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Signal Problems – Brits Prefer 4G Mobile Broadband to Wi-Fi on Trains

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 (10:00 am) - Score 2,146

A new survey from YouGov, which was commissioned by Cobham Wireless, has revealed that British adults would rather connect to the internet on trains via a 3G or 4G mobile data network (51%) than public WiFi (36%), yet only 33% of passengers felt that the mobile signal was good enough.

The reason so many people prefer Mobile Broadband to WiFi on trains is because 41% dislike having to share personal information in order to connect to a WiFi service (solution – use fake details) and 63% were concerned about the security of such networks, which are much easier for hackers to target. On top of that only 13% found the WiFi service to be good and 22% said that WiFi wasn’t even available.

Ingo Flömer, Cobham Wireless’s Product Director, said:

“The research has revealed that in these hyper connected times the majority of commuters expect to be able to connect to the internet on trains via their mobile service provider. Unfortunately, because of a lack of mobile phone coverage passengers find it difficult to work during their business commute, unable to browse the internet, send emails, or even make phone calls.

On-board Wi-Fi doesn’t live up to expectations either. Rail passengers would much rather stay connected to the internet via their mobile service because it’s more secure and more convenient to use. This is good news for mobile operators and the rail companies looking to improve the standard of service they offer to their customers, giving them the opportunity to satisfy the demand for better quality mobile coverage on trains.

Passengers are already frustrated with disruptions to rail services caused by delays, industrial action and maintenance, with major works taking place at Waterloo station in London and on services between Cardiff and Newport. These frustrations are compounded by train fares increasing year on year. The results of the study are clear, more investment in mobile phone coverage would go a long way to improving passenger’s train journey experience and ensure they stay connected to work during their busy commute.”

Naturally Cobham Wireless has a vested interest here because they claim to be “global leaders in the provision of advanced wireless coverage and mobile communications systems.” Otherwise YouGov’s survey was conducted online with 2,038 adults between 5th – 6th July 2017. The figures have been weighted and are said to be representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Paul says:

    Yep. I use my iPad on EE which gives me a better connection. I didn’t need a survey to tell me this!

  2. Avatar Matthew Skipsey says:

    Not surprised in the slightest as the train Wi-Fi is powered via 3G/4G and therefore you are contending before you leave the train!

    I have heard from one source that Wi-Fi on trains is a box checking option to meet the terms of the franchise, and they don’t spend much on the system itself as there are no obligations on speed/performance/security/etc.

    I guess the only benefit of on-train Wi-Fi is if you have a Wi-Fi only device and no mobile hotspot/tethering option or so little data allowance on your mobile.

    The mobile operators need to resolve the blackspots in cuttings and tunnels though. Some lines are dreadful for coverage.
    Cutting near Farnborough.
    Section across the New Forest from Poole to Weymouth.
    Section through Winchester towards Basingstoke.
    Sure there are 1000s more places like this!

    1. Avatar 3G Infinity says:

      Matthew,

      WiFi is a Franchise obligation as you rightly say. There is an ongoing program to increase the on-train experience, both mobile and WiFi – it appeared in the Digital Economy Bill and there is a current tender for initial work to study options.

    2. Avatar Stephen Donaghy says:

      Hardly surprising, the free wifi is usually slow and often blocks a lot of sites like imgur and even Netflix, this is after you’ve jumped through the hoops to actually connect.

      Worse for me, they also often block VPN’s (or are so terrible VPN’s don’t connect), so the main appeal (for me) of having it is utterly lost.

    3. Avatar Mike says:

      Perhaps just not require the free part then they have a commercial incentive to provide a better service?

  3. Avatar TWKND says:

    Train WiFi is abhorrent, normally below 200Kbps.

  4. Avatar Tim says:

    The biggest issue with Wi-Fi on trains is it is backhauled over 3/4G anyway. Yes they may use all 4 UK networks to try and improve coverage where one network alone wouldn’t provide as good coverage. But at the end of the day 1-4 3/4G connections are further contended to 100’s of Wi-Fi users on a single train.

    Only real way to make Wi-Fi better on trains is for there to be a track side high capacity wireless network that can provide the capacity and coverage needed for a good quality of service.

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