End User travel

Random connectivity musings of a traveller

with all these wires running along the train tracks why isn't there better connectivity on boardThere is frost on the ground but it is a bright morning and I am on the way to London. I’m using the train WiFi which according to the speed tester is giving me 3.1Megs. I don’t know what it’s max speed is but the train is not very full – when it is full it certainly doesn’t feel like 3 Megs & I sometimes oscillate between WiFi and 3G and mostly 2G. Currently 3Megs feels fast enough.

We put up with poor connectivity on a train and accept that when we go in to a tunnel it disappears altogether. We shouldn’t have to.

I’m off to Olympia for UCExpo – it’s a good place to get together with people and I have a few meetings lined up over the two days. In my experience connectivity at Exhibition Halls is poor. I once did a VoIP video conferencing demo over 3G. It was all fine in the dry run but of course once the place filled up with thousands of punters it was a different matter. I could barely get the client registered let alone use it in a demo. The patter had to kick in big time:) I don’t know why we should put up with poor connectivity at these places. There is no reason for it. They know we are coming. Perhaps I’ll be surprised.

Between Kings X station and Olympia connectivity will be pretty variable and of course on the Underground it will be non-existent, mostly, though there is no need for this to be the case.

Most pubs I’ve been to in London recently offer free wifi. 20 minutes and a stop in Newark to pick up some punters later the on-train WiFi speed is down to 1.1Megs.

Is Utopia a country with perfect connectivity1? What is that connectivity speed? It’s not 1 or 2 Megs. It has to be fast enough for us never to notice any delay. Bandwidth on demand. With the massive growth in mobile apps this connectivity has to get a lot better a lot more quickly than it is doing so. It’s all very well being ok when you are sat in your living room and using your home WiFi but that on its own isn’t good enough any more.

I’m up to 8.4Megs at Peterborough station but that may be my SIM kicking in with HSPDA. Outside the station, with more people on board it is down to 0.11Megs. This is more like it. It makes my whinging more valid.

I would say 100Megs per person would be a good number to have but it will be a moving number. It is going to depend on what you are doing at a given point in time. Bandwidth needs when just sending texts are different to when uploading photos for example.

I’m getting nearer to the big smoke. What’s happened to the sun? Thatsenoughfornow.

1 Ok ok add in perfect health service, zero unemployment etc but I’m trying to stay focussed here.

PS Bloke sat behind me is reading out his card details to someone over the phone! Including security number. I could have written it all down. Perhaps someone did. Personal security will be a blog post for another day.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

6 replies on “Random connectivity musings of a traveller”

I cannot believe they treat you this way Tref – you should have your own carriage or your own train, The Timico Express? 😉
I tried it once (using the trains wifi) it was not a good experience – now the crossword in the Times keeps me busy for the hour and twenty minutes. The use of mobile phones on the tube has been a much debated subject over the years, some of the lines are so deep two way radio does not work. They should think of getting air conditioning working on the tubes [rant].


Ubiquitous connectivity which is fit for purpose is our EndGame. Currently it is miles away from that, because the incumbent is determined to keep us all on its old phone network. We need fibre to the masts, fibre to the rural areas and men of fibre to make it all happen.
Until then we limp along in digital poverty most of the time.
We’ll be a thirdworld country soon. Left behind by the digital revolution. ‘superfast’ for a few doesn’t really cut it.

I had a similar security experience on a train, a lady who had just returned from Hong Kong was trying to sort out some issues and between Kings Cross and Peterborough I listened to numerous account numbers, answers to security questions, phone numbers, addresses, passwords etc.

If I use the train wifi, I always makesure my traffic goes down a secure VPN to somewhere else. You’ve no idea who else could be in the carriage running wireshark.

tbh, I find I used 3G much more than wifi. It always just works. No passwords, no accounts. When travelling, Wifi only gets used if I’m somewhere for a long time and it is worth the pay off to in time to work out how to connect. Or if I’m in a 3G dead spot (which is pretty unusual nowadays).

I have yet to go to a conference where the wireless connectivity was really good. Organisers often lay on a Wi-Fi point just for the press room and even that gets clogged up, or simply refuses to talk to my laptop for reasons unknown and unknowable. In the good old days, I’d pick up a freebie retractable Ethernet cable from one of the exibitor stands and then plug in and it would just work. Now I am often left wondering if I will be able to file my story at all.

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