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Verizon's 'Can You Hear Me Now' Fleet Testing 4G

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the wardriving-for-the-man dept.

Networking 81

itwbennett writes "On the sidelines of the CTIA trade show in San Diego last week, Verizon showed off one of its test vehicles, a Chevy Tahoe equipped with a variety of phones and mobile data devices. The devices make voice and data calls over the air and are wired up to testing equipment in the back of the truck. The carrier has about 100 such vehicles around the U.S., and testers drive about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) per year while conducting ongoing network tests, said Tom Badger, director of network system performance. One thing Verizon doesn't use: the well-known phrase from its TV commercials."

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81 comments

Don't read this... it is a curse... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739764)

In 1999, a little boy named James was sitting in his living room and watching television with his mother and father. Suddenly, the phone rang. His dad immediately answered it. To James' surprise, his dad screamed, "We don't want any pizza!" and slammed the phone down. However, a small hand reached out from inside the phone and pulled his dad right into it!

This strange occurrence terrified James (who was now shaking with fear). Then, the phone began ringing again. James, still frightened, told his mom not to answer the phone. However, she did anyway. Then James, sensing danger, ran into his parents' bedroom. From inside it, he could hear his mom scream, "We don't want any pizza!"James knew that she too had been pulled into the phone.

Feeling terribly frightened and feeling that something bad was going to happen, James did what anyone would do: strip bootyass naked and lay face-first on the floor. James then heard something break through his front door. It wasn't long before the entities made their way into his parents' bedroom and were running around James in circles at the speed of light. There were exactly two of them, and James instinctively knew that they were The Tiki Dolls. They were two wooden dolls that looked as if they were made by Indians. They had a sinister appearance.

Soon after they started running around James' body in circles, they began periodically laying their heads on James' bootyasscheek johnson ultimatum supremacies and letting loose a high-pitched screeching sound! This inflicted extreme amounts of tickle upon James' bootyass. However, since James could not move a single cheek, all he could do was try to endure this horrible experience. After they screeched on his cheeks a few times, the entities were sucked into James' bootyass as if his bootyass was a gigantic spaghetti noodle. Inside his bootyass, they let loose screech after screech and inflicted more tickle upon James' bootyass than they ever had before!

Now that you have read this (even a single word of it), The Tiki Dolls will let loose high-pitched screeching sounds inside of your bootyass and inflict major amounts of tickle upon it! To prevent this from happening, copy and paste this entire comment and then repost it as a comment three times.

Don't read this... it is a curse... (-1, Troll)

ThatSlowness... (2486972) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739798)

In 1995, a little boy named Tom was playing with his toys in his living room. After about 15 minutes of playing, a tiny little man walked up to him and said, "May I explore the mazes of your bootyass?" Tom, surprised by this sudden occurrence, remained speechless.

After thirty seconds passed, the little man asked the exact same question that he asked previously. This time, Tom asked the little man why he would want to do such a thing. The little man said, "Because I want to explore every maze inside your bootyass." Tom, sensing no bad intentions from the little man, nodded and said, "Well, all right. But no tickle! If there's any tickle, I'll smoosh ya!" The little man nodded his head and was sucked into Tom's bootyass as if his bootyass was a gigantic spaghetti noodle.

Tom was beginning to have second thoughts about letting the little man explore the mazes of his bootyass, but he just shrugged them off. He thought, "What harm could allowing that nice, charismatic little man explore the mazes of my bootyass bring? He was so nice, charismatic, and thoughtful. I made the right choice."

However, soon enough, he discovered that he was terribly wrong. Suddenly, he was looking into his own bootyass as if he was looking through a security camera. Inside, he spotted the little man and numerous round doorways made out of bootyass; it looked like an endless maze. To Tom's surprise, the little man suddenly transformed into a red toy carrying a gigantic sack over his shoulders and began walking towards the smallest doorway of them all! "That sack will never fit through that doorway," Tom thought.

The toy continued onwards, and eventually the sack got stuck inside the small doorway in Tom's bootyass. The toy, visibly angry, began trying to force the sack through the doorway! This inflicted tremendous amounts of tickle upon Tom's bootyass! The toy then began kicking the sides of Tom's bootyass out of frustration while laughing the entire time. Even more tickle was inflicted upon Tom's bootyass. Just when Tom thought that nothing worse could possibly happen to him, the toy forced the sack right through the doorway and went flying deeper into the mazes of Tom's bootyass and crashed into the side of it! This inflicted more tickle upon Tom's bootyass than ever before!

Now that you have read this (even a single word of it), the very same toy, carrying his giant sack (which should fit through no doorway), will explore every single maze inside your bootyass (thereby inflicting major amounts of tickle upon it)! To prevent this from happening, copy and paste this entire comment and then repost it as a comment three times.

