A inside look at the Verizon Wireless network testing program
Have you ever wondered how Verizon Wireless tests their network? I have. I can remember watching those “Can you hear me now?” commercials and thinking that there had to be a lot more to it than that. Well not surprisingly, there is and I was recently given the opportunity to ride along with Ramon Guerrero, a Verizon Wireless Network Quality Test Man who was kind enough to explain the entire process to me.
Ramon works in the Midwest area and drives approximately 250 miles worth of roads each day. I honestly can’t recall meeting a person that loves their job as much as Ramon does. Just speaking with him about his job during the ride along convinced me that he is really into what he does everyday. From what I’ve heard, all of Verizon’s network testers feel the same way pretty much. I can’t say I blame them either, I found the job to be quite interesting myself.
Verizon Wireless employs a large team of dedicated test men and women like Ramon that drive specially equipped test vehicles over roughly 1 million miles worth of roads each year. The test vehicles constantly run automated call quality and data speed tests as they pass through urban and rural areas all across the country. The data collected from these tests helps Verizon spot any problem areas as well as creates baseline data that is used to track trends over a period of time such as how increased usage and changes in an area’s population are affecting the network. All of that information helps Verizon determine where to invest resources next as they continue to improve their network
I was a little surprised to learn that Verizon tests not only their network, but also the networks of each of their competitors. That involves Verizon not only purchasing equipment from their competition, but also paying monthly phone bills to them. It goes to show how committed Verizon is to making sure their network is the most reliable.
The driver’s compartment of the test vehicle includes two laptops, one of which is used for controlling the stuff going on in the rear of the vehicle and the other acts as a large GPS navigation unit thanks to a external GPS antenna. This laptop runs special mapping software that tells the driver where to drive each day and provides a specific route to follow. GPS is also used to mark where the vehicle was while each test was being performed.
In the rear of each test vehicle, there are phones and USB modems from each of the major wireless networks. The modems are attached to the rear windows, while the phones are housed and isolated within a metal box on the floor of the truck. The metal isolation box is designed to ensure that the phones wont interfere with each other and roof-mounted antennas provide the enclosed phones with access to the outside world.
Call quality is tested by having each of the phones place calls to a computer. Once connected, the phones continually play the same message to the computer, which records the call and then compares the audio from the phone with a master sample of the same message. While the phones are placing calls, the USB modems are downloading and uploading files and a computer monitors and logs the speeds from each modem. All of the tests are automated and play out as Ramon drives along his route each day and the collected data eventually makes it’s way to a facility where it can be analyzed further.
I have no idea how much money Verizon Wireless spends conducting these tests and collecting all of that data each year, but I’m thankful that they do it. As a Verizon Wireless customer myself, I appreciate the fact that their network has continually improved over the years and that wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for people like Ramon and his counterparts doing their job each day.