Smartphone Apps for Rural Internet

Posted by Olayinka Alawode on

Whether you are relocating to a rural area or just visiting for some adventure, it is safe to say you'll need WiFi, 3G, or 4G network to stay connected with family, friends, and work. However, staying connected in rural areas can be challenging, especially for first-time rural travelers.

But should it?

With the help of technology, certain Apps have been created to enable you to figure out internet coverage and speed in your area.

Internet Speed Test

An internet speed test provides real-time information about how fast your mobile or WiFi connection transfers data. Upload and download speeds are measured in Mbps or megabits per second. Results vary depending on the time of day and where you are in your home, as some rooms and areas may have stronger connections than others.

Internet speed tests offer three primary pieces of information. They are;

  1. Upload speed: Upload speed is the speed your Internet connection requires to send data from your device to another device or the Internet. This is important for sending data, large files, or documents. Upload speed is needed for making video calls, backing up files to the cloud, and live streaming videos. Upload speeds of 5-10Mbps or more will support most activities requiring uploading data, video calls, and HD streaming.

  2. Download speed: Download speed refers to how fast you receive information over the internet—Whether images, videos, text, or files. Activities such as browsing websites or watching YouTube rely on fast download speeds. A good download speed is at least 100 Mbps. With a download speed of 100Mbps, you can live stream HD videos, attend Zoom meetings, and play most online games on several devices simultaneously.

  3. Latency: Network latency also called network lag refers to delays in communication over a network. It describes the time it takes for data to be captured, transmitted, processed, received, and decoded.  Simply put, the amount of time it takes for data to travel to and from the internet server. Lower latency means your connection is more responsive. Low latency is important for gaming or video chats.

Note: People who frequently participate in video conferencing calls require a faster connection than those who only use the internet for checking email or online banking. Also, more devices mean you would need faster speeds. While an internet speed of 10Mbps may be okay for an individual, it is certainly not enough for a family of five.

Here are some typically recommended speeds:

  • Music streaming: 1 Mbps
  • Email: 1-5 Mbps
  • Web browsing: 5 Mbps
  • Social media: 10 Mbps
  • Video calls: 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps
  • Video streaming: 10 Mbps (HD) to 35 Mbps (4K)
  • Online games: 25 Mbps to 75 Mbps
  • Downloading large files: 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps, depending on how quickly you want files downloaded.

Apps and websites for testing your mobile and in-home network speeds

  1. FAST: Powered by Netflix, the FAST Speed Test is available on the Google play store and the Apple app store. FAST can be accessed wherever you are in the world. You just need to download the app or use the web version. It is fast, straightforward, and ad-free but limited in features. FAST has a 3.7 rating on the Apple app store and a 4.4 rating in the Google Play store. 

  2. V-SPEED: Available only as a mobile app on both IOS and android, V-SPEED is a powerful, advanced tool that helps you measure Internet connection speed. It has a modern-looking interface and numerous configuration options for those interested in advanced settings. It has amazing features like; a Wi-Fi and mobile signal finding tool, network coverage maps, filter and sort options, and selecting default-test servers. V-SPEED is rated 4.6 in the Apple app store and 4.8 in the Google Play store.

  3. Ookla Speedtest:  While the basic app is free, the premium version is ad-free and includes amazing features like; upload speed, download speed, latency, and jitter. It can also conduct video tests to measure resolution, load time, and buffering. There is also an option of a private VPN and real-time graphs that tells you how consistent your connection is. Ookla Speedtest is rated 4.1 in Apple and 4.3 in Google Playstore.

  4. SpeedSmart Speed Test: With over 100 servers worldwide, SpeedSmart checks Wi-Fi and cellular connections across devices. SpeedSmart is an HTML5 speed test that is simple to operate and features latency, upload speed, and download speed. You can review charts and compare your results with average U.S. and ISP speeds. You also have access to your test history. SpeedSmart is rated 4.7 in the Apple store and 4.5 in the Google Playstore. It also has a web version.

  5. Meteor: Meteor is an ad-free internet speed test tool that can be used to check the speed of your mobile and wireless connection (on 3G, 4G LTE, or 5G), as well as for WiFi speed testing. Unlike most internet speed tests, with Meteor, you can test your connection on different apps like; Spotify, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Zoom. It is easy to use, and a simple test gives you easy-to-understand download speed, upload speed, and ping time results. Meteor is rated 4.7 in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

  6. SpeedTest Master: SpeedTest Master offers added features. You can test download, upload, ping, network stability, devices using your Wi-Fi without permission, and signal strength with just one tap. SpeedTest master is available worldwide in 10 languages and offers a real-time graph that shows the internet speed test of the connection. With SpeedTest Master, you can monitor your data usage to avoid over-usage. SpeedTest Master is rated 4.6 in the Apple app store and 4.9 in the Google Play store.

Coverage Maps

Cell phone coverage maps are useful in helping you figure out what type of cell phone coverage you will get in your local area. These maps are extremely useful in rural areas with little to no coverage. When it comes to phone networks, major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have cell phone coverage maps and ZIP code/address checkers that can help you see exactly what kind of service you’ll get at your location.

Here are some apps with network coverage maps; 

  1. Coverage: Available on both android and iOS, coverage helps RVers, cruisers, and travelers better plan their routes and stops within cellular coverage. The app compares cellular carrier data coverage maps from the major US and Canadian carriers. With coverage, you can create your own personal coverage map for the carriers and signal type that matter to you. Travelers can find cell signals as they roam and stay connected all day long. The best thing about this app is, it doesn’t need an internet connection to run. All maps are stored locally, so even when you have no connection, you can see where coverage is. US carriers included on this app are; AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular.

  2. RootMetrics: Formally Root Wireless, this app offers scientifically collected and crowdsourced mobile network performance information to its consumers. RootMetrics features RootScore Reports, CoverageMap, and CoverageMap Mobile App. The coverage map is available on both iOS and Android. It has amazing features which include; call performance, average call signal strength, download data speeds, and types of network technology available. RootMetrics Reports compile data on the major carriers within the U.S., UK, and Canadian metropolitan areas.

With all this information at your fingertips, you should be able to get reliable internet even in the most remote areas. If you still struggle with connectivity, maybe internet speeds are slower than you’d like, you could enhance it with a signal booster. 



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