Don't read this... it is a curse... (-1, Troll)

WantAnother (2486978) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739818)

In 2007, a little boy named Timothy was standing in the hallway inside of his house. He then turned towards the place where the hallway connects with his mom's bedroom and spotted a box of graham crackers. This made him realize that there was a new rule in his house: anyone who walks past the box of graham crackers must allow the large black man standing near it to screw their bootyass! Then, for some reason, he tried to run past the box of graham crackers and was grabbed by the large black man. The large black man looked at his bootyass naked bootyass and screamed, "There is no hole!" Timothy then escaped and ran into his mom's closet, and the black man followed. The black man then bumped into the cabbage patch kid in the closet and angered it. Timothy managed to escape outside while the black man's bootyass was turned into a rumblehouse. Then, Timothy noticed that a close friend of his had his car parked in front of his house and was signaling him to get inside. Timothy did so, and the car took off down the road while Timothy explained his situation to his friend.

While Timothy was celebrating the fact that he escaped, the car began slowing down; his friend then said, "Now, now, now's the time right now!"

Timothy asked him what he was doing. His friend grinned evilly and replied, "What slowness can I offer you? I'm copyright owner Madow!" and turned into an old man wearing a butler's outfit.

The car continued to slow down, and the cabbage patch kid was catching up to them. Timothy then got out of the car (since he could run faster than it was moving) and began running. However, what seemed to be an invisible entity lifted him into the air and thrusted him ass-first around the world at a speed greater than the speed of light! Eventually, Timothy's bootyass naked bootyass crashed directly into the very same cabbage patch kid he was trying to escape from! The cabbage patch kid was then sucked into Timothy's bootyasscheekcrackhole as if his bootyass was a spaghetti noodle (just like grandma)! At that point, his bootyass became a bouncehouse for the cabbage patch kid, and major amounts of tickle was inflicted upon it!

Now that you have read this (even a single word of it), the very same cabbage patch kid will get sucked right up your bootyass as if your bootyass is a spaghetti noodle, and major amounts of tickle will be inflicted upon it! To prevent this from happening, copy and paste this entire comment and then repost it as a comment three times.

Re:Don't read this... it is a curse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739920)

75% of 4G traffic will be similar to the above. I for one can't wait.

Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739948)

While this is all well and good, I'm surprised they can't get this data from the handsets themselves - Dropped calls / choppy calls / slow-loading pages, low-bandwidth connections - I'm surprised their own network monitoring systems can't provide this data without have to drive millions of miles.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'dumb niggers?' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739988)

Many people would have you believe that there is nothing whatsoever the Black people can do about racism, that it is something the White people are going to do no matter what, that it is not something the Black people have any control over. They would tell the Black man that he is powerless in this case, a helpless victim who can do nothing to help his plight. It is especially disturbing when this message comes from those who are otherwise a friend of the Black man. Like Liberalism, it is a childish conception of the world that, while well-meaning, renders its believers powerless over their own life experience due to its own short-sightedness.

So what can Black people do to effectively end racism? First, they can stop assuming that White people are inherently racist. To assume that a person is full of hatred or judgment towards others merely because of his or her light skin color is to engage in the very racism they claim to be against. Racism of that sort won't end racism, no more than gasoline will put out a fire. So we can abandon this failed idea and look to the things White people see that make them think less of the Black man. These are some steps that Black people can unite and take together if they really want to end racism:
  • Stop committing a disproportionate number of violent crimes. When White people go to other countries that also have diverse populations, and notice that the violent crimes committed by Black people is higher than any other single racial/ethnic group when adjusted for their percentage of the population, what are they supposed to think? If you don't want to be regarded as a savage people who were brought out of the tribal jungle too soon and haven't yet learned to cope with the whole civilized society thing, please stop acting the part.
  • Stop having a disproportionate number of bastard children. This one can't be emphasized enough as it is surely related to all the other points. Black men, if you don't even care about your own children enough to let them know who you are, if you think so little of them, how is the White man going to argue with you? Parenting is easily the most important responsibility any adult is likely to ever have, and you abandon it willingly. What are White people supposed to think when you do this far more than any other single racial/ethnic group? Do you think it makes you respectable? When even their own fathers shunned them, oes it surprise anyone that such bastard children are far more likely to be incarcerated, far less likely to go to college?
  • Stop glorifying the "thug" image. When you act like your highest and most noble goal in life is to be a career criminal, and talk happily about abusing women, abusing drugs, stealing, murdering, etc., it doesn't make White people think you're a good human being. It doesn't make White people respect you. It makes them think you're a menace, and when the media helps you spread this message and it influences impressionable White youth, it makes them think you're a contagious menace, like any other disease or infestation. Anyone who wants to hate you for your skin color will feel justified by all of this.
  • Stop blaming all of your problems on racism. Many groups, from the Native Americans to the Irish Catholics to the Chinese to the Japanese to the Jews and many, many others have unfortunately suffered some kind of racial or ethnic discrimination. Yet they don't top the charts on violent crime statistics. They don't have tons of bastard children. They don't glorify being a thug. The Asians in particular have had a great deal of success because they highly value education. The Jews have amassed financial empires that are the envy of many Capitalists. They all have something in common. When they fail, they blame their own bad decision-making. When they succeed, they attribute it to their hard work. They take personal responsibility for their situation, and if it sucks, they work to improve it.

