4G LTE Coverage Map

The FCC has released a preliminary interactive mobile broadband map based on data provided by the nation’s four largest mobile carriers. The map is based on new parameters that were designed to overcome problems with previous carrier-submitted data — and as the commission explains in a press release, the preliminary map “serves as a public test of the standardized criteria developed to facilitate improved mapping.”

The need for better mobile broadband availability data came to light in 2019 when the FCC conducted drive testing to attempt to confirm the accuracy of data provided by the carriers. That drive testing found serious flaws in the data and drove the commission to delay plans for revamping a Universal Service Fund program that covers some of the costs of providing wireless service in high-cost rural areas.

In October, the FCC adopted rules for a new $9 billion 5G Fund for Rural America mobility fund that will replace the current mobility fund. At that time, the commission said that the program will not get underway until 2023 when it expected to have accurate mobile broadband availability data from all carriers.

As today’s press release explains, the preliminary map shows 4G LTE broadband data and voice mobile coverage as of May 15, 2021, for the four largest carriers. Since T-Mobile acquired Sprint, the four largest mobile carriers now are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and U.S. Cellular.

“This data was voluntarily submitted by these carriers outside of the FCC’s normal schedule for intake of data through the FCC Form 477,” the press release explains.

Clicking on the map reveals the propagation parameters used in determining each carrier’s coverage area. These are:

  • Voice: 90% cell edge probability, 50% cell loading factor, maximum resolution of 100 meters.
  • Data: 5/1 Mbps, 90% cell edge probability, 50% cell loading factor, maximum resolution of 100 meters.

Other mobile carriers are invited to contact the FCC Broadband Data Task Force if they are interested in also making voluntary data submissions.

The commission is also seeking comment on technical details involving the challenge and verification processes for the mobile maps. Once the challenge process has been finalized, interested parties will be able to “provide input informed by real-world experience to help improve the accuracy of the agency’s maps,” the FCC said.

The FCC also took the opportunity to provide an update on the Broadband Serviceable Locations Fabric, which is designed to provide accurate location data for U.S. addresses. The commission said it has selected a vendor to assist with “critical systems development.”

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