Thalys Improves On-Board Internet Access – Somewhat

5 years ago I wrote an obituary on the Thalys train on-board Wifi system. After a brilliant start in 2007 the system was working well for a while before it more and more became unusable. Fortunately, while cellular coverage on the German part along the tracks was and still is lousy, mobile network operators in Belgium and France set up 3G and later LTE coverage close to the tracks. As a result I stopped using on-board connectivity and rather connected to the outside network which works well even at speeds of 300 km/h. When I recently took a trip to Paris, however, I noticed that Thalys has started advertising a ‘new and improved’ on-board Internet and that the classic satellites domes on the top of the trains are gone. So I gave it another try to see if things had really changed.

And indeed they have. Based on the round trip delay times and the missing satellite dome they have moved to a land based system. Web browsing on ports 80 and 443 and email worked well and the free service is throttled to 1 Mbit/s. Passengers in 2nd class are limited to 100 MB per trip which isn’t much if you start video streaming but should suffice for many other things.

What I wasn’t quite happy about, however, was that other applications are severely throttled. While I had no problem establishing a UDP based OpenVPN connection to the standard port or a TCP based SSH proxy tunnel to a non-standardized port but in both cases traffic through the tunnel was too slow to be usable. So much for all bytes being equal. How about net neutrality, Thalys?