    Some White people may hate your guts. They may think you're less than a human being. But no thought in a White person's head forces you to commit violent crimes. No thought in a White person's head forces you to abandon your own children and leave them fatherless. If you won't recognize and deal with your own shortcomings in order to become a stronger people, who is going to do that for you? You may have a scapegoat but it's costing you dearly.
  • Establish one stable, successful, peaceful, prosperous Black nation. Just one will do. This is a quote from Hesketh Prichard. It's pretty bad, but it illustrates what White people are thinking when they see failed Black nation after failed Black nation. If you want to shut them up, prove them wrong:

    "The present condition of Haiti gives the best possible answer to the question, and, considering the experiment has lasted for a century, perhaps also a conclusive one. For a century the answer has been working itself out there in flesh and blood. The Negro has had his chance, a fair field, and no favor. He has had the most beautiful and fertile of the Caribees for his own; he has had the advantage of excellent French laws; he inherited a made country, with Cap Haitien [A once beautiful town on the north coast of Haiti] for its Paris. . . . Here was a wide land sown with prosperity, a land of wood, water, towns and plantations, and in the midst of it the Black man was turned loose to work out his own salvation. What has he made of the chances that were given to him? . . .

    At the end of a hundred years of trial how does the Black man govern himself? What progress has he made? Absolutely none."

If you address all of those things and still continue to experience racism, you will then have a valid case against White people. As things are now, White people are merely being objective when they see these things and wonder what's wrong with you. The only difference is that some will have compassion for you, while others will think negatively of you. Don't like that? Work on yourselves.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'dumb niggers?' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740456)

Down rated as a troll, but aside from some racist phrasing this is bang on, and simply off topic. Show me your prosperous black nation.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'dumb niggers?' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37741110)

Show me a prosperous white nation that WASN'T built on the backs of free labor from blacks.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (3, Informative)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740108)

GSM towers will report unexpected drops of calls and various metrics for the quality, however, in my experience, users will often report a subjective version of this which can often be quite skewed. By using actual equipment in the field you will be able to find gray spots (and black spots) in your setup and you will be more able in finding issues with call transfers between cells etc. - and those can often be linked with user complaints (and yes, the call will have some information about users whereabouts in the time of the call, it is however very unreliable for detecting gray/black spots).

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741496)

When OP said "get this data from the handsets themselves", I believe he meant via software that would measure, record, and upload the metrics, not from people. People are unreliable. Software is less so.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745350)

Well that they definitely can't do.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745926)

On smartphones, yes, they can if users consent and let the app run (or its built into the OS, perhaps in iOS or a locked down Android version like on AT&T).

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37747510)

that is a lot of ifs, and even then depending on your whereabout (yes this story is from the great ol US, where it probably is legal) it will illegal to track - the database containing information about a user tracked from the towers at the telecoms I used to work for was only accessible by one person and he was only ever allowed to look at that data when police asked for it. Privacy is a big deal in most places, and the ability to determine if person A was in a specific area at a specific time is very much a private matter.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740170)

It's not that simple. There's all sorts of environment and hardware conditions that affect call quality. Go and read up on the topic. Things like buildings, weather, line of sight, channel, noise and speed all affect call quality. A plain old phone isn't going to tell you how the network performs in the real world until you drive around and measure it. Even then you have to do it with multiple phones simulating different kinds of data to see what really happens.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (3, Interesting)

Jake73 (306340) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740256)

I think what the O.P. meant was that the handsets (millions of them) could be providing this feedback at all times with just small ancillary data on the uplink. Things like SNR, error rates, etc, could be reported in real-time at all times or selectively enabled by the towers when segments are being measured. This would composite all sorts of users, all sorts of chipsets, photes, locations, etc. With location services enabled, the phones can tell the towers where they are when these measurements come through.

Throw it all up on a fancy visualization and you can get a lot of information over different times of day, weather conditions, etc. No need for a bunch of trucks. Sure, the trucks can provide more information with better measurement equipment. But in many cases, lots of cheap devices can produce better data and fewer expensive devices as long as the proper statistical processing is applied.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740368)

No, this is Verizon. The only information they collect is the data they sell to advertisers [theregister.co.uk] unless you opt out.

No surprise that Slashdot hasn't gotten a story about that yet, since editors tend to play favorites. I know I don't bother to submit stories any more because of that.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (2)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740816)

One huge advantage I can see to this is precise location data. While cheap handsets can have their locations approximated, and more expensive ones know their exact locations (assuming satellite LOS), the first is only an approximation and the second is not readily available to the carriers. The trucks are no doubt equipped with GPS, and higher end tower triangulation equipment so they always know precisely where they are. Another advantage would be the capability to measure signals through non-handset equipment, while testing the handsets at the same time. For instance, I could setup a big antenna to measure gain that handset antennas can't detect, then figure out at precisely what point given handset can get a signal.

The other question is: How many handsets actually can collect and send this sort of data? If the answer is most or all of them, then you might be right, even the more accurate truck data might not be worth it given the huge numbers of handsets out there. if the answer is few or none... Well the trucks are a pretty important data point then. The carriers don't build the phones, getting this capability built into handsets is something they can request, but not necessarily just do.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741560)

Almost all handsets are sending signal quality data back to the tower; this is how the tower and the device decide how much power each should be using to transmit (note that your cellphone will use more power when there is no signal available; it is yelling asking if someone is around, and uses more power to do so, whereas it'll use *much* less power compared to when it can easily and reliably hear the tower, and the tower can hear it).

