speed (1)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250902)

"Also, if your 3G network is based on CDMA (WCDMA, HSPA, HSDPA) then signal-to-noise ratio is as important as raw signal strength."

Actually, this is true for ALL communications, bar none - S/N is what matters. You could have a signal that is barely 6 dB above what your receiver can detect and have a good S/N ratio, or have a signal that is so large it is driving the receiver into compression, thus distorting the signal and driving the S/N ratio down into the weeds. Shannon's Law.

However, reporting signal level is easy (look at the automatic gain control loop feedback term), reporting S/N is much harder, so most devices cheat and report signal.

Don't forget your overutilized backhual. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248236)

I've had to do this sort of testing at my previous employer to get a new installation accepted by the customer.

One of the biggest problems you will run into is network congestion, can you say with 100% certainty where slow downs are occurring. When we did our testing we limited each base station to a single mobile station so that the radio link would not be congested and then we had a huge pipe to a local server running various traffic generators for us, on occasion we plugged the test server directly into the switch which the base station was connected.

All of this became very difficult once they started adding customers with a 95 to 1 over subscription ratio

Also with other things you measure and record you will want to record signal to noise, signal to interference, co-channel and adjacent channel signal levels, etc....

cdrouter (3, Informative)

mveloso (325617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248256)

Industry standard?

http://www.qacafe.com/cdrouter [qacafe.com]

Re:cdrouter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32253268)

This is industrial standard
http://www.ascom.com/en/index/group/company/divisions/network-testing-home.htm

You can use linux (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248266)

I've done similar things using Linux. Basically, when you hook up the 3G card, it presents itself as an old-school modem (although it's over USB). You can then use a program such as wvDial or Minicom to send AT commands (if you want to do a connect, you need to find out the number to dial. You can find this on your carrier's website).

A lot of wireless modems have AT commands for signal strength and other info, you can do a Google search for documentation about AT commands for your specific modem. A warning: writing a robust, industrial quality parser for AT commands is one of the most difficult things I've ever programmed. A lot of people take the easy way out, and if a command doesn't work, they just send it a couple more times until it does (which is good enough for many tasks).

If that doesn't provide enough info for you, and you have money, then you should contact the manufacturer. Some modems, like Qualcomm modems, have a separate diagnostic port in a proprietary protocol that provides way more information than you ever dreamed existed, but you will have to pay to find out the protocol.

EvDO 3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248272)

Working for a telecom company I have used industry tools that do just this. Unfortunately the tools we use are very expensive and proprietary due to Qualcomm's hold on the EvDO IP. But for EvDO based devices we use Qualcomm's QXDM to diagnose the mobile RF along with a GPS receiver. Then we usually use Actix's Analyzer to post-process the data onto a map.

Hack something together in Python (1)

Animal Farm Pig (1600047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248394)

If you're on Linux you can use gpsd for interacting with your GPS. If you're on Windows using the new Location API in Win7 would be nice, but, more realistically, you'll be listening on the serial port your GPS uses and parsing NMEA packets. No worries, this isn't that hard to do. After a either a certain interval or time or distance traveled, send a few pings to a server and download a reference file. Dump your data into a CSV or use OGR to make a shapefile, KML, PostGIS layer, whatever.

Re:Hack something together in Python (1)

Animal Farm Pig (1600047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248430)

Of course the network testing I've mentioned only works for one provider/device at a time, unless you do some kind of funky network configuration. I also doesn't measure signal strength,

Sensorly on Android (2, Interesting)

mykro76 (1137341) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248420)

http://www.sensorly.com/ [sensorly.com] Run it on your phone manually (or have it triggered intermittently). The 3G, EDGE and wifi coverage that your phone detects is uploaded to the central server and within a minute your phone receive the updated maps. You can only contribute to the maps for your phone's carrier, but you can view the maps for all carriers.

Evaluation copy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248480)

Not open source but many operators worldwide use TEMS. You could try your slashdot charm and see if they have evaluation or trial packages. Product was originally developed by Ericsson and later sold to Ascom I believe.

http://www.ascom.com/en/index/products-solutions/technology-platforms/platform/tems/solutionloader.htm

Re:Evaluation copy ? (1)

elballio (305175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248572)

_most_, if not ALL operators use TEMS at some point. All the equipment vendors I've dealt with won't even respond to a radio related trouble ticket unless there's a TEMS log.

What about standard tools? (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248496)

I'm a bit rusty, but since your network is probably TCP/IP, can't you do this with standard TCP/IP tools?

