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Ofcom is inviting Android smartphone users to participate in a crowdsourced research project.

The watchdog wants to gather information on issues including mobile broadband performance, the reliability of voice calls and people's experiences and habits.

Ofcom will use its findings to support a wider study comparing telecoms operators' quality of service next year.

The regulator also wants to set an independent benchmark of mobile and Wi-Fi network quality for the telecoms industry, as well as help consumers make better purchasing and switching decisions.

Anyone who wants to take part in the study can download the Ofcom Mobile Research app, which automatically measures the performance of mobile and Wi-Fi networks, meaning users do not need to run any tests manually.

Users will periodically be asked to rate how well they feel their service is performing, while highlights of the findings will be shown on the app's home screen.

"More and more people are using their smartphones for diverse, demanding applications," Ofcom stated.

"Activities such as streaming music or video calls can put strain on mobile networks, and Ofcom wants to better understand how current trends are likely to affect future demands."

The regulator added that all users' data will be completely anonymised, as it takes data protection "very seriously".

This comes after the government confirmed that mobile broadband providers could be hit with penalties if they fall short of coverage targets.

Ministers want the UK's main mobile network operators - EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone - to be held to account if they fail to provide a mobile signal to 90 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.

At present, Ofcom is able to remove licences from firms that fall short of the target, as well as begin criminal proceedings.

However, a measure in the Digital Economy Bill states that the watchdog could instead be given the power to fine a provider up to ten per cent of its relevant gross revenue.

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