The UK government expects all GB passenger train operators to provide free internet to passengers with new train franchises obliged to provide a minimum standard of free WiFi to all. By 2018 90% of rail passengers will have access to free WiFi. The Minister of State for Digital & Culture has promised 1 gigabit per second on key intercity routes by 2021. However, other government incentives aim to increase 4G and 5G connectivity in urban areas and along transport routes. This paper will explore why free WiFi is currently important and question its future as society moves into a post-WiFi era.
The arguments will be drawn from evidence from a collaborative research partnership with Chiltern Railways, who have been trialling different levels of free WiFi to its customers. The paper will explore how passengers connect to the internet (free WiFi or personal mobile data), the value of connecting to the internet on the move, and the practices for maintaining continuous connection. It will also set out the types of internet based activities. Evidence will be drawn from surveys, qualitative interviews, and other network data. In conclusion it will reflect on the implications of expectations for continuous connectivity.
Jain, J., Clayton, W., & Bartle, C. (2017, August). Connected by rail: A study of internet use on the train. Paper presented at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017