The only thing that could be a problem is measuring "signal strength". However, but a lot of mobile chipsets work under Linux. Even tools running under Windows, there may be access to this information (netstumbler)

For latency, you could just use ping:

$ ping -c 5 broadbandreports.com
PING broadbandreports.com: (209.123.109.175): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 209.123.109.175: icmp_seq=0 ttl=46 time=248 ms
64 bytes from 209.123.109.175: icmp_seq=1 ttl=46 time=248 ms
64 bytes from 209.123.109.175: icmp_seq=2 ttl=46 time=247 ms
64 bytes from 209.123.109.175: icmp_seq=3 ttl=46 time=248 ms
64 bytes from 209.123.109.175: icmp_seq=4 ttl=46 time=247 ms
 
----broadbandreports.com PING Statistics----
5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max = 247/247/248 ms

Also, take a look at ping -f (use with caution) and traceroute.

For bandwidth measurement, setup an FTP server and script automated downloads from your clients using a .netrc file
http://www.stratigery.com/scripting.ftp.html [stratigery.com]

Or just use a command line HTTP client like wcget -- depending on your requirement.

Charting? Gnuplot (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248514)

You can use Gnuplot to chart data such as signal strength or error rates by location. For example, if you time sync GPS data and your statistics you can emit surface and contour maps [sourceforge.net] (such as the second glass.dat example near the bottom).

Sorry, But You Have A Big Job In Front Of You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248526)

There are far many more factors at play than signal strength. Your bandwidth and latency measurements are only slightly correlated to signal strength... much more to SNR and network load.

The fact of the matter is for EVDO (for example), network providers make bandwidth claims that sound impressive, but the number they state is the maximum air rate supported at one data burst per RF channel per sector. When you are the only active user on a base station sector/RF channel, you get a large proportion of the available data bursts. When others are online, you all share the channel so your modem gets a smaller proportion of the data bursts, even though the signal strength has not changed.

To complicate matters, CDMA networks do "soft handoff", so you can't just look at the signal strength from one tower, you have to compare SNR of several towers simultaneously. To do a real analysis, you will need system loading information and several specialized RF measurements. The carriers are not likely to provide you with the former, and the latter will cost you in gaining the expertise and test equipment.

I had to do something similar. (3, Informative)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248586)

In the end, the project was cancelled before we got a chance to get to test 3G coverage. But we did get to think about it. Our customer was a fleet of cargo ships, going through a fixed path on the Rio de la Plata (River Plate). Basically, we were going to install our CCTV system in there, and have it push images and other information to our servers whenever it had signal. We wanted to know approximately in what areas of the river we would have signal. We were going to base our system on the Vodafone mobile connect driver. It's a set of Python scripts. Of course, it communicates with the modem using simple AT commands. It's released under the GPL. It is capable of measuring signal, sending and receiving text messages, and other nice stuff (like, well, actually dialing and calling PPP to stablish the connection). We had it working with several Huawei devices, but I know it works with other brands too.

Our idea was to modify this scripts so that they would try to maintain a connection, auto-dial every time it disconnected, and log the signal at certain intervals to a MySQL DB. We were also going to run download tests all the time automatically. Since there was no chance we would go on the ships with the devices (the ships were cargo ships that transported and extracted sand, and there weren't very comfortable, not to mention their average trip was at least ~72 hs.), so we wanted to do all of this automatically. The devices would also inform their IP to a web service every time their IP changed, so we could SSH in the machine running this tests in case we needed to change something.

We were going to add a GPS to this system, that would also log its position at certain intervals, so that we could then generate a color-coded signal map.

I hope this helps. It's really fairly simple. I would be happy to provide you with source code, but we didn't get that far into the project as to produce actual source code, since the customer changed his mind due to budget restrictions real early. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions {almafuerte (at) gmail (dot) com}

Academic paper on that topic (3, Interesting)

DrCompE (1813808) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248610)

http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~suman/pubs/citywide.pdf [wisc.edu]
ABSTRACT
We describe our experiences in building a city-wide infrastructure for wide-area wireless experimentation. Our infrastructure has two components — (i) a vehicular testbed consisting of wireless nodes, each equipped with both cellular (EV-DO) and WiFi interfaces, and mounted on city buses plying in Madison, Wisconsin, and (ii) a software platform to utilize these testbed nodes to continuously monitor and characterize performance of large scale wireless networks, such as city-wide mesh networks, unplanned deployments of WiFi hotspots, and cellular networks. Beyond our initial eorts in building and deploying this infrastructure, we have also utilized it to gain some initial understanding of the diversity of user experience in large-scale wireless networks, especially under various mobility scenarios. Since our vehicle-mounted testbed nodes have fairly deterministic mobility patterns, they provide us with much needed performance data on parameters such as RF coverage and available bandwidth, as well as quantify the impact of mobility on performance. We use our initial measurements from this testbed to showcase its ability to provide an ecient, low-cost, and robust method to monitor our target wireless networks. These initial measurements also highlight the challenges we face as we continue to expand this infrastructure. We discuss what these challenges are and how we intend to address them.

