You have been using too much wifi

GWR HST in 1976 colours

I’ve noticed that GWR (who were First Great Western) have started to limit their customers’ use of wifi. Three years after free wifi was introduced on their high speed trains, they’ve realised that it’s very popular and have implemented restrictions.

I've noticed that GWR (who were First Great Western) have started to limit their customers’ use of wifi. Three years after free wifi was introduced on their high speed trains, they’ve realised that it’s very popular and have implemented restrictions.

Back in 2007 I wrote an article, This is the age of the train… talking about the refurbishment by FGW, then I said

Do you think I should point out to First Great Western that some train operators provide free wireless on their trains, or do you think that would be pushing it?”

After seven years in 2014, it looked as though they finally listened and added wifi to their carriages on their high speed services from Bristol to London. Back then when trying it out I discovered.

The speed, as you might expect travelling at 125mph is inconsistent, but having done a speed test I was hanging to get between 5-9 Mbps which is more than reasonable. I was also able to stream video using YouTube and iPlayer.

I also asked the question:

Will the travelling public use the wifi, what with 4G and 3G so much more commonplace than back in 2007?

Well it certainly looks like they have been using it, hence the restrictions that GWR have put in place.

It’s nice that they also let you know how it is being used and how much bandwidth is available.

It's nice that they also let you know how it is being used and how much bandwidth is available.

It isn’t surprising that they need to do this, as technically I can’t see them being able to increase the bandwidth easily, so it make sense to restrict usage.

Having said that 15MB is not very much, not in this day of HTML e-mail messages, attachments, Twitter, Facebook and so on…

Well at least it’s still free. Hey Cross Country are you listening?

Me, well I still using my own 4G connection, it’s faster and unlimited data is greater than 15MB.

Melting the Wi-Fi

The canal in Birmingham

Back in the early noughties I remember attending edtech conferences and the wifi failing to cope with the number of delegates. That wasn’t surprising, they were often using a single wireless access point and when sixty plus edtech delegates hit the event with their laptops and PDAs it wasn’t much of a surprise to find the lone access point failing to deliver any wifi.

Even today I have been to events where the wifi struggles as delegates with their laptops, iPads, smartphones connect to the wifi. It is partly about the number of devices, it is also about how they are using the connection, refreshing twitter, uploading photographs, streaming video like Periscope. I also think that some people may take advantage of the fast connection (sometimes inadvertently) to download updates, podcasts and video.

The canal in Birmingham

At the recent UCISA Spotlight on the Digital Capabilities event in Birmingham, the conference centre wifi, which in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection. I found that if my laptop was connected to the wifi, it not only took time to get a connection, but every so often the connection would drop. I would say that when I had a connection it was fast and consistent. I felt lucky that I could still tweet and upload photographs using my phone on my Three 4G connection. I was getting over 60Mb/s on that connection in the main auditorium. I was quite pleased that the seats in the auditorium had tables and power sockets.

60Mb/s

The thing is, a conference with delegates from the edtech world are probably going to melt the wifi as most conference centres don’t plan their capacity on the extremes. For most events it probably works just fine. Personally since those early days I have come less and less to rely on the conference wifi, using a 3G dongle, 3G tethering, a 4G WiFI Hotspot to my current 4G tethering. This means that not only do I not worry so much about melting wifi, but it frees up the bandwidth for somebody else, and I think I might a pretty heavy user of bandwidth!

4G’ing it

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I have now been on Three for nearly six months and I am still pleased with the speed of the connection and reliability of the service.

In some areas I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

Download speeds

There are some days when the connection appears to stall, but this is short lived.

I am on an unlimited data contract with Three. This appears to be a full unlimited contract with no “artificial” limits or throttling.

On my previous original T-Mobile (now EE) contract I would usually use less than 2GB. This was partly down to the speed of the 3G connection. On the Three connection I am now using on average 35GB of data. In at least one month I used in excess of 50GB.

