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Thread: Train travel and cellular data

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    Train travel and cellular data

    I wonder about, and tried a web search to learn how is the use of cellular data when on moving train. I have not found much. Anyone have anything to say about how good is cellular data when you're on a moving passenger train? The assumption is, wi-fi would not be available. Not all passenger trains offer wi-fi to the travelers.

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    I'd have to guess it's fairly spotty, since cell sites originally went up to service well-traveled roadways and larger population centers. The build out from there went where the money is.

    When a train leaves a population center I would imagine it is quite hit or miss, unless for some reason that route lies next to a highway, or there could be an effort in some cases to provide coverage when the economic gains are to a carrier's advantage.

    But also realize, an equally large factor is that you're contained inside a metal tube, with only windows allowing radio signal penetration. Even if the route had coverage it would not (could not) be optimum.

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    What whacker said makes a lot of sense. The last time I was on a cross-country type passenger train was back when I was still using PPC paygo, so the cell phone didn't get used then.

    One exception to the above comments might be for passenger trains on major commuter routes, although those trains might have WiFi, so that point might be moot.

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    Another Search session, and a bit longer and altering some search phrasing, allows this site:

    https://www.amtraktrains.com/threads...he-rails.3300/

    So now time for me to read and find what insights that discussion can show.

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    It depends a lot on coverage in the area where you're riding. The act of being on a moving train doesn't affect cellular data much in my experience (no more than being in a car on the freeway) but a lot of lines are off the beaten path a bit and so coverage can suffer because of that.

    That said, I travel fairly regularly on Amtrak (particularly between St. Paul, MN and Chicago, IL) with T-Mobile and while there's certainly dead areas, I have coverage more often than not. There's a gap in Wisconsin that's quite annoying, but otherwise I'll usually have coverage with drops for a minute or two every once in a while. My backup phone (Tracfone on Verizon network) seems to have coverage more often, but I don't use the data on it so I'm not sure how well it works in practice. I wouldn't rely on having solid enough coverage for a video call or constant VPN access outside of major cities, but connectivity is pretty good in my experience except in the most rural of areas; I took the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks and on there coverage was quite unreliable and infrequent. However, that's a train where you want to be looking at the scenery anyways.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joseg2016 View Post
    Another Search session, and a bit longer and altering some search phrasing, allows this site:

    https://www.amtraktrains.com/threads...he-rails.3300/

    So now time for me to read and find what insights that discussion can show.
    Hmmm...that thread is from 2005...a bit outdated!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boz1 View Post
    Hmmm...that thread is from 2005...a bit outdated!
    One could guess that conditions have improved recently. I feel like @jebr gave good advice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jebr View Post
    It depends a lot on coverage in the area where you're riding. The act of being on a moving train doesn't affect cellular data much in my experience (no more than being in a car on the freeway) but a lot of lines are off the beaten path a bit and so coverage can suffer because of that.

    That said, I travel fairly regularly on Amtrak (particularly between St. Paul, MN and Chicago, IL) with T-Mobile and while there's certainly dead areas, I have coverage more often than not. There's a gap in Wisconsin that's quite annoying, but otherwise I'll usually have coverage with drops for a minute or two every once in a while. My backup phone (Tracfone on Verizon network) seems to have coverage more often, but I don't use the data on it so I'm not sure how well it works in practice. I wouldn't rely on having solid enough coverage for a video call or constant VPN access outside of major cities, but connectivity is pretty good in my experience except in the most rural of areas; I took the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks and on there coverage was quite unreliable and infrequent. However, that's a train where you want to be looking at the scenery anyways.
    I have taken Amtrak from Greensboro to NY. Great coverage on AT&T. I have taken Amtrak from Chicago west and coverage was poor in many places.

    Sent from my SM-T510 using HoFo mobile app

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    I had good coverage most of the way between Chicago and Emeryville with ATT and Verizon. There are a few dead areas in the Rockies and Nevada. Remember the Highways followed the railroads thru mountain passes, canyons and across the desert so that for long stretches I-70, US-6 and I-80 are within view of the train. In the east I cant remember not having coverage on the Lake
    Shore Limited, Capitol Limited or the Silver Fleet down the east coast. Most Corridor (California/Midwest/NEC/NC) trains have Wifi, but it is slow and cellular based with the Modem and AP located in the Lounge Car.
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    This part, I do not really understand what means:
    Wifi, but it is slow and cellular based with the Modem and AP located in the Lounge Car.
    What is "Modem and AP"? Do all the amtrak trains in western u.s. have this "Lounge Car"? And in fact what I seem to have been finding by reading online and on site Amtrak, not all trains do have wi-fi; or it is on some trains only available in the sleeper cars; but much of this was confusing when I tried reading online information about wi-fi on trains.

    "Slow and cellular based" ---- not sure what is. Do/does a train have a ? cellular receiver device to receive cellular data and then broadcast this throughout the train or the car? For passengers to have a wi-fi supply?

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    Kneemeister has actual experience and knowledge but in general he’s saying that the WiFi on the train uses a modem to connect a cellular network just as your phone does. Then an Access Point (AP) is hooked up to the modem to provide the WiFi signal that you and other passengers would connect to to get internet access.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hooked View Post
    Kneemeister has actual experience and knowledge but in general he’s saying that the WiFi on the train uses a modem to connect a cellular network just as your phone does. Then an Access Point (AP) is hooked up to the modem to provide the WiFi signal that you and other passengers would connect to to get internet access.
    Sorry I wasn't on here for awhile. yes that is what i was trying to say. The shorter distance trains have what is essentially a WiFi Hotspot, in one of the lockers in the Lounge car (The Snack Car). there is not an access point in each car. Because it is a shared cellular service, it tends to be rather slow. Its good for email, Facebook, twitter etc. but don't try to stream on it. The Western trains using the Superliner (double deck) cars you are going to have to provide your own connection. Except in the Mountains or remote desert, coverage was at least usable most of the times.
    the worst cell coverage was on the trains west out of DC.

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