“A PRIVATE 5G NETWORK COULD BE VERY BENEFICIAL FOR NOT ONLY VOICE AND DATA COMMUNICATIONS BUT ALSO REMOTE MANAGEMENT OF MACHINERY AND OTHER MISSION CRITICAL MINING OPERATIONS.”
Please tell us about your current role and how it has evolved through the pandemic months?
I am the founder and CEO of Global Wireless Solutions (GWS).
Since its inception in 1996, GWS has become the industry leader in mobile network testing and benchmarking with a primary focus on evaluation, optimization, and consumer behavior. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we decided to increase our focus on how consumers interact with their smartphones.
To that end, we created the new One Measure Consumer Panel (OMCP), an opt-in panel of consumers that measures mobile app usage and content, network performance, and consumer perceptions.
Even before the OMCP, the consumer perspective was always important to us. For many years while measuring network performance across the entire U.S. and generating our OneScore Best Network USA ranking, we have been incorporating consumer feedback on what metrics matter most to them in terms of performance from their network. And, as a result, we’ve been able to supply the market with a truly comprehensive and relevant ranking.
The shift in our focus during the pandemic was designed to increasingly blend together network performance and consumer behavior.
What is GWS and how does it fit into the modern world of wireless networking?
GWS provides competitive voice and packet data benchmarking solutions. Using our meticulous scientific testing as a guide, we help operators identify areas where improvement will help them keep pace or excel in the competitive telecom industry.
Throughout the pandemic, and early stages of 5G deployment, GWS has served as a leading voice in detailing how the wireless networks are evolving in real-time.
Given the rapid transition to remote work in early 2020, U.S. wireless network traffic levels increased significantly. Despite the surge, network operators consistently met consumer expectations. That was no easy task and only possible due to years of the operators hardening and upgrading the network infrastructure.
In terms of 5G, GWS’ tests at this year’s Super Bowl showed that the latest generation of wireless networks drastically improved in performance since the previous iteration of the Super Bowl (February 2020). GWS’ testing this year showed the nation’s three biggest carriers were able to achieve more than 1 gigabit per second maximum throughput on their respective 5G networks, a first when conducting 5G speed tests.
GWS strives to be a reliable and reputable resource for the telecom industry when evaluating changes in wireless networks. We also want to reach consumers and help them understand how wireless networks can improve their smartphone device capabilities.
Tell us more about your OneScore technology and how it helps the wireless industry.
GWS’ OneScore is a holistic ranking of wireless networks that takes into account both controlled scientific testing of networks and consumer feedback.
More specifically, the OneScore ranking culminates in GWS’ naming of the Best Network USA, which ranks operators in the following 11 individual metrics of network quality and performance: data reliability, voice quality, data downloads, data uploads, video streaming quality, video freezing, video loading, coverage, call connection time, call successes and call drop failure.
Results for each testing metric are gathered from extensive annual drive data. GWS drives more than one million miles in 501 markets across major metropolitan areas, smaller urban cities, and rural towns – covering a total population of over 308 million (94% of the U.S.). Last year we conducted direct benchmark testing in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from February to July 2020 and completed nearly 9.8 million individual-controlled voice and data tests.
You recently released a report about mobile apps in the pandemic era. What are the key findings that establish the future of mobile wireless networks?
Despite consumers spending more time at home during the pandemic, the overall usage of smartphones by consumers increased. Throughout the pandemic, consumers spent an average of four hours per day on their smartphones––up to ten minutes per day when compared to mobile usage pre-pandemic. When looking at types of apps, consumers increased their consumption of mobile apps in the following categories: finance/trading apps (+63%), social media apps (+25%), lifestyle apps (+19%), video apps (+22%) and gaming apps (+6%).
While time spent on Finance/Trading apps increased the most (+63%) of all six categories GWS measured, part of the increase in these apps’ usage was due to the financial hardship many felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Time spent on the food stamp management app, Fresh EBT, increased 152% during the pandemic.
During the pandemic, GWS also observed that consumers embraced mobile app one-stop shopping. Time spent on the Walmart app (+74%), the Target app (+62%), and the Amazon shopping app (+58%) increased from March 2020 – February 2021.
Additionally, consumers averaged more than an hour per day on social media apps during the pandemic year, and also 42 minutes on video apps and 41 minutes on gaming apps.
If you look at what people have historically used their phone for – voice calls, text messaging, etc. – those activities were not as prevalent during the work from home mandate in the initial weeks of the pandemic. And yet, in GWS’ recent teleworking survey where consumers were asked what was the one product or service during the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate they needed most, the top choice was their smartphones (selected by nearly half of the respondents, 45%).
During the pandemic, the smartphone undoubtedly became even more ingrained in consumers’ daily lives. With people increasingly relying on their smartphones for critical tasks such as managing their money and working remotely, their ability to do so hinges on strong network performance. Continually hardening and investing in wireless networks moving forward will be key to facilitating increased smartphone capabilities.
What are your predictions on the future of 5G and IoT?
5G networks will spur on the proliferation of IoT devices. With superior spectrum and capacity efficiencies, 5G will enable IoT devices to power technologies such as autonomous vehicles, improved telehealth and other remote working applications.
It’s an ongoing process for the country to reach standalone 5G’s full capabilities. While throughputs will increase over time, standalone 5G will take several years to be completely formed. Until we reach that point, there will only be small improvements in the performance of IoT devices.
How can B2B telecom customers improve their IT and data management infrastructure to benefit from investments in networking?
One potential investment B2B telecom customers should consider improving their IT and data management infrastructure is private 5G networks. Private networks facilitate increased control of the communication devices that engage your network.
Let’s take the mining industry as an example. Mines are typically located in remote locations that generally lack adequate communications above ground combined with significant challenges below. However, a private 5G network could be very beneficial for not only voice and data communications but also remote management of machinery and other mission-critical mining operations – capabilities and solutions that were previously unavailable to the industry.
Your predictions on the future of mobile communication technology and how it helps digital innovations in the pandemic era:
The trends observed during the pandemic year related to mobile devices are most likely here to stay. Smartphone apps that specifically improved the convenience and efficiency in consumers’ everyday life, such as ordering groceries or shopping online, will extend past the pandemic.
The pandemic further cemented the smartphone device as central to consumers’ lives — it’s become an essential tool in managing day-to-day tasks. To this end, the work-from-home mandate in 2020 spurred on innovation and improvements in the ways consumers used their smartphones. More specifically, smartphones enabled consumers to reinvent how people stay connected with their family, friends and loved ones, and how they lived, worked and played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you, Paul! That was fun and we hope to see you back on itechnologyseries.com soon.
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Dr. Paul Carter is President and CEO of Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. (GWS) which provides wireless network performance measurements coupled with consumer behavior insights. He founded Global Wireless Solutions in 1996 to provide operators access to in-depth, accurate network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Dr. Carter has more than 30 years of experience in the cellular network industry. Prior to GWS, he directed business development and CDMA engineering efforts for LLC, the world’s largest independent wireless engineering company.
Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Global Wireless Solutions has set the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Its proprietary OneScore network ranking combines drive, venue and in-building testing data with real-world network usage scenarios to make the results of testing relatable and easy to understand. GWS offers high-quality network engineering and consumer behavior analysis through a suite of benchmarking products and services including the OneMeasure consumer research panel and the OneMeasure diagnostic app platform. At last count, GWS has driven 13 million data collection miles for its customers.