I was in standard class (no ample arm-rest space or on-train wireless broadband networks for me!). A great opportunity I thought to test a mobile broadband dongle on my Samsung NC10 netbook.
Does 3G broadband really work on the move? I was soon to find out.
Despite being a working on the move devotee (you can find me regularly hot-desking down my local Costa), I hadn’t actually bothered to see how well dongles worked on public transport. I was soon to find out if mobile broadband worked at Clapham Junction as well as it does at Castle Cary.
For the sake of this test, I will not be naming the mobile broadband provider that supplied the dongle because I did not have any other devices to hand from rival networks to test. Essentially I just wanted to test a standard device offered by one of the big mobile broadband names rather than compare networks. The device I used in this instance was a Huawei USB dongle device which claims speeds up to 3.5Mb from the provider.
How did it go? Well, the results were mixed. When going slow (mainly exiting and emerging stations), the speed was absolutely fine at around 2Mb and the connection was smooth. Even at a fair train speed – I would say around 60-70mph - the connection was acceptable and worked quite reliably without constant disconnection.
However, when I was rattling along at 70mph+ while my tea was sloshing about, the connection kept being lost and was really very unsmooth indeed. Coupled with zero connection and no 3G coverage in the rural areas I travelled through (you can blame this on the service not actually being available nationwide), it was far from perfect. Sadly, I had a good 45 minutes with no service whatsoever whilst travelling fast through some of the West Country’s most remote rolling hills.
My conclusion? If you’re not going TOO fast and there’s 3G coverage, mobile broadband works brilliantly. Ferarri F40 drivers who live on Dartmoor need not apply.