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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2020-12
End: 2022-10
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A distributed open hardware test infrastructure to analyse mobile networks

MobileAtlas is an international measurement platform for cellular networks that takes roaming measurements to the next level. Although mobile cellular networks have become a major Internet access technology, mobile data traffic is surging, and data roaming has become widely used, well-established measurement platforms (e.g., RIPE Atlas) are not well-suited for measurements in the mobile network ecosystem. This includes measurements of metered connections and consideration of roaming status and zero-rating offers.

MobileAtlas implements a promising approach by geographically decoupling SIM card and modem, which boosts the scalability and flexibility of the measurement platform. It offers versatile capabilities and a controlled environment that makes a good foundation for qualitative measurements. We want to establish the framework with at least twenty open hardware probes, and create a platform for shared usage among scientists and Internet activists.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

The mobile phone has become the very center of our digital life at a spectacular and very impressive rate. People literally go to sleep and wake up next to their mobile phone, and some clutch their phone in their hands for large parts of the day. On average they touch their phone more than they have physical contact with their combined friends and family, and even more so than any other object they own - apart from the clothes they wear. The amount of households in Europe without a mobile subscription has shrunk to a mere one in twenty, and globally over 5 billion people now use cell phones - and the number continues to grow.

As mobile data traffic continues to grow, we need thoroughly understand and monitor this communication lifeline. This project aims to take roaming measurements of cellular networks to the next level, using open hardware probes and a platform where scientists and internet activists can freely share and discuss data. Independent research can help us understand how and what our communication technology is doing in an unbiased way and possibly solve persistent problems of connectivity.

Run by SBA Research

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.