Crowdsourced Mapping Leads Your Cell to the Signal

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Classic modern quandary: Travel to the lake for a little R&R even though there might not be a cell signal connecting your to precisely what you’re trying to briefly escape?

Sure, you could count on the carrier’s coverage map and take your chances. Orrrrr you could get hip and look to a crowd-data-sourcing-experiment being conducted by Staircase 3, Inc.

On their site,, the company uses data anonymously collected via an Android app downloaded by participants (no iPhone yet). While the Google Maps mashup on the site shows carrier tower locations with icons – nothing too new there – they also allow users to plug in a location and get a graphical layout of network by speed (2G, 3G, 4G), and really nifty heat maps that give an indication of truly how strong the signals are at the lake. Given the app has been downloaded more than 80,000 times there’s a good chance the penetration is having an impact on results.

The Android app supports finding GSM, CDMA, 4G, 3G, 2G and provides:

– Signal direction
– Signal graph
– Map and radar views of cell towers & wifi routers
– Field test mode style stats

Also worth noting, the company blogged recently:

“We recently added a network speed test that lets you test the latency of your connection as well as upload and download times. This is going to help a lot in getting a clear picture of which networks work well and where.”

We’ll look forward to to that indeed.

Surely it won’t be long before carriers will poo-poo the veracity of the mapping tool, saying the methodology is not empirically sound. Perhaps so (in fact Sprint already adds cautionary statements to its coverage maps: This tool provides high-level estimates of our wireless coverage. Coverage is not available everywhere and varies based on a number of factors.). But could it really be less useful than what we’re accustomed to?

You decide.

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