Location data? That's a bit more difficult without smartphones or phones that have GPS built in, although you can triangulate the location of a phone with a fair amount of accuracy using only cell tower identifier and signal data:

http://www.open-electronics.org/gsm-localizer-without-gps-part-1-introduction/ [open-electronics.org]

But how does GSM localization work? The radio mobile network is made up of a number of adjacent radio cells, each of which is characterized by an identifier consisting of four data: a progressive number (Cell ID), a code related to the area in which that given cell is (LAC, or Local Area Code), the code of national network to which the cell belongs (MCC, an acronym for Mobile Country Code), and finally the company code (MNC, or Mobile Network Code), which obviously identifies the phone company itself. For this reason, once a cell name and coordinates are known, and considering the maximum distance allowed between this cell and a phone before the phone connects to a new cell, it is possible to find out, approximately, the most distant position of the phone itself. For example, if the maximum distance has been determined to be one mile, the cell phone can be within a one-mile radius. It can be deduced that the more cells are found in a given area, the more precisely one can determine where the phone is located (up to 200-350 feet). The idea of employing only a GSM device to build a remote localization system occurred to us when we realized that Google Maps Mobile, which had been conceived to allow smartphones equipped with a GPS receiver to use Google for satellite navigation, was extended to all cell phones, as long as they were able to support GPRS or UMTS data.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

Dunega (901960) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741208)

Yea and if they did that, everyone on here would have a stroke that they were collecting data from their phone. Really wouldn't matter if they asked first or not.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

CuriousGeorge113 (47122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742060)

True. I would most certainly opt out of this sort of a program.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37741748)

Well, I would imagine that a handset that isn't able to connect to a tower will also be unable to report it's errors to that tower.

That's where having it report to a mobile test rig would be useful.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744864)

I think what the O.P. meant was that the handsets (millions of them) could be providing this feedback at all times with just small ancillary data on the uplink. Things like SNR, error rates, etc, could be reported in real-time at all times or selectively enabled by the towers when segments are being measured. This would composite all sorts of users, all sorts of chipsets, photes, locations, etc. With location services enabled, the phones can tell the towers where they are when these measurements come through.

Throw it all up on a fancy visualization and you can get a lot of information over different times of day, weather conditions, etc. No need for a bunch of trucks. Sure, the trucks can provide more information with better measurement equipment. But in many cases, lots of cheap devices can produce better data and fewer expensive devices as long as the proper statistical processing is applied.

Are you kidding? If they did this, people (especially Slashdot commentators) would shit all over themselves because of the huge invasion of privacy (or perceived invasion, anyway).

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742152)

sure, they could do just that. or just walk around with a phone.

but imagine yourself as being the guys selling this to verizon. a fleet of expensive cars modded up that makes nice stats to show on excel, not bad hmm?

just saying that they've managed to build pretty nice networks elsewhere without such fleets. besides, one car full of phones is not a real world situation.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740844)

Conspiracy theory: It's much better publicity for Verizon to pretend to actively monitor their network signals with fancy trucks than letting their customers know that they're snooping the customer base without their consent.

Monitoring handsets with customer consent could be a good idea!

Verizon can sell a standardized GPS-enabled phone to their customers (like CDMA GarminPhone?) and send out random coordinates on a regular basis for customers to cash in "signal points". The first person to run the special "CanYouHearMeNow" app on their phone at each location within a desired time frame will get the signal point. The app verifies the location from the built-in GPS, tests signal strength, and uploads results (or queues them for sending later if there's no data/messaging service. After a certain number of points are turned in by one user, the customer receives a $10 credit toward their monthly bill and a special award (T-shirt? phone case? gift card?) when they get to their $100 credit. It's much cheaper than a fleet of employees and trucks. Cell phone customers don't require health benefits, vacation, oil changes or tire rotations. Bonus points can be given for locations that go uncollected for a long time (eg: mountain, desert, ocean). Every time Verizon adds a new tower or somehow tweaks a tower in some way, they can start a new campaign that releases signal points back into the wild. To prevent idiots from putting themselves on highways without a car, create a mode for the app that leaves it running while driving so that they can run over the signal point pac-man-style to pick it up. Each customer is an individual that doesn't need to worry about interference from having too many phones in one truck. Because the phones are all the same, the signal testing is standardized. It's possible to award points to the first 3-5 different people who show up at a sensor point so that average or median results can be determined. It's like GeoCaching for Wireless.

If someone is frustrated about signal problems, they can run the app at any time to automatically report a problem (no points). After a while, when the unsolicited points in an area add up, it should show up on a map to help Verizon prioritize future coverage.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741558)

It's much cheaper than a fleet of employees and trucks.

With probably tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of points being needed to be monitored annually, I seriously doubt that. The admin costs alone are going to mount pretty quickly, as will the costs of advertising the program, etc... etc...
 

If someone is frustrated about signal problems, they can run the app at any time to automatically report a problem (no points). After a while, when the unsolicited points in an area add up, it should show up on a map to help Verizon prioritize future coverage.

Which would then need a truck to go out and measure and characterize the area precisely enough to engineer the new coverage...

