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Analysts Find Gaps in Mobile Signal on London to Edinburgh Train

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023 (11:08 am) - Score 2,312
Mobile-Signal-Notspots-on-London-to-Edinburgh-Train

Mobile network analysts at Streetwave have published the results of a new survey, which examined the mobile signal quality on the London (England) to Edinburgh (Scotland) train route. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the route was found to suffer from various “not-spots“, while EE’s network performed the best for mobile broadband.

The research found some users went without a useable internet connection for over 2 hours of their 4-hour 40-minute journey. Internet connectivity dropped regularly for every network, with coverage gaps up to 31 miles long limiting passengers’ ability to browse online whilst on the train.

NOTE: The railway line was surveyed on the 17th of March 2023 and mobile networks were judged to have internet browsing “not-spots” if they were unable to load a web page within 3 seconds (this seems to ignore voice connectivity).

Overall, the data showed that EE was the network that provided the least interruptions for passengers when browsing the internet during the survey. EE was also found to offer the fastest average speeds along the line, with download speeds up to twice as fast as the other mobile networks.

However, such results probably won’t come as much of a surprise to commuters, particularly given the length of the route. Like it or not, you’re bound to come across some patches of poor connectivity, although this does help to highlight the areas most in need of improvement.

Mobile Network  Time Spent in Internet Browsing Not-Spots (Minutes)  Average Download Speed (Mbps)  Average Upload Speed (Mbps) 
EE (BT) 94  10.3   4.8 
O2 (Virgin Media) 140  5.5  3.1 
Three UK 130  5.8  1.4 
Vodafone  148  5.1  2.7 

Angus Hay, CEO of Streetwave, said: “One of the key advantages rail should have over other transportation means is that it should enable passengers to stay connected for work while on the move. We hope that the findings from Streetwave’s independent survey can be used by stakeholders to identify the locations where mobile coverage can be improved for passengers travelling between London and Edinburgh.”

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
17 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Patrick says:

    Wish analysts would work on the london underground and how it has NOTHING after virgin decided to pull its wifi away. In a day the tube is used probably more than this pointless and too expensive london to edinburgh train line in a month

    1. Avatar photo Phil says:

      I would think the usage is different between the tube and the journey they test. Tube journeys are generally shorter, people will be using their phone for social media type things or reading some news, and honestly, they are probably healthier mentally to get a 10 or 20 minute break from their devices.

      A long journey by train, where people have access to tables and a power supply will mean people can work on the move, so having connectivity is more important.

    2. Avatar photo Patrick says:

      Tube journeys can frequently be more than one hour. It is also more likely than someone using the tube is doing it for work than someone going to a more touristy location. It is also a fact that the most of the countries biggest earners are in London so effectively it is more valuable that they are able to check their emails than someone who is mostly going on a leisure journey

    3. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      There’s been a stream of stories about mobile networks deploying 5G on the London underground recently –

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/03/virgin-media-o2-uk-finally-deploys-5g-on-london-underground.html

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/02/vodafone-uk-follows-ee-to-deploy-5g-on-london-underground.html

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/04/vodafone-uk-reintroduced-public-wifi-to-london-underground.html

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/02/three-uk-follows-ee-and-vodafone-to-put-5g-on-london-underground.html

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/02/ee-uk-deploys-5g-mobile-broadband-on-london-underground.html

      Are you telling us that this isn’t really indicative of coverage across the whole network.

      On the main story. Surely all the networks should be required to cover all major road and rail routes across the country or there should a single shared access network for everyone along these routes.

    4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Patrick, I take it you’re unaware of TFL’s partnership with BAI to eventually offer full mobile coverage across the underground? Admittedly a work in progress, but my experience the other week on the Jubilee line was very impressive – proper mobile coverage even in the tunnels, unlike the crappy station-only wifi offering that VM used to provide.

    5. Avatar photo GG says:

      @Patrick
      Eh? I used the wifi on the tbe tube yesterday. Unchanged for me.

      As for journeys an hour long – yes, and any that long spend most of the time above ground.

  2. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

    Interesting. Looks like the bulk of the outages are north of Leeds which might explain why I haven’t seen many of them on this line.

    I absolutely use my own phone as a hotspot instead of the WiFi on LNER and it is just about okay for all bar maybe 5 minutes of the hour and fifty nine minute journey from my station to King’s Cross.

