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Going postal: How the USPS could fix wireless coverage maps

According to Australian company Ranlytics, its work with the US Postal Service in Seattle could be used to 'accurately measure and map mobile coverage nationwide.'

Mike Dano

February 10, 2023

3 Min Read
Going postal: How the USPS could fix wireless coverage maps

Wireless coverage maps have been notoriously inaccurate. Indeed, the US government is spending millions of dollars to develop more accurate broadband maps, an effort that includes updated wireless coverage maps.

However, one Australian company argues that its recent test with the US Postal Service (USPS) in Seattle highlights a better way to obtain more accurate wireless coverage maps.

"All AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon 3G, 4G and 5G networks are now being accurately and regularly measured at almost every address within the select area. The resulting mobile network coverage maps are the most detailed available, are refreshed multiple times per month, and locate all areas impacted by lack of coverage, and by poor quality voice calls and data connectivity," Ranlytics wrote in a recent post to its website.

How does it work?

Ranlytics explained that it installed its network monitoring gadgets atop USPS trucks. The trucks then drove to virtually every address around Seattle in the course of delivering mail, thereby accurately tracking wireless coverage across the city's roadways and addresses.

Figure 1: Ranlytics offered a look at its coverage map of Seattle, obtained via USPS trucks. (Source: Ranlytics. Used with permission.) Ranlytics offered a look at its coverage map of Seattle, obtained via USPS trucks.
(Source: Ranlytics. Used with permission.)

"With the Postal Service delivering mail 6 days a week, changes in coverage are quickly and precisely identified," the company explained. "Ultimately, Ranlytics aims to accurately measure and map mobile coverage nationwide."

A Ranlytics official told Light Reading that the company has an agreement with the USPS to expand its network-monitoring efforts across the US. The company then wants to sell that coverage data to network operators, equipment vendors or even US regulators.

Ranlytics' plan to target regulators is noteworthy, considering that the FCC is in the midst of updating its broadband coverage maps. The FCC inked a $45 million agreement last year with vendor Costquest to help the agency develop maps for both wireless and wired networks nationwide.

As Costquest explained, it provides the location of all the structures across the US that are or can be connected with broadband, while the Internet service providers (ISPs) provide their own coverage information. The FCC then combines that data into a "fabric" that formed the basis for its first map draft. That draft is now under review by consumers, Internet providers and others.

However, critics continue to fret over ISP-supplied coverage data because in the past some providers have dramatically overstated their coverage areas.

Ranlytics' test isn't the first time the nationwide reach of the USPS has factored into telecommunications discussions. For example, the agency issued a report in 2020 detailing how its facilities could be used to broadcast 5G signals and house edge computing equipment.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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