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740950)

They can get only so much. Also each chipset vender has its own way of exposing the data. Even between revisions in chips they make changes. Then there are legal requirements as to what they can sample from an end users handset.

They also have tons of data already inside the infrastructure. But nothing beats going out there and sampling it with a *known* quantity of test hardware...

Or lets say a tower is messed up. You can have specialized hardware that tests for known problems.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741006)

I'm surprised their own network monitoring systems can't provide this data without have to drive millions of miles.

They must be doing this for the majority of their monitoring. A million miles a year is only a quarter of the US roads, assuming a perfect 'traveling network tech' route. I bet they don't even yield 2/3 of that in real coverage, which would net them a once every seven years coverage for a given piece of road. Probably once a decade for the real leaf-node roads.

I'm surprised they don't pay one of the mapping companies to just carry some extra gear on their trucks.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741074)

A few years back I actually worked with a group inside one of the big wireless companies that did this. It got adopted in at least one handset, but as I see it there are a few reasons why it doesn't happen in all handsets:

A) It takes some processing power (not an issue on a smartphone, but on some weaker handsets, it is).
B) There are some serious networking challenges with getting it to work right and not hammering your network, and let's face it: there's already a shortage of good network engineers at the carriers.
C) The information you can get isn't as good as you can get with a team and live people on the site, and although you COULD get the information cheaper by gathering data remotely and then sending teams to problem spots, the people in charge of network quality are not the people interested in saving money. So they have no motivation to go to a different solution, just because it is more cost effective.

Re:Can't they get this from the 'handsets?' (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741482)

While this is all well and good, I'm surprised they can't get this data from the handsets themselves - Dropped calls / choppy calls / slow-loading pages, low-bandwidth connections

That depends on having handsets available in the area to monitor, and on being able to retrieve stored data from the handsets, and on normalizing the data from a zillion different handsets to allow for analysis. Even if all the handset manufacturers equipped their phones with proper monitoring hardware/[firm|soft]ware and agreed on a standard method of storing and retrieving the data - it would still be a huge task to retrieve and analyze it all, and it still wouldn't be enough. (See below).
 

I'm surprised their own network monitoring systems can't provide this data without have to drive millions of miles.

This *is* [at least part of] their network monitoring systems. The problem is, with network monitoring, and even with your handset monitoring scheme, all you know is that "this area" is having problems. It's the eyes and antenna on the ground that lets you figure out the why and how to correct for it.
 
Not that Verizon is the only company with this kind of mobile monitoring anyhow - they're just the only company that makes a big deal out of it.

100 Tahoes? (2)

quangdog (1002624) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739950)

Pfffffttt..... surely there are more interesting and useful things we can do with 100 Tahoes. How about welding 6 of them together side by side to form a solid wall of Tahoe, then deploy them on 6 lane freeways. People who refuse to travel at least at the speed limit will be run over by the wall of Tahoe - thus eliminating gridlock.

Re:100 Tahoes? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740002)

somebody had a rough drive in this morning.

Re:100 Tahoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740132)

So, you're saying that everyone should drive no SLOWER than the speed limit. OK, fair enough. Reading between the lines, I bet you don't drive at the speed limit. To you, it's just a suggestion, right? How about I suggest that you take your wussy ass and drive your usual 80+mph right past a cop with a radar. Tell me, you got the balls to do that, huh, bi+@#?

Re:100 Tahoes? (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740524)

I don't know about where the GP lives, but in Michigan, highways/expressways have a minimum speed limit as well as a maximum. In 70 mph speed limit zones, the minimum speed limit is 55.

Re:100 Tahoes? (1)

denobug (753200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741572)

I don't know about where the GP lives, but in Michigan, highways/expressways have a minimum speed limit as well as a maximum. In 70 mph speed limit zones, the minimum speed limit is 55.

Good luck enforcing the minimum speed limit in rush hour traffic!

Re:100 Tahoes? (1)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745542)

You're aware that the speed limit is a maximum, right? (Not a minimum at which to begin negotiating when you get a ticket?) And before anyone asks, yes, I know some freeways have a minimum speed, as well. These are the limits provided that the conditions warrant.

Re:100 Tahoes? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741588)

After my drive in this morning, with someone doing 60 in the left most lane, I suggest you start a kickstarter project. Top contributor should get to drive said wall of Tahoe *gets credit card out*

Re:100 Tahoes? (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743334)

People who refuse to travel at least at the speed limit will be run over by the wall of Tahoe - thus eliminating gridlock.

I have no problem with people driving below the speed limit, and neither should any decent drivers. The only problem is that they should strictly STAY RIGHT. No, the fact that you feel like driving 1/4 of a MPH faster than the guy in front of you is NOT a reason to get out of the slow lane and block 100 cars that want to go much faster than you. And no, that fact that there's less traffic and better flow in the fast lane isn't an excuse for you to be a left lane bandit, and REALLY cause MAJOR congestion.

In some states, drive-right laws are in-force and enforced by the police across the board.

Re:100 Tahoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744498)

We've got one of those drive right laws in Colorado but I don't see it being enforced. Thankfully the traffic in the mountains is light enough by the time I've passed the Fucktard camped in the left lane, on the right, that it's a non-issue. I think a lot of it comes down to the lack of proper driver education, but that's just my thought. Maybe drivers are the self centered assholes I think they are (I am).

