Tutela’s new crowd-sourced data approach gets tick from Telefonica

Who is Tutela, and how does its new breed of crowd-sourced network quality data work?

This week crowd-sourced mobile network data company Tutela was able to publicly announce that Telefonica Mexico is using data from its on-device platform to discover network benchmarking and CEM insights. Telefonica Mexico will mine crowd-sourced data collected from over 150,000 subscribers, from all operators in Mexico, providing over 100 million data points, every day.

Recently out of stealth mode, Tutela is a new name in the crowd-sourced CEM area (more established players include OpenSignal and Ookla.) It’s an area that has attracted numerous plays in the past. Back in 2014 Procera added a device-side approach based on a SIM appelt. P3 also has an on-device client model to add to its traditional drive test business, and this technology is behind Ofcom’s recent subscriber experience and usage data collection, for example.

Tutela’s claim is that it works in a different,  interesting way. Instead of existing as its own app to download, it is instead software that is downloaded into the phone as a user downloads another app. So, in other words, Tutela makes a deal with a games developer (say) to pay that developer to include a few lines of code within the install of that game. It adds only a few minutes to the app development process, Tutela claims.

When the user downloads the game the Tutela SDK downloads a 2Mb file in the background from Tutela’s CDN on AWS. The code is installed and starts reporting data from the phone by communicating with a test server in the network.

The game or app that was originally downloaded does not need to be active for the software to work. Once the download is made, then the on-device agent  is ready to go. Naturally, this requires a set of permissions from the user that, Tutela says, are made clearly visible within the app permissions settings.

So far Tutela cannot officially disclose which apps it has partnerships with but it says they range from the tiny in scale to the very large, with apps including dating and gaming titles. Tutela’s VP Sales & Partnerships Tom Luke says that this approach solves the distribution problem of crowd-sourcing CEM apps. On the other side of the business, Tutela’s multi-disciplinary team requires not only iOS and Android coding smarts, but appreciation of how to test mobile networks and of running global servers for setting up latency and packet loss type tests across mobile networks.

Tutela solves a problem inherent in all other speed test type apps, which is that people tend to test their speed when they think they have a very bad or very good experience. And that tends to give a skewed view of network performance

One technical optimisation feature that Tutela says it can very easily help with is something known as cell tower overshooting. This is the scenario where a user is effectively connected to the “wrong” base station, and would receive a better performance by reattaching to a nearer site. Because Tutela has relevant location id, as well as performance stats, network engineers can easily see when someone in a given area is attached to a tower that is “over shooting”. Luke says that it is hard to otherwise discover this without running a specific drive test. Another technical solution that location info enables is to detect backlobe, where a user is connected to the “wrong side” of a directional antenna.

Luke says Tutela solves a problem inherent in all other speed test type apps, which is that people tend to test their speed when they think they have a very bad or very good experience. And that tends to give a skewed view of network performance.

So how big is Tutela’s reach? Well, the company claims 200 million installs in its lifetime, and Luke says that the company is currently receiving data from 100 million active user devices every month.

What of user privacy? The memory of the controversy of CarrierIQ hangs heavy, still. Tutela claims that it runs in the background and is designed to collect no personal (ie name) data or id data or ip or MAC address – nothing that in any way could id the user. The software is only interested in signal strength, location, and a range of other KPIs such as download and upload speed, jitter, latency, packet loss and cell power.

Luke  says the company has 30 Tier One operators “actively looking” at trials, but admits Tutela needs to do the legwork to convince operators that its data and capabilities are superior to the speedtest companies they are used to working with.

You can view some of the reports the company makes public here.