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8 of the Most Popular UK Rail Transit Lines Ranked by Mobile Quality

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 (2:22 pm) - Score 2,302
trains and railways uk

A new RootMetrics study has ranked eight of the United Kingdom’s most popular rail transit lines by the quality of their on-board Mobile (3G and 4G) network connectivity. Overall those taking a train via the ‘London Paddington to Reading‘ route are likely to have the best experience.

All four operators are said to have delivered “excellent data and call reliability results” on the Paddington to Reading transit, and the operators’ data speeds were also generally strong across the board. However EE recorded the best Mobile Broadband speeds on the line, reaching a median download rate of 28.8Mbps and a median upload speed of 17.3Mbps.

Meanwhile the worst route for mobile connectivity was ‘London Waterloo to Southampton Central‘, which suffered from low network reliability, as well as slow median upload speeds from O2, Three UK and Vodafone. On top of that there were also problems with poor levels of blocked and dropped call rates from all four operators.

As usual RootMetrics have boiled their data down to a simple score of 0 to 100 (i.e. the higher the score, the better the performance) via several different categories. The overall results can be seen below.

transit best uk rail lines for mobile connectivity 2018

In general EE registered the fastest median download speeds among all of the four primary operators and they won most of the potential awards, although Vodafone was said to have produced “generally strong speeds during testing” and they came second overall, followed by Three UK and then O2. In fact, Vodafone was one of two operators to record a median download speed faster than 10Mbps on any transit line.

In terms of Mobile Broadband speed, different operators did better or worse on different transit lines.

EE’s Best Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Paddington – Heathrow – 30.7 Mbps

EE’s Worst Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Euston – Glasgow Central – 5.9 Mbps

Vodafone’s Best Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Victoria – Brighton – 14.9 Mbps

Vodafone’s Worst Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Euston – Glasgow Central – 4.1 Mbps

Three UK’s Best Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Kings Cross – Cambridge Station- 7.8 Mbps

Three UK’s Worst Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Euston – Glasgow Central – 2.9 Mbps

O2’s Best Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Paddington – Heathrow – 8.8 Mbps

O2’s Worst Transit Line for Mobile Data Speed
London Euston – Glasgow Central – 2.0 Mbps

A separate survey conducted by Transport Focus earlier this year similarly revealed which train operators delivered the highest commuter satisfaction with the reliability of their on-board internet connection (here). Over Heathrow Express came top of that study, while Southeastern was pushed right to the bottom.

The UK government is currently consulting on proposals that could help to make WiFi and Mobile (5G) broadband speeds of 1Gbps available across all mainline train routes by 2025 (here), while operators in Scotland and Wales are working on similar enhancements.

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Mark Jackson
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.
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2 Responses
  1. Avatar 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G)

    Be more interesting to see the call hold figures, ie initiate a call in London and see how long it lasts.

    Waterloo to Portsmouth is so bad that when Transport Police gain ESMCP access via EE’s network they most likely will not be make many calls from a train and even some stations.

  2. It’s a shame RootMetrics didn’t measure (or at least report on?) signal and speeds on the Southeastern Mainline (i.e. London Charing Cross/Cannon Street/London Bridge to Sevenoaks/Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells/Hastings/Ashford) – especially considering how the recent Transport Focus survey ranked it the absolute lowest among all train operators for satisfaction with internet connectivity*. A quick check on Cellmapper will show just how dire the coverage is on this route. When 4G is available, it’s pretty slow and weak, and often falls back to unusable 2G.

    In fairness, there are a lot of cuttings and tunnels along the route and it isn’t paralleled by major roads, presumably making it more difficult for mast placement. I am hopeful that the current proposals being consulted on by the Government for granting commercial operators access on to Network Rail’s trackside GSM-R masts will help things in the long run though.

    * Since the survey was published, Southeastern have now started offering free WiFi on their trains powered by Vodafone and EE. Looking at the signal strength reported by the system (not the WiFi strength, but the actual mobile signal strength that’s accessible via an API!) roof-mounting the antennas does make a significant difference to the signal strength. If repeaters/boosters were fitted, that could make quite a significant difference to the signal received by passengers inside the train. The WiFi itself is free and does work reasonably well, with speeds capped to 2.5Mbit for the first 50MB of data, and then capped to 0.03Mbit thereafter (just enough for messaging applications!).

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