Can they come to my house? (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739954)

I'll feed them if they come to my house and my work. Test my area please!

We had a technician install Verizon FiOS at our house last week, and he called me at work to ask me where we wanted the wireless router. Unfortunately, we couldn't hear each other because we both have Verizon wireless and my home has terrible coverage. If they can't install their own services because their own infrastructure doesn't work, then they should report that feedback too.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740270)

This is pathetic, you are correct. With that many million users, why do they need this kind of crap. Here is an idea:

Provide an iPhone/Android app for free that make testing and report its findings (GSM/Reception points). People where coverage sucks will install it and you'll get reports. People that doesn't want to install it, it must be good enough coverage. But I'm sure you'll get a sufficiently dense map of your weak spots, for free, with no hassle.

Better, when people call to report bad coverage propose them the app in case they don't know about it. Much better accuracy that a user screaming at you over the phone.

Re:Can they come to my house? (2)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740376)

AT&T has an app like that called "Mark the Spot" (or something like that). I've put in dozens of reports (as have other people I know) from a highly developed part of my city that has terrible reception (-90 to -100 outside my house, -100+ inside the house, occasionally lose service in the middle of the house). Result over the last 3 years--nil.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740528)

The article talks about reporting coverage, not taking action on said report ;-)

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740666)

Yup, it's the equivalent of the "close doors" button on many elevators. It's just there to make people feel better.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37741052)

Actually, the close doors button is for closing the doors when the elevator is in manual or fire mode. Situations such as moving furniture or doing maintenance, where finer control of the elevator is required. It never has (and likely never will) do anything when elevators are in automatic mode, which they are 99.999% of the time. While we're on the subject, the "push to walk" button isn't supposed to automatically change the cross-traffic to red and give you a walk signal. Instead, it just turns on the walk signal the next time that a cross-traffic red comes up in the cycle. If you're dealing with an intersection timed based on sensors, then it *may* trip an immediate walk signal, but usually it will wait a little bit first. That doesn't mean it doesn't do anything when you push it! It just means it isn't doing what you think it does.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741214)

I have Verizon now because AT&T had no service at my home or at my work (but it was *great* everywhere in between). A few times I decided to go into a store and tell them where I had no service. They didn't even ask me where it was, instead they tried to sell me a microcell. So I gave them my home address and asked if there was a coverage map they could look at. They reluctantly did so, then told me I should have service there. They asked about what my home was made from, even after telling them I had no service outside the house either. They didn't prompt me to give them my work address, and I figured the result would be the same so I gave up. I tried this at a few AT&T stores and always got the same result.

It makes me wonder: if that employee's GPS told them to drive over a bridge, but they saw no actual bridge there, would they try it anyway because that is what the computer says?

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742164)

Yeah, I haven't even bothered to complain as I figured their response to you would be typical... If we do decide to re-up with AT&T, I figure I'll try to get a free microcell out of it. Seems crazy that they want to SELL you something so that you can use your own Internet service to get the bare minimum service level from them.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742498)

I am amazed at this point too! They charge me a fee to provide service, then when the service is bad, they want to charge me another fee for me to provide the service myself! To top it off: the phone has WiFi ability in it already, if you are going to use my internet for service, just use the WiFi router I already have.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

bell.colin (1720616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744872)

"It makes me wonder: if that employee's GPS told them to drive over a bridge, but they saw no actual bridge there, would they try it anyway because that is what the computer says?"

There are plenty of morons who would do just that. (and have!)

http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/gps-unit-drives-british-man-off-cliff-20090327/ [geek.com]

http://gothamist.com/2011/05/22/gps_drives_jersey_man_off_road_and.php [gothamist.com]

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741270)

Oh, I found the problem. The database was set to write-only!

Re:Can they come to my house? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37741520)

Verizon Wireless and Verizon FiOS are actually two separate companies. The gov. doesn't like it when you start controlling too many forms of communication. The two do work very very well with each other, not gonna lie, their One Bill system does make it look like they are the same company.

Re:Can they come to my house? (1)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742482)

What they don't tell you:

The trucks are really semi-trailers and each contains an entire Indian call center.

"Kahn Yo Heed Mee Nahw?"

Well known (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739978)

One thing Verizon doesn't use: the well-known phrase from its TV commercials."

Any hints on what this well known phrase might be since it seems to be significant enough to refer to? I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be a few billion of us outside of Verizon's service area who haven't heard it.

Re:Well known (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740150)

It's in the title.
"Can you hear me now?"

Re:Well known (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740186)

I have a sneaking suspicion the phrase you are looking for is quoted in the title of the /. article.

That's nothing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740026)

All of the phone manufacturers have vehicles like that. Back when I worked in the mobile industry, we had a van fully equipped with all sorts of gear for measuring, recording and testing the network. It would do more than just measure signal quality. It would try to simulate a variety of conditions to see how hand-off worked. Early versions of CDMA would end up dropping your call even if you had all bars. Turns out the signal was strong to multiple towers and both ended up dropping the phone. There's all sorts of conditions that affect call quality.