Get android handset and/or iphone; write an app (2, Interesting)

naturaverl (628952) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248742)

one possible solution:

Download the android SDK; write an app; run it in the emulator that comes with the SDK.
I'm not sure how much work it'd be to tie your 3G card(s) into the emulator (that comes with the SDK), but it's possible.
Linux would be my first choice, but the SDK also runs on windows or mac os.

Bonus for getting a useful app included in the app store.

Too many variables... (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248864)

While the goal is an admirable one, there are just too many variables to even begin to consider really doing this.

First off, you aren't working with a stable environment. There are changes being made to the cellular infrastructure all the time. Changes to settings in the towers, changes to the tower equipment and addition of new towers. You will not be informed about any of this making your information out of date almost immediately.

Next there is the problem that most throughput problems are going to be caused by overcommitment of resources, not lack of radio coverage. You will find that there are patterns to this, but again this sort of thing changes over time.

Essentially, what is wrong with the carrier coverage maps is they aren't detailed enough and do not account for throughput problems. You are going to have the same problem, only perhaps worse. In short, I would expect any data gathered in this manner to be extremely unreliable because you don't even know what variables you are missing.

Signal Strength? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248972)

If you are evaluating these cards for use in business, then you don't really care which network has the best coverage per se, you care about the effective coverage with the cards you have available to use with each provider. You also care more about the speed (throughput and latency), and continuity more than you care about the signal bars shown on the device (or even measured internally).

If you have an idea where the devices will typically be used, I suggest you pick a number of test sites (say .. 25 or 50) and go test each card at all of them. You can run ping tests for a few minutes and record the average card at each location. (Especially watch for dropped packets). Then you can run a speed test from something like speakeasy's speed test site. These sites could be indoors, outdoors, at the train station, wherever. Another thing that may be important (but it a little harder to test) is use under motion. For example, my friend has a WiMax modem. When he has coverage with 2 bars, his connection is faster than my HSPA modem with 4 bars. At the same time, I have coverage *everywhere*, whereas his isn't remotely usable on the move, and often not at some locations. You could simply do a non-scientific test by using each one on the same stretch of train track, and see which ones have problems and/or which ones seem more zippy. If you can't tell the difference, then it probably doesn't matter for practical purposes.

Google "UT Diagnostic Monitor" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32248984)

...or "Spirent UTS"

I used to do this kind of programming all the time for Qualcomm and Kyocera Wireless. Cell phones have a User Terminal Diagnostic Monitor running on them constantly that can be used to get almost all data in realtime out of the phone through it's data port. There are a couple of areas of memory that are write only for things like passwords, but you have access to pretty much everything else.

Signal quality isn't a comparable measure (4, Informative)

lordlod (458156) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249056)

Signal quality numbers are about as meaningful as CPU numbers.

A bigger number on the same device probably means you have a better signal. A 'two' on one device could be equivalent to a 'five' on another or a 'one' on a third. There is no standard that is used across the industry, or even across all devices from a given manufacturer.

When a device manufacturer gets customer reviews that say "I only get one bar with your phone but two from company X" the device manufacturer can either try and explain repeatedly that their one bar is better than X's two bars and that unlike X you can still make phone calls on our device on one bar. Or they can just double the number of bars reported on the next model so they don't look worse than X.

Which do you think they do?

To do a real test you need to use a constant antenna and location, attenuating the signal gradually until each device stops functioning. The amount of attenuation it can take is a crude indicator of the quality of the radio.

Re:Signal quality isn't a comparable measure (1)

bart416 (900487) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249440)

Meaningfull or not.. Assuming you use windows you can get the signal strength rather easy. (Since most of those damned manufacturers supply crap linux drivers that'll be the case most likely) The easiest one is using this crappy new api they came up with. Reference here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd323271(v=VS.85).aspx [microsoft.com] specifically look at IMbnSignal.

been there done that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249186)

We are going through a similar thing at work, where our field supervisors whom have vehicle mount PCs were having problems with connectivity in several locations. We devised a test, based on the speakeasy.net throughput test (ran 3 times for good measure) and a file download from microsoft to determine where good/bad locations were. Not very scientifically accurate but it works. We took the vehicles out, each with laptop and vehicle mount PC with diffrent configurations, parked them next to each other in several locations, ran the tests and got the results. We also kept a log of known bad locations, and some could be explained (canyon conditions in urban areas, hills, etc.) and others not so. Also user expectations is another ongoing problem. They expect wired eithernet experence through a cellular modem.

