Can't view memes on London-Southampton train? It's the worst line for mobile coverage

Signal still off the rails

The London Waterloo to Southampton train line is today named the worst major commuting route for frustrated wage slaves desperate to get a signal on their way to and from the office.

Using data from the major networks' performance last year, a report by analysts IHS Markit's RootMetrics ranked eight of the UK's most popular transit lines to the capital on the basis of speed, reliability, data, text and call quality.

The London to Southampton line's generally poor rankings were due to slow median upload speeds from O2, Three, and Vodafone; relatively low rates of connecting to the network by each operator in data reliability testing; and poor blocked and dropped call rates from all four operators.

In terms of median download speeds on the line, EE scored highest at 17.2Mbps, followed by Vodafone with 6.03Mbps, Three at 4.25Mbps, and O2 at 2.92Mbps.

The Paddington to Reading route got the best performance from each network. All four operators delivered excellent data and call reliability, and the operators' data speeds were also generally strong across the board, the report stated.

EE scored fast average download speeds of 28.8 Mbps, followed by Vodafone (8.12Mbps), Three (6.42Mbps) and O2 (5.63Mbps).

The Paddington to Heathrow line came second, followed by the Kings Cross to Cambridge Station route, and the Liverpool Street to Chelmsford journey.

Coming in at fifth was London Victoria to Brighton, with Euston to Glasgow ranked sixth and Euston to Birmingham in seventh.

Scott Stonham, head of strategic partnerships and transformative technologies at IHS, noted that problems remained due to a lot of customers on a fast moving vehicle attempting to connect to the network, causing high congestion – while sitting in a metal tube.

"But even if they were standing still in middle of a field it would be difficult to get a signal," he added.

Other factors included the Waterloo route having a lot of deep cuttings and tunnels.

Stonham noted that spectrum share undoubtedly contributed to coverage: EE has the highest spectrum share at 42 per cent.

However, O2's coverage is set to increase significantly – the operator won all of the next lot of immediately available 4G spectrum in Ofcom's recent auction.

Last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport put out a call for evidence on how it can improve the connectivity over the UK's rail network.

Stonham said that even though the London-Paddington line scored well for coverage, "there is still a lot to do".

"There is a lot of focus from the government on improving experience on railways, and that will help the whole industry. But one of the complicated factors [when it comes to investment] is what is the business model and what will pay." ®

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