Why take the expencive path. PR? (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740124)

Does Verizon wanted data or advertising. One could get a lot more data from a simple cheap monitoring device(like the USB computer). Pick a phone with a GPS and a signal strength output. You might need to hack the phone to get your outputs. Then program the device to make calls and record the signal strength and location over time. Results out of standards can be texted back to a central monitoring sight using the same phone when it's back in an area with phone service.

Now that you have a cheap set up, put one in every Verizon vehicle. You could even take this one step more and get hikers to add the device to there pack for data off road.

There is A LOT more to this than signal strength (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741094)

First of all, signal strength is only one of many factors they care to measure. In addition the numerous variables that affect any NLOS radio system, LTE adds MIMO techniques, which means you also have to care about the spatial correlation in your multi-antenna set up and how it varies with other conditions and your location. Also, MIMO relies on some rather sophisticated digital signal processing, and the implementation of this processing is left up to the individual device manufacturer and thus its performance will vary among not just RF conditions, but among different devices. Throw in the fact that LTE has no in-built capability for voice calls, and now you have a slew of devices that have to fall back to the CDMA2000 network to make or receive a phone call.

Looking at the setup as described in the article, I really doubt it's terribly interested in signal strength at all. They're collecting data through several different consumer handsets and devices, so I think they are more interested in evaluating their performance and behavior under less-than-ideal RF conditions. They're interested in how the devices perform handovers, fall backs, how their MIMO implementations handle various real-world conditions, and generally how nicely they devices play with their network.

And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

moehoward (668736) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740198)

So, what is the point of this???? It is illegal to use cell phones while driving in a whole bunch of places, and the list is growing all the time. I need coverage in my home, client's offices, tall buildings with offices not near windows, airports, city parks, restaurants, etc. Not my car. So what is the big deal with focusing so much testing doing something that is both dangerous and potentially illegal???

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740312)

Bus / mass transit riders? When my family goes on a car family trip, its not unusual at all for my wife to call for directions / hours / vacancies / reservations from the passenger seat while driving.

All the places you list are accessible by car, or within 50 feet of the road, anyway, or else no one would ever go there. To a first approximation if you drive a circle around a park, and there is no tower inside the circle, all spots in the park will have better reception than the lowest spot on the perimeter of the park.

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740362)

The phones are connected to automatic equipment that makes the calls, measures the various properties, etc. The driver is not placing the calls.

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740416)

Ah, pardon me. I misunderstood -- I thought moehoward was implying that the driver of the test vehicle would be placing the calls. Mea culpa.

That said, I agree that buildings (specifically their interior) should have better coverage.

Here in Switzerland, several of the mobile networks categorize their coverage as "GSM/2G", "UMTS/HSPA (Outdoors)", and "UMTS/HSPA (Indoors)" and have appropriately-shaded regions on their coverage maps. Quite handy, but I wish they'd also have a "GSM/2G (Indoors)" option. Oh well.

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740374)

NOWHERE in the US is it illegal to use your cellphone while driving. It is illegal to have it in your hand in some places, but not illegal to use while driving.

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

moehoward (668736) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740684)

Well, nobody uses their Bluetooth headsets or hands-free mode. So, your point is moot.

But, it is a fact that you can be ticketed for using your phone in hands-free mode. You also can be held responsible for using your phone in hands-free mode if you are in an accident. Distracted driving is an offense in many/most places in the US/world. Even in Chicago, IL, US, it is illegal to use your phone while biking. There is a proposal in Chicago to ban using your phone while walking.

FYI - My car has been hit twice (each over $5,000 in damage) by people who were distracted. One on a cell phone and the other reading his day planner. Both were ticketed for the same offense... distracted driving or whatever it is officially called. Even though the cell phone law was in place, the police/troopers did not/would not issue a citation for that offense because the distracted driving law had a lot of history and was more enforceable. I 100% agreed with them on that. The cell phone laws are duplicate laws made for political points.

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744776)

They were fined not for the cell phone use, but the fact that it was labeled as a root cause of the accident, of which almost any human action can be applied. Mascara applying, changing underwear all would be the same thing. Cell phone laws generally are for simple act of holding the phone while driving, its quite distinct to being cited for distracted driving. One is a label of fault, the other a pre-crime.

Im not saying that we should be able to carry on willy-nilly in a car, but i am quite capable of carrying on a hands free conversation and drive.

For the record I own motorola bluetooth handsfree speakers for my cars. In my state this is totally legal to use while driving, so long as I continue to drive appropriately. If I allow my conversation to affect my judgement and I start driving erratically, then that same root behavior now becomes the cause of a crime.

Re:And the Point is What? Testing Illegal Stuff? (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740904)

In addition to the all the other, rather obvious, answers others have given to your question (things like mass transit, passengers using phones, hands free devices...), there's also the detail where most roads are immediately adjacent to well... sidewalks, buildings, cafes, etc. If the truck detects a good signal on the road, chances are good that building situated on that road also have good signals. If the truck detect poor or mediocre signal on the road chances are it's even worse in nearby buildings.

