The Digital Divide Starts in Rennes

When I recently traveled on a high speed train in France to the coast I experienced what the ‘digital divide’ really means. For the first one and a half hours of the trip on the 350 km long TGV line from Paris to Rennes, LTE coverage along the route was excellent. I don’t know if the train had on-board RF signal repeaters but since the signal was usually excellent I suspect so. Not only was the signal coverage good but I also managed to get quite some work done with web based services at 300 km/h. Upload and Download data rates were in the region of several megabits a second and I didn’t notice coverage holes that would have impeded with my work. That’s how it should be.

While the train was packed with people up until Rennes, most of them with their laptop open in front of them and a dozen or so Wifi tethering hotspots on-air, most people then got off which makes me wonder if most of them were business travelers that make the daily commute to Paris!? Once we left the station towards Brest at the coast it didn’t take very long until network coverage became very patchy and working online was no longer possible. Also, the high speed train was no longer on a high speed train track and it seems no efforts were so far undertaken to improve network coverage along the older railway line. From my point of view this shows very nicely what is possible from a connectivity point of view if network operators, the government and the train company work together.