Howto (1)

BodeNGE (1664379) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249324)

There are three sets of tests you need to run at each location, or along each drive route. That means three runs along the same route, or three cards. All can be scripted in dos or Linux. From simplest to most complex they are:

1) Ping Test. A simple ping to the nearest visible IP address, usually the GGSN, will give you the round trip time for a session in progress. You are looking for the variability. A simple ping -t command for a few minutes and plot the results in excel. You can vary the packet size, but the two tests below give a more accurate test for throughput. Protip: if you want to measure radio channel activation time too then you need to know a few network parameters, specifically the radio TBF timers. You would only do one ping at an interval greater than the timer so that each new ping needs a new radio resource allocation request. The round trip times for the first ping will always be longer, and recording variability in the allocation requests is useful if you are the network, not so much for users.

2) TCP Test. Use an FTP session download a file of known size to get the actual time taken. Then you need to upload that file back to a separate directory and compare the two (or just see if it opens). You actually have to do the math to get the bits per second, neither the windows or Linux native clients show it correctly. bps = bytes_recieved * 8 / seconds. Protip: you need to test several file sizes to get an accurate picture. I'd suggest one run would up/download several 300k and 1Mb files and one 10Mb file. To complete the test in the field you do need to check the upload is successful using a terminal session, but remember not to have the session open using the test equipment as it will bias the test.

3) UDP Test. For assessing the actual performance of the radio network itself the only test that has any relevance is a unidirectional UDP stream because the radio resources are allocated unidirectionally and have asymmetric speeds. TCP is not a test of the radio network itself as the uplink channel causes throttling on the downlink due to the slower uplink. You need a utility that sends UDP packets of a certain size, and a utility to receive them. Ideally the packets have sequentially numbered content because what you are looking for is out-of-sequence delivery. You measure the bandwidth by sending a known number of packets of a known size and simply subtract the timestamps from the client to get the duration. This has to be tested separately on the uplink and the downlink. To instigate the downlink stream you again need a remote session, ideally not using the test equipment.

Won't be reliable data or give ability to compare (2, Informative)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249326)

I was a 3G data engineer for Sprint PCS during the launch of 2.5G and 3G data. There are a few problems with the type of testing it sounds like you want to do.

First, I would suggest reading the specs from the IEEE on CDMA 2000, aka 3G. CDMA2000 allows the ability to allocate and de-allocate bandwidth on demand and based upon quality of service configurations. At night, with no one on the cell tower, you're going to get the full pipe for data. You'll see bursts up in speed but then several things can happen. First, voice takes priority. So at midnight in this scenario, I pick up my phone and make a voice call and I take priority. You're pipe just got smaller. The next variable is overall tower usage. Cellular towers shrink and expand RF power with regards to usage. As more users get on, the cell tower will reduce it's footprint. So even if hardly anyone is on the phone, but there are a ton of subsribers on a cell, it can drop it's power. So your bandwidth and RF are variables which change by the second.

So if you're just doing a "Hey lets just see what we see," type of test, then expect a huge array of data with not too many descernable results. If you're looking for data to be compared with something else (carrier vs carrier, region vs region), then it also won't be terribly useful. As a geek, it'll be cool to know you can set the test up, but as a quantitative analysis tool it won't be repeatable or statistically useful. You also can't really compare it to desktop loading times either. The images you "download" via a wireless carrier are not the same. Go to Yahoo and download the GIF for their logo using an aircard or wireless carrier device. Now, download the same with a desktop PC over a wired (or other non-wireless carrier method). Not the same file size, huh? :)

Just as an aside, I used to test it using Stick Figure Death Theater ( www.SFDT.com [sfdt.com] ) since you can start a really long download and watch the stats. Also, it was entertaining to watch at the same time.

Only for the obsessive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249466)

It is seldom worth the effort to try to "resolve" anything with any of the vendors. You just have to vote with your money and go elsewhere, when you can, when you have problems.

That said, I have an at&t 3G card and had good coverage at work, but not at home. My house is less than a mile from the tower that provides coverage. I am a avid ham radio operator and spent some time on a personal technical solution. I do microwave work and took time to match signal coverage to topo maps
and that is how I found the tower that is supposed to cover my house. I then confirmed that I live on a small mesa and the placement of the tower, had their
signal going over my house and leaving me in an RF shadow. Once the technical problem was clear, I bought two high gain directional antennas and the
cable needed to plug into my 3G card. I ran low loss feed line up to one of the antennas on a mast on the house, and bore sighted it in on the tower. I plug
the 3G card into the external antenna at home and that problem is solved. An external antenna on the car helps as well. If I need good coverage in an area
of weak signals, I put the second antenna on the 41' pneumatic mast on my ham radio van and aim it at the nearest tower. This is not what most people would
do. It works for me. at&t was, and never will be any help. My house showed up as well covered on the at&t maps, and I made it so. On to other tasks.