  3. Avatar photo x_term says:

    As I’ve been multiple times on that stretch of rail I can confirm, but what bugs me the most is that coverage is extremely poor across the whole rail network.
    It may be annoying that I often compare UK and Italy, but on the high speed network, even in tunnels, there’s 5G available – despite the fact that Italy limits electric fields to a max 6V/m in urban areas and 20V/m outside. And with an average price of mobile data around 8-10€ a month for 150GB with 5G, which I keep as a secondary SIM for roaming when travelling, meanwhile my personal EE account is 25 pounds a month and not even have roaming…
    The more I see the state of mobile engineering these days, the more I support a merger 3-vodafone to shake up competition.

  4. Avatar photo GM says:

    Always surprised at just how little attention is given to our train lines compared to roads.

    Used to travel on the WCML weekly and it was impossible to maintain a phone call longer than about 5 minutes with Three.

    Given how easy it is to work on the move when travelling by train it seems like an obvious place to have good connectivity…

  5. Avatar photo MB says:

    Literally the minute my train leaves either London Euston or Marylebone stations, it heads into a tunnel and the signal drops off. It always amuses me when people start their conversations once the train sets off, only to be cut-off moments later. It’s been this way for years. I don’t know why it’s still happening and can’t be sorted.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      I know why. Because nobody can be bothered. Train operators point at their skanky on board wifi and claim that should be enough for anybody, Network Rail insist that it’s not their problem. The two regulators (Ofcom and ORR) couldn’t organise a drinks party in a brewery between them. And as an industry, rail is especially bad for rationalising problems rather than devising ways around them. When it does decide to do something, unimaginably complex approaches to working mean that project costs become unfeasible. And the mobile operators conclude that there’s no impact on their revenues, so why try and work with the rail industry invent obstacles and don’t care about any aspect of the rail customer experience?

      The technology to fix this is simple and has been around for ages, the net national cost is immaterial, but the only people who care are customers, and they’ve no choices that allow them to vote with their feet, and thus market forces won’t resolve this.

  6. Avatar photo Tom says:

    I spend more time without phone reception than I do with phone reception on the Southampton > London Waterloo journey. I get better internet connectivity on a transatlantic flight than I do on our train network, but I don’t see incentives to make mobile networks fix this.

  7. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    Can barely get signal in or around my house in a town despite ofcom saying I can get good signal with all major networks so this doesn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve come to a conclusion mobile coverage is all a bit of a con anyway unless you live in a city.

  8. Avatar photo Terry I says:

    When will people wake up and realise that the mobile operators do not cover 99% of the UK.
    It’s a lie.
    3g, 4g and 4g are not covering 99% of the UK.
    You all know it.

    1. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      They don’t claim to.

      99% of the population not the land mass.

  9. Avatar photo 4chAnon says:

    Hopefully they tackle Paddington to Temple Meads / Cheltenham Spa at some point, too.

  10. Avatar photo TomDickandBoris says:

    What no one mentioned is the propagation of the signal/certain frequency that the operator is using (not all ops have the same frequencies)
    in particular area and lower frequency bands may be better at propagating to a moving train.

    Forget the 2G/3G as they will soonish be turned off.

    Check out the spectrum your mobile operator holds:
    https://mastdatabase.co.uk/gb/spectrum/

    Lower frequency bands will propagate better for longer distances …
    Band B20 – 791 MHz to 821 MHz
    Band B28, N28 – 758 MHz to 788 MHz
    Band B8, N8 – 925.1 MHz to 959.9 MHz

    Then there is the problem of some mobile phones showing 5G signal, but in reality only using 4G network with CA (Carrier Aggregation).
    How about the fact that some mobile phones do not support all the frequency ranges/combinations the MNO’s using on their network.
    Check out yours here: https://cacombos.com/

    How popular would you be if you suggested to spend extra £££££££ to cover the blind spots to your boss so customers have a better coverage?
    So it’s all about money 🙂

    The only way to get that resolved would be? (No, it’s not free markets!)
    Yes you are right gov intervention 😉

    So why is the gov (OFCOM is part of gov) so reluctant after so many years do anything about it?
    Why do big corp get away with paying fair share of taxes?

    And when we at this, did you ask your MNO about Roaming in a country that switched off 3G/2G Networks?
    Maybe ISPR could cover this (VoLTE/VoNR Roaming) in depth as many customers will be confused why they can’t make/receive any calls on their older
    devices when roaming in a country that turn off 3G/2G networks 😉

Comments are closed

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