How mobile using commuters are short-changed on trains despite 'faster' networks

Research confirms what we all know - mobile communications on trains are abysmal, even in 3G- and 4G-rich London.


Research confirms what we all know - mobile communications on trains are abysmal, even in 3G- and 4G-rich London.

It doesn't matter if have paid through the nose for an iPhone 6 with all the bells and whistles, your mobile network operator will still let you down, according to research across the busiest commuter routes into London.

Almost a third of mobile internet tasks (30.3 percent) attempted on commuter train routes failed during a connectivity study carried out by network testing firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS).

GWS engineers carried out tests while travelling back and forth on the ten most popular commuting routes into and out of London. They discovered that, on average, almost one in four 3G data packets (23.2 percent), and well over one in three 4G data packets (37.2 percent) travelling across the networks of the four major UK operators, didn’t make it to their intended destinations.
GWS’ testing suggests that Vodafone subscribers get the best 3G data service while commuting – Vodafone’s 3G network is the most reliable (in terms of getting data packets through) and offers the fastest download speeds (2mbps on average during testing).

EE currently offers the best 4G data service. Its 4G network tied with Vodafone in the reliability stakes but was the fastest when it came to downloads (5.6mbps on average during testing).

GWS’ testing suggests that it’s not just the mobile internet that Londoners struggle to use while commuting, with one in seven voice calls (14 percent) made from trains failing too.

Three won GWS’ voice calling run-off - its network was joint first most reliable, but emerged as the clear winner when call quality was factored in.

Commuters are likely to experience poor call quality (like sound breaking up) when mobile operators use older 2G networks to route their calls, and/or use half-rate codecs to decode voice call data.

GWS’ engineers were on 2G with O2 for more than 60 percent of the time while testing on commuter trains. In addition, O2 used half-rate codecs to handle almost a third of all the calls (28.16 percent) engineers made during the testing programme.

EE fell back on its 2G network two-fifths of the time (41.82 percent) during testing, but only used half-rate codecs to decode 2.96 percent of the test calls made.

Vodafone also relied on its 2G network 40 percent of the time during testing, and used half-rate codecs to decode 7.92 percent of all the calls made by engineers in the course of the testing programme.

One in four of the data task failures (24.18 percent) GWS’ engineers experienced occurred while they were on trains in stations, while one in five occurred when they were on trains on open stretches of track.

Next section: A question of speed