Not an intelligent way of getting coverage data... (1)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740250)

In fact, pitifully incompetent. There's no need to spend so much on vehicles and wages, if you have a bit of imagination. I was recently working for GlobalMobilePhoneProvider, who also sell M2M (machine-to-machine) applications. They gave away data mobile units to the company that collects garbage, and fitted them to the garbage trucks. Guess what? Those guys visit every premises. And collect signal strength data. And they collect signal strength not only of GMPP's network, but al the competitors too. What's the cost? A few hundred mass-produced cell devices, no wages, and no capital cost of trucks.

Re:Not an intelligent way of getting coverage data (1)

Frenzied Apathy (2473340) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740690)

That's all fine and dandy, but that's not going to help in the locations where there are no garbage collection customers!

Open highways, outlying rural areas, etc, etc.

Re:Not an intelligent way of getting coverage data (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741926)

You so realize that the cost of this is probably a tiny fraction of 1% if their yearly revenue, right? Even if this cost them $500 million a year (most likely a magnitude or more higher than it actually costs them) it would only represent 1.8% of their yearly revenue.

This has been done for quite some time (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740264)

At least one other instance of this sort of testing has been shown to customers before. Years ago there was a TV show showcasing how cell companies tested not only their networks, but their competitor's as well. The test vehicle was a station wagon loaded to capacity with testing equipment and antennas.

You can't test your system using wired methods; running a $100 billion dollar annual revenue company, one might say 100 such vehicles (2 per state! have you seen how big Texas, California and Alaska are?) is almost criminally negligent in terms of measuring quality of service of both your and your competitor's service, both to your customers, and to your shareholders.

Charged for but no 4G service (1)

appmudpie (2479336) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740310)

I do not want people to be charged extra for 4G service when there service area does not offer 4G but they have a 4G capable phone. Currently, Sprint charges $10 extra a month for "premium" 4G service even though a vast majority of their network is only 3G.

Tahoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740330)

Tahoes? Looking at those pictures, you could fit all that equipment in my Nissan Versa, cutting the vehicles' non-personnel operation costs in half.

1million miles, 15 miles per gallon.. (1)

toxonix (1793960) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740348)

The Tahoe LS (2WD) gets 15MPG, slightly more when you're cruising at highway speeds (because you're going faster, covering more miles) 1million miles/15 miles per gallon = 66666 Gallons of fuel (rounding off that last 0.7 gallon) 66666 is the postal code of the beast! And that's quit a lot of fuel.

Re:1million miles, 15 miles per gallon.. (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742236)

That's what I was thinking, a large SUV to test cellphones? But you have to consider:
--they're trying to buy American
--they're buying fleet vehicles since they need 100 of them
BR> That limits the number of vehicles to purchase significantly. Can't get a Prius because it's foreign, and they probably do want something large enough for 4 people, and they probably don't want the cellphones to be blocking a rear window so sedans are out. Minivans and SUVs are all that's left, and I don't know of any minivans that are fleet vehicles, so the Tahoe or Explorer are the only fleet vehicles with side windows for cellphones to attach to that would allow seating for 4 people.

Re:1million miles, 15 miles per gallon.. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37746024)

1million miles/15 miles per gallon = 66666 Gallons of fuel (rounding off that last 0.7 gallon) 66666 is the postal code of the beast! And that's quit a lot of fuel.

It's $200K or so per year. Verizon's coffee budget is likely an order of magnitude or two larger than that.

There's more than just signal strength in play (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741266)

I am mostly cutting and pasting from a reply to a post I made earlier in this thread, but signal strength is only one of many factors they care to measure. In addition the numerous variables that affect any NLOS radio system, LTE adds MIMO techniques, which means you also have to care about the spatial correlation in your multi-antenna set up and how it varies with other conditions and your location. Also, MIMO relies on some rather sophisticated digital signal processing, and the implementation of this processing is left up to the individual device manufacturer and thus its performance will vary among not just RF conditions, but among different devices. Throw in the fact that LTE has no in-built capability for voice calls, and now you have a slew of devices that have to fall back to the CDMA2000 network to make or receive a phone call.

Looking at the setup as described in the article, I really doubt it's terribly interested in signal strength at all. All you need for that is a single radio on a single antenna, paired with a GPS receiver. But in these setups, they're collecting data through several different consumer handsets and devices, so I think they are more interested in evaluating their performance and behavior under less-than-ideal RF conditions. They're interested in how the devices perform handovers, fall backs, how their MIMO implementations handle various real-world conditions, and generally how nicely they devices play with their network.

I'm doing it wrong (1)

clinko (232501) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741462)

This explains a lot. A Tahoe simply won't fit in my apt, in my cube, on my train to work, or anywhere else I need a signal.

They are going to rack up expensive phone bills (1)

Tuan121 (1715852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741592)

Verizon better be careful with testing it's mobile data or they might come back to find thousand $ mobile data bills at their desk when they are done...

Posta service (1)

Veramocor (262800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742114)

The US Postal service should be offering their trucks to house this equipment for a fee. No other service travels to more parts of the country more regularly. Certainly piggybacking onto postal trucks would save Verizon (and ATT, Sprint, T-mob) money and give them better testing coverage.

It would also help fund the Postal service which is billions in the hole.

oblig. (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742468)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SkeGC-5gXQ
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