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Mapping Mobile Broadband Access

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Abstract: Internet access can be divided into two types, fixed and mobile. Fixed broadband access is relatively better understood in part because it is easier to measure. Providers know where they have deployed fixed access, they know which customers have chosen which price plans, and customers have performance expectations and a path to complaint if those expectations are not met. Mobile broadband access, primarily achieved via cellular service but also through WiFi, is a completely different story. Providers deploy cell towers in known locations but have limited models for propagation and service quality as user endpoints move away from the tower. Mobile broadband can be significantly affected by time-varying congestion in the cell, user device type and operating system, device movement during access, and environmental factors such as topology, land cover, and buildings. The interaction of pricing with affordability is not well understood, and the tails of access occur in underexamined communities such as Native American reservation lands, rural communities, and poor urban neighborhoods. There are also significant privacy issues associated with measuring at the granularity of an individual device or home. In this talk I will describe what is known (and not) about mobile broadband coverage in the United States and outline several approaches to improving mapping.

Bio: Ellen Zegura has been on the faculty in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech since 1993. Her research interests lie in computer networking, computing and social good, and ethics education. She is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the ACM . She is completing a two year term as Chair of the Computing Research Association Board.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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