As my home broadband is rather slow, I am now using my iPhone connected to the TV via an HDMI adapter for services such as iPlayer, Netflix and other on demand services (well the ones that work through the adapter). As the connection is quite fast, I am able to stream HD video, which probably explains the high data usage!

Nov – 30GB
Dec – 22GB
Jan – 50GB
Feb – 41GB
Mar – 35GB

Checking the bills I used over 7GB on the 7th January, no idea what was happening that day.

There are some aspects that I find frustrating, however these are more down to limitations imposed by others. For example Apple don’t allow you to download software updates, large app updates, movies and TV shows over mobile data, you have to use WiFi. However as my internet contract is much slower compared to the potential speeds I can get on 4G this means that it can be frustrating when I need to download large files.

In terms of signal, one of the reasons I chose Three was the coverage they have for my home address and over Bristol. In other places it has been somewhat sketchy, but was pleased to get a decent signal in Dublin for a conference (and no roaming charges) other places I wasn’t surprised as it was rather rural.

I will say I wasn’t disappointed with the signal of T-Mobile, especially when they merged with Orange. However the lack of an unlimited data contract on 4G meant that I didn’t see it as an option. Though 3G was okay, I do appreciate the faster speeds you get with 4G.

Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Haven no 4G, well not quite no 4G

Though I have been pleased with the 4G coverage I get from Three at home in Weston-super-Mare and at work in Bristol, as well as travelling. I was pleased with the coverage I got recently in Dublin, but I didn’t expect anything less.

Going on holiday down to Cornwall I did wonder if I would be getting any coverage at the Perran Sands Haven resort we would be staying at. Checking Ofcom’s coverage map it was apparent that there wasn’t much hope.

Perran Sands

Arriving at the resort I wasn’t too surprised that in the caravan there was no signal of any kind. I was a little surprised to find that climbing the sand dune next to us, I could get a 4G connection! Not too practical to climb a dune to stream Netflix.

There was supposed to be free wifi in the central hub, but as mentioned in a previous post about the Haven wifi, my expectations about this weren’t too high, and I never did manage to see the free wifi network let along connect to it.

I wasn’t too worried about having a connection to the internet whilst on holiday, I was quite happy to leave the Twitter for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to worry about e-mail, but it would have been nice to be able to stream some video, or read the news. So in the end I watched the occasionally bit of live television and I also read books and newspapers.

Reducing Roaming Costs

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Last week I was in Dublin for the LILAC 16 conference. The last time I was in Ireland was in 2012. Back then I was on an EE contract and when I arrived at Dublin Airport I tuned flight mode on, on my iPhone as I didn’t want to incur huge roaming charges. There was quite a few press stories (and still are now and again) on people taking their smartphones abroad and racking up huge charges in their phones because of the way modern phones use data. I spent the week using wifi and making the odd call home when needed.

Since then there has been new EU legislation on roaming charges. I also have moved away from EE and have a new contract with Three using an iPhone 6S Plus. The contract gives me unlimited data on the phone as well as unlimited texts and a generous number of minutes, well who uses their phones for making calls these days?

So before this visit to Dublin I checked the Three website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could use my phone abroad with no extra costs!

So before this visit to Dublin I checked the Three website and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could use my phone abroad with no extra costs!

Though I have an unlimited plan, there are some restrictions when using my plan abroad.

If you have all-you-can-eat data you can use up to 12GB. If you have all-you-can-eat texts you can send up to 5,000 texts.

So during my visit I was able to easily join the Three Ireland network, make calls, send texts and use data with no problems or worries. Though it has to be said the UCD enduros wifi network was excellent and faster than the Three 3G network, whilst the 3G was faster and more reliable than the hotel network. As I was there only three days, the 12GB allowance was more than enough.

After I got back I got a text from Three. According to them I saved £56.36 which was nice.

According to them I saved £56.36 which was nice.