3G at 300 km/h

Faintly similing as usual with a bit of sarcasm over the worthless Wi-Fi Internet access in Thalys trains I noticed that French and Belgian network operators have made their homework in recent years and have  installed 3G network coverage along the high speed train line. So I turned off the lousy on-board Wi-Fi and switched over to 3G to see how it fares at speeds of 300 km/h.

To my surprise it did really well. In most places between Paris and Brussels, I could get speeds of around half a megabit per second and web surfing and emailing felt hyper-fast. Only a slight hassle: At this speed you don't see the border sign between France and Belgium, i.e. you don't quite know when to reselect to another network.

There are two take aways from this: The first one is that this proves that UMTS works well at 300 km/h. And the second: Where there is a will, there's a way (and coverage)!

2 thoughts on “3G at 300 km/h”

  1. I assume much of the coverage along French and Belgian high-speed rail lines is based on UMTS900 which is compatible even with older intrain repeaters that don’t support UMTS2100 yet (like those in German ICE trains), due to its higher range requires fewer cells than UMTS2100 and so can be rolled out by soley sharing existing, already fibre-connected GSM-R BTS locations instead of erecting new towers.
    Unfortunately the fragmentation of the 900MHz band in Germany and the resistance against a refarming is hindering the deployment of UMTS to this band.
    Another issue in Germany is that of obtaining approval from the Federal Railway Agency (Eisenbahnbundesamt) for sharing infrastructure that is critical to railway safety with telcos. I heard Deutsche Bahn (German railways) has faced unexpected difficulties to market their ubiquitous fibre assets to third parties because of these bureaucratic barriers.

  2. The Wifi on Thales often has technical difficulties so I don’t usually even bother trying to connect to their Wifi service. I’m not surprised that 3G was as good.

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