Valid Quality Rating of Internet Connections via WLAN!

Every year the Federal Network Agency and the connect trade magazine publish reports on the speed of Internet connections in Germany. Among other things, these reports show whether customers actually receive the bandwidth promised by their provider. WLAN measurements are not yet included in the ratings. The wiam.tools research project is aiming to change this and to make the ratings even more accurate. The Institute for Communications Engineering at TH-Köln and zafaco GmbH are funding the project with the help of the Central Innovation Programme for Small- and Medium-Sized Companies (ZIM).

The breitbandmessung.de measuring platform, developed and operated by zafaco GmbH, captures and evaluates the performance of stationary and mobile Internet access services. The measurements made by users form part of the  Federal Network Agency’s Annual Report. In 2016/2017, around 430,000 valid measurements were carried out for wired broadband connections and about 240,000 for mobile connections. Currently the results of WLAN measurements cannot be included in the annual report due to measurement uncertainties. Their share was over 38% for wired broadband connections and over 78% for mobile connections. The share of wireless Internet access continues to increase steadily in Germany and should therefore be taken into account in future annual reports.

“In a 2016/2017 annual report special study by the Federal Network Agency, the influence of the type of connection used for the measurement was analysed. Comparing the measurements via LAN and WLAN, we found particularly huge differences in both the absolute and the proportional data transmission rates within the upper bandwidth classes (50 to 500 Mbit/s). The observed differences and the resulting measurement uncertainties could have various causes, for example, they could be due to the utilized WLAN standard. In some cases, WLAN standards are being used where the maximum possible data transfer rate is less than the data rate available at the connection,” reports Christoph Sudhues, founder and managing partner of zafaco GmbH.

The project partner’s aim is to develop a system for automated quality measurements of IEEE 802.11 radio networks (WLAN) using its own measuring sensors and modified smartphone apps. This would provide a way to classify measurements carried out via WLAN as valid in future, i.e. it would remove measurement uncertainty and allow all measurements to be included in the overall rating. “At the moment WLAN measurements results recorded by the measuring platforms from zafaco GmbH still can’t be classified,” reports Prof. Dr. Andreas Grebe from the Institute for Communications Engineering at TH-Köln.

The project partners are in the process of developing a reference measuring system which will facilitate the classifications in future. The system will have 100% control over technical factors. Parallel to the reference system, measurements will be carried out on commercially available smartphones. Afterwards, the results from both systems will be examined using artificial intelligence methods to detect typical patterns unique to results that are free of measurement uncertainty. “If such measurements have identifiable characteristic patterns, we shall be able to examine all user-performed WLAN measurements in future and know whether they can be classified as valid. User anonymity is guaranteed throughout the entire process,” says Prof. Grebe.

Parallel to this AI procedure, the project partners are checking whether WLAN-based transfer rates can also be validly determined through active measurements by end devices in the user space. This will involve sending a data packet from the device over the WLAN to the associated router. An installed app on the device will then be able to estimate available WLAN performance.

For further information, please visit: http://wiam.tools