THE BLOG

What the WiFi - Keeping Connected on Public Transport

24/07/2014 12:13 BST | Updated 21/09/2014 10:59 BST

We are living in an age where we do almost everything online, from work, communicating with friends (or strangers) and finding love to watching our favourite TV programmes. As such, internet access is available in more public locations than ever before. Rightly or wrongly, you can even get online in the great outdoors - tweeting your view from the top of Pen-Y-Fan Mountain in Wales, or from higher heights - Mt. Everest's base camp, which is now WiFi equipped.

So with increasing demand for WiFi, it will be music to the ears of those who regularly use trains in the UK that £90 million is being invested in improving online access.

It's no secret that the UK's railway lines are somewhat lacking in 'connectivity', with the majority of lines in the country defunct of train WiFi access. However, this is all about to change with superfast WiFi to be offered for FREE on the busiest commuter trains thanks to Network Rail's fine for poor punctuality. It was recently reported that a levy had been imposed on Network Rail for missing punctuality targets which is to be used to equip trains into London, Manchester, Brighton, Portsmouth, Bedford and Leeds with mobile broadband.

But it's not just our train lines that are lagging behind, buses and our underground don't fare much better. Not even half of the 260 underground stations in London provide WiFi access. Those that do receive it via Virgin Media and access is restricted between stations and in all honestly it's fairly patchy at the best of times. To top it off those that aren't Virgin Media customers or use mobile network providers such as EE and Vodaphone have to pay for access.

However, as much as we may be celebrating the fact that these improvements are due to be made, I am in no doubt that we will see increasing WiFi access on public transportation in the future. It will take transit companies some time to overcome the obstacles of WiFi adoption but things are moving...

So, in the meantime let's look at the best options for keeping you connected while travelling on public transport:

• Review your mobile provider - we often get tied into contracts with mobile phone providers before we are aware of all the options available to us. Take the time to think about what is important to you and ask about coverage and speed times before you commit to anything.

• What dongle? - those tapping away on their laptop while travelling long distances should take a look at what dongles work best for them, but as stated above this very much depends on the mobile provider and its accessibility.

• 4G it up? 4G mobile broadband connection aims to provide similar speeds to the broadband supplied to people's homes. This has been made available gradually across the UK and only newer phones will have this but with a 4G connection large files, such as video and audio, can be download much faster than with 3G.

• Travel first class - a little controversial maybe, but Wi-Fi access is free for First Class passengers with Virgin Media. However, there are a number of package options open to all standard passengers.

• Just enjoy the quiet - We all know the frustration of taking a call on the train and have it cut out mid conversation. It's the same with online access. But is it so bad to be disconnected? Why not take time for yourself and gather your thoughts. Rest your eyes or take in the views. We all live very busy lives in this day and age and it's ok to have a little quiet time sometimes... Enjoy it while you can - you won't always have the opportunity.