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Majority of UK Train Commuters Complain of Poor Mobile and WiFi

Monday, February 25th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 1,786
train wifi mobile internet connectivity uk

A new Opinium survey of 1,001 UK adults, which was commissioned by uSwitch.com and conducted during mid December 2018, has found that 86% of rail travellers struggle to connect to the internet via WiFi or 3G / 4G mobile (mobile broadband) on their Smartphones while commuting to work.

According to the survey, some 66% of those who experienced on-board connectivity issues said they were unable to connect to WiFi, while 56% were unable to connect via 3G or 4G, some 54% experienced calls dropping out, 43% were unable to make phone calls and 38% had found themselves unable to send or receive SMS messages.

NOTE: Unlike live internet and call connections, text messages can be sent in delayed batches (i.e. if they can’t make a connection then the mobile will usually keep trying to send until it finds a signal).

In terms of Smartphone usage during train commutes, some 47% said they used it to access social media, while 39% had also listened to the music or the radio, 35% used it for personal correspondence, 31% for reading, 22% for shopping, 20% for catching up on work, 13% for watching TV or movies and so forth. Only 5% said they NEVER used a Smartphone during their commute.

On a regional level, travellers on rail lines in Scotland and northern England are more likely to complain about patchy mobile data reception, with nearly nine in 10 (87%) encountering issues across all forms of transport, whereas those in the Midlands are least likely to do so – although it still affects three quarters of commuters (77%).

Unsurprisingly, rail commuters cited “frustration” as the most commonly experienced emotion when facing connectivity issues (66%), followed by “unhappiness” (27%) and “stress” (22%). The more essential or desired the task, the greater the frustration when you’re unable to perform it.

Despite the small sample size, the results are broadly in keeping for other surveys of internet connectivity on-board UK trains. For example, the latest survey of 27,000 UK train passengers from Transport Focus (TF) reported that just 33% of commuters were satisfied with the reliability of their on-board internet connection and only 36% were satisfied with the availability of WiFi (here).

The Government has previously pledged to make “uninterrupted” WiFi and Mobile (5G) broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) available on-board all UK mainline train routes by 2025, but it remains to be seen whether this can be delivered. Only last week the National Infrastructure Commission warned that not enough progress was being made to improve the situation (here).

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Meadmodj

    Hardly surprising as trains are made of metal, move as well as things called bridges and tunnels. Providing good WIFI on trains is expensive and if people want/need it my view is they should pay for it not in the ticket price.

    • Avatar RobertM

      Some of them can not comprehend the difference between first class or a booked seat let alone what they pay for in the price of a ticket so i would not be shocked if they think everything should be included.

  2. Avatar t0m5k1

    Not surprised there is a lack of education on this.

    My only complaints are:
    Increasing ticket cost
    Slower service
    Increased Delays and cancellations

    Last thing I’d complain about is a slow/non-existent signal as I understand why this happens.

  3. Avatar Richard W. Jones

    Is there any data on non-commuting passengers’ opinions on wifi and mobile comms outside of commuting times of the day? All commuters are passengers, but not all passengers are commuters. In all my rail travel over the past 30 years, never once have I commuted. This also applies to most people I know.

  4. Avatar Peter Ballam

    Anyone see the item in the independent about first and 5G developer Blu Wireless Technology.

  5. Avatar Brian

    My main problems with the local trains, only some of which have wifi, is not the lack of trains with three hour gaps, late starts and early finishes

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