Knowledge Base

No internet on trains

Started by: brigi38
On: 01/05/2019 | 17:04
Replies: 5

by: brigi38
on: 01/05/2019 | 17:04

I rarely use my phone except to consult emails when away from home.  This works in a friend's house but not on intercity trains, where I get a 'No internet' message, although everyone around me seems to be using a phone.  Is this something to do with the deal I have arranged with Giffgaff?  I'm worried that, if I have an emergency in the car, I may also find that I have no signal.

Message 1 of 6
by: mangowalk
on: 01/05/2019 | 17:07
hi there
First thing to do is to check that your mobile data is switched ON in your phone settings!?
Message 2 of 6
by: giffgafful
on: 01/05/2019 | 17:08 edited: 01/05/2019 | 17:10

I think it is very network dependent whether you have Internet access on a train consistently. E.g. when travelling from Berkshire to London Waterloo, there are large stretches where I have no data signal. However, trains often now have onboard wifi connections on offer (not always free though), so you may want to give that a try when you need mobile data on a train and don't have coverage.


Edit: Here is an example:

Message 3 of 6
by: mrjeeves
on: 01/05/2019 | 17:12 edited: 01/05/2019 | 17:14

Hi @brigi38

Those other people might be using a different network, may not be on the internet, etc.

On trains in the UK, you often travel up to 140 mph. At that speed, it is almost impossible for your phone to keep a network connection with the phone masts nearby.

When a phone connects to a mobile phone mast, it broadcasts its information then waits for a reply from the phone mast. This is called a handshake. After that, it authenticates itself with the giffgaff/O2 network.

This handshake & authentication takes approximately 5-15 seconds. Often, at the speed that trains move, the phone needs to do this multiple times per minute as it quickly disconnects and connects with phone masts it passes. This is the reason that phones should be switched onto aeroplane mode when on a plane -- (when you're at a low altitude) you're simply going too fast to connect to the mast! It also causes a lot of stress on phone masts when you're quickly connecting and disconnecting.

It could also be a lack of service in the area around the train lines.

In a nutshell, you're going too fast on the train to maintain a stable connection with the phone masts. If you have an emergency in your car you will likely stop so will maintain this connection. There may also be a lack of phone masts in the vicinity of the train tracks (quite possible in the countryside). Most trains in my area (Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express) have onboard WiFi anyway (maximum 50 or 100 MB though) so you could give that a try.

NOTE: I have simplified some of this. If you're a telecoms expert, sorry!

If you still need help, feel free to reply to my message and mention me by adding "@mrjeeves" to your message.


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Message 4 of 6
by: mrjeeves
on: 01/05/2019 | 17:15
Hi @billchiz

Just thought I'd let you know that link is for a Netherlands train company Smiley Happy
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Message 6 of 6