Re:Only for the obsessive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32250710)

"AT&T [never] was, and never will be any help."

CellMapper (1)

carmex (442752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249574)

Try the application CellMapper from the Android market. It creates maps of user-submitted cell signal strength. Some of the areas you are interested in may be covered already, and any new data you submit will help to benefit the community as a whole.

Do it yourself (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249694)

I found it extermely easy to write a program myself for my windows mobile handset. It took me about an hour to write a program which a) collects network information (available techniques such as GPRS, EDGE or HSDPA) and signal strength along with tcp ping statistics (for some reason some Finnish wireless base stations block icmp ping) and b) gps data (time, speed, location). This gave me a possibility to gather quite interesting data about both coverages and the effect of speed as I ran the mapping program a couple times while traveling the same route by train. If you happen to have a wimo 6 -phone and have _any_ programming experience you should be able to hack something like that together (using free tools) very fast.

Using old Nokia Network Monitor (field test) Mode (2, Informative)

balint256 (1813912) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249760)

Shameless self-promotion ahead...
This is more a suggestion to help with mapping received signal strength (RSSI), rather than data network latency and bandwidth (you can argue that those data network metrics rely heavily upon your RSSI!):
Grab an old Nokia, use gammu [gammu.org] to enable Network Monitor mode [wikipedia.org] , fire up a GPS and display the combined information streams on a map. I did exactly that as an experiment [spench.net] using a Nokia 3310 and a Navman GPS receiver. Interesting to then correlate the signal peaks to the actual base station locations [spench.net] .

The main caveat is that the old Nokias in question only do (I believe) dual-band 2G GSM at best, so you won't actually be able to measure 3G W-CDMA statistics as if you were connected with a 3G data device. I would offer, however, that 3G RSSI might be related to that of 2G as many of the base stations handle both services (ignoring differences in signal propagation characteristics). A starting point at least...

war-mapping (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249882)

Hook up a GPS device to a laptop, the 3g cards each to their own laptops, drive around while they ping common hosts and/or do other network tests and your gps maps out locations.

Go for the pros... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32250234)

Warning: shameless plug dead ahead...

Look at http://www.p3-group.com/communications/en/home.html, it's their core business and they just opened an office in the US.

If your end users will run 24hours (1)

frank_abacus (79023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250406)

If your end users will need to run 24 hours a day you will need to test 24 hours a day.

We have number of little (Linux of course) boxes using 3G USB modems here in Sweden, and have discovered that Telia does all sorts of maintenance at night and at weekends.

Furthermore the latency (as measured by ping) varies quite a bit depending on time of day, i.e. when the local farmers are downloading their porn.

Another thing we've come across is that the versions of the USB modems changes with great frequency! Which of course means when they break you have to be very careful who changes them.

Good luck!

This is my job! (2, Informative)

simonpage (459386) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250528)

There are plenty of expensive software solutions for this that are used at a professional level (ROMES, NEMO TEMS etc).
If you are after a free solution, the AT commands of most units Huewai, Option etc will give you network information,
For example: Signal as RSSi. (look under 3GPP TS 27.007) AT+CSQ? gives a number 0 (-113dBm or Less) to 31 (-51dBm or greater)

Failing that a lot of the dashboards have open APIs (in the UK Vodafones dashboard gives you access to lots of information)
Most of the Samsung mobiles have a diagnostic screen giving levels Scrambe Code and Cell IDs

For more info Siroda.co.uk or pm me

Si

Nokia Network Monitor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32251184)

You could try to use a Nokia Phone. Have a look at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_network_monitor

Getting the data out of the phone might be done with some tools like gnokii. Don't know if modern 3G Nokias can be tricked into showing the monitor, but maybe the providers could help you out.

Resolve an issue with your vendor? (1)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 4 years ago | (#32252678)

"In order to resolve an ongoing issue with a vendor..." Good luck with that. Doing the testing itself is very technically interesting and worth discussion. Trying to resolve an issue with a vendor by "proving" they have a certain level of service is a different matter entirely. That type of approach to resolving business disputes just isn't the right approach. It's a good example of trying to resolve business/legal issues with proving something in technology, and that is very difficult.
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