Airtel Open Network

Posted by Harsh Gupta and Aditya Tejas at Jun 17, 2016 01:25 AM |
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Today, Airtel launched its Open Network platform. The web page displays visualization data on network coverage and signal strength across the country, as well as a detailed breakdown of cell tower placement, including towers that are shutdown or still being planned.

Airtel also reportedly promises that its call centres and physical stores have been upgraded with tools based on the new interface to allow for easy reporting of network coverage issues.[1] Users can report issues or request new cell towers directly through the platform.

This is part of Airtel’s wider ‘Project Leap’, a Rs. 60,000 crore overhaul of the operator’s network, which claims to include a bevy of technological solutions aimed at improving service. Airtel claims that these include smaller cells, indoor solutions, Wi-Fi hotspots and upgraded base stations.

This is a praiseworthy move on Airtel’s part. No other major telecoms company has undertaken a similar initiative. There exist private alternatives such as OpenSignal[2][3] that provide cell coverage map, among others. However, these services make use of crowdsourced data collection from users to create their maps.

While the portal is very convenient, it is worth pointing out that the website itself contains no links to any open data -- merely the visualization of data. At the time of writing, there was no indication of any way to request access to raw data on network coverage. While OpenSignal and other alternatives provide APIs[4] or direct access to their database, we saw no similar services on the Open Network website. Without access to raw data the Open Network initiative isn’t really open, as citizens cannot make use of data in any way other than what is provided in the visualization. Raw network coverage data would be immensely valuable to public and private actors, researchers, and the general public alike.

Furthermore, while the portal indicates the quality of coverage in an area (including separate indicators for voice and data quality) it gives no indications as to how these categories were arrived at, or what a ‘Moderate’ level of data quality means empirically. It is also unclear how often the visualization is refreshed, or how old the data currently on display are.

In addition, the provisions for reporting issues through the platform seem to be lacking, and it is unclear how open Airtel will be with these. Expressing interest in hosting a cell tower takes you to an online form and a promise that ‘we will get in touch with you.’ By contrast, trying to report an issue takes you to a ‘network troubleshooting guide’ with some basic tech support information and a number to call an advisor.

The Open Network website promises that “the more open questions you ask, the more open answers we can give.” But the platform contains no fundamentally new or different mechanisms for reporting issues which take advantage of the crowdsourced ethos that Airtel lays claim to. While this is a very promising first step for the company, we hope that they continue to refine their website and display a meaningful commitment to the principles they have espoused here.Furthermore, while the portal indicates the quality of coverage in an area (including separate indicators for voice and data quality) it gives no indications as to how these categories were arrived at, or what a ‘Moderate’ level of data quality means empirically. It is also unclear how often the visualization is refreshed, or how old the data currently on display are. In addition, the provisions for reporting issues through the platform seem to be lacking, and it is unclear how open Airtel will be with these.

Expressing interest in hosting a cell tower takes you to an online form and a promise that ‘we will get in touch with you.’ By contrast, trying to report an issue takes you to a ‘network troubleshooting guide’ with some basic tech support information and a number to call an advisor.

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/telecom/news/airtels-open-network-launched-on-app-to-show-coverage-quality-across-india-849280

opensignal.com

https://radiocells.org/

http://developer.opensignal.com/networkrank/

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