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UK Rail Commuters Would Pay Extra for Better Internet Connectivity

Saturday, May 14th, 2016 (7:49 am) - Score 982

A new survey commissioned by the Government’s Department for Transport has examined the value of Internet access to train users, finding that 54% of people perceived the quality of their on-board Internet connection to be poor or intermittent and 49% were dissatisfied with service speeds.

The ‘Mobile connectivity research study‘, which was based off responses from 2,241 individuals via a combination face-to-face surveys, online surveys and panel surveys, found that on-train Internet use was more prevalent than phone calls.

Overall 56% of respondents had used the Internet on the train before being surveyed and a further 9% expected to use it after the survey, while the corresponding figures for phone calls were 34% and 12% respectively. Some 15% connected to the Internet by only using the Train’s on-board WiFi, while virtually everybody else preferred to use a Mobile Broadband (3G or 4G) based connection and a small proportion used a mix of WiFi and Mobile (21%).

As with phone use, Internet use was also more common among business passengers and commuters in the sample, with 73% and 75% having used the internet, or expecting to use it, compared to 58% of leisure passengers. There is also a similarly sized difference by journey length. Some 72% of respondents with a journey length over two hours either used, or were likely to use the internet, compared with 53% of respondents with a journey length of less than 30 minutes.

Interestingly, of the 21% who used WiFi at some point when on board a train, most 79% received it as a free service and just 10% paid extra (costs ranged from +£2 to +£15). Sadly using a train in the United Kingdom is often anything but cheap, yet despite that fact it’s noted how “people in all segments were willing to pay a significant uplift on their fare” (between 9% and 17%) to get a “basic level of Internet provision“, but smaller additional increments to reach the higher levels of service.

However the survey noted that 34% of passengers would not change their on-train Internet usage if the quality improved, while 32% would spend more time on the same applications and 15% would make use of applications that benefited from a better connection.

At this point the survey goes into a lot more detail and becomes harder to summarise. In any case we think there’s a counter argument to be made here, which is that the on-board connectivity should already be delivering a basic level of Internet provision and to do so within the existing pricing structure. Now here’s our own snap poll (results are cached and display may only update once a day).

Would you pay extra to ensure a good level of on-train Internet connectivity (WiFi or Mobile)?

  • No (69%, 65 Votes)
  • Yes (31%, 29 Votes)

Total Voters: 94

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
15 Responses
  1. Steve Jones says:

    “people in all segments were willing to pay a significant uplift on their fare” (between 9% and 17%) to get a “basic level of Internet provision“

    Really? Given current rail prices? Can somebody also explain to me why it is appropriate that all train passengers would have to pay for this and not the people who use the service? We have just about the highers rail fares in Europe, without this.

    1. dragoneast says:

      I just wonder how many of those who are willing to “pay” more are those who recover their traveling costs as expenses, or have a reduced or nil cost travel pass i.e. for whom someone else (the rest of us) pays?

  2. Jazzy says:

    I always tether my ipad to my phone and use my own data, it’s much more reliable. Last time I was on the train a guy sat near me had to send an important document to the office and the wifi was off for repair so I let him use my data otherwise they wouldn’t have had the file

  3. Bob says:

    Really? It’s already cheaper to drive than get the train.

  4. Captain Cretin says:

    Let us pray the “54%” dont get their names revealed…. or they might accidentally get clubbed to death by the people having to pay for their own tickets.

    You can get from Paris to Beijing by train for about the same cost as a “Standard” return from London to anywhere north of Manchester….

    And the average journey time probably wouldnt be much higher.

  5. Mike says:

    To those complaining about ticket prices…perhaps if you were more ambitious you would earn more and it wouldn’t be a problem?

    1. Ignition says:

      Pretty unnecessary and presumptuous comment. A person can be ambitious, affluent and still be unhappy at the price of something, especially when similar in our EU peers is considerably less costly.

      I’m studying an MSc, I travel first class every time I am on the train, doesn’t mean I am ecstatic about the pricing.

      Maybe consider making it an ambition of your own to be less judgmental of others?

    2. Kahajoin says:

      Hello

      while i can understand your point

      trainfares are very expensive compared to any other first world country

      its nearly always cheaper driving so increasing the costs even more wouldn’t be good for anything imo.

  6. Shady Creek says:

    Personally I just use my phone service to tether. Train wifi isn’t even worth the time to figure out how to connect.

    As a commuter with a season ticket, as well as extensive additional business travel throughout the year I definitely do not have an appetite to spend even more on fares. Tethering is the way forward.

    I am highly suspicious of the findings of this survey.

  7. Rusty says:

    Having decent internet connectivity on my 2 and a half hour daily round-trip commute would actually help me swallow what I currently pay for my monthly season ticket. I wouldn’t want to pay more, especially as I feel the current service doesn’t justify the cost.

  8. Captain Cretin says:

    UPDATE

    It was 54% of the Management team behind installing the WIFI that were in favour…………

  9. GNewton says:

    I wonder how many of these commuters would actually NOT travel in the first place if they had a decent internet connection at home, e.g. home office?

    1. TheFacts says:

      5%.

  10. NorthEasterner says:

    I took a recent trip on the East Coast Main Line on Virgin Trains, the WIFI was okay but wasn’t great, however my solid 3G signal on Three UK was proving to be a blessing with achieving speeds of 10-15mb even in the countryside away from dense areas. Then I was getting the 4G signals in more dense areas and getting speeds of 20-30mb. The train WIFI would struggle to get 5mb. If British Airways introduce free WIFI on their domestic flights, I’m sure passenger numbers on rail may decrease.

    1. Ignition says:

      Interesting. I’ve found ECML coverage somewhat sporadic and as long as it’s not too busy the train WiFi is better than my own in terms of speed. I rely on a single SIM for my data, the train has 3 of them.

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