WiFi on longer routes

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nendee

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Im planning on a longer overnight trip, but really need decent WiFi. When I took the auto train from Sanford to DC - the WiFi was simple unusable. Is this a common theme among longer, non Acela trains?
 

PVD

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It's decent along the NEC on the NER also. I've used it on Empire Service across NY and it is decent.
from Amtrak: Journey with WiFi | Amtrak
Many people use their phone as a "hotspot" but in areas with no cell service there is nothing to share. Remember, it is shared bandwith, don't expect to stream movies....
 

pennyk

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Over the weekend, I traveled on the Silver Star and Silver Meteor between Orlando and DC. Amtrak wifi worked now and then. Most of the time, I used my own data.
 

nendee

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I don’t know why it was so bad on the auto train. Unusable even when I did a 4am test. I think about doing some work and having fast, reliable WiFi would be a huge selling point.
 

adamj023

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Amtrak just shares bandwidth for its trains. Existing providers will be using satellite in the future which will work on regular devices so coverage will improve on applicable plans. Coverage is superior on your own data plan as Amtrak will have shared service at a fixed speed which is shared and will be slower and less reliable than having your own connectivity.

I used AT&T Wireless on the Auto train without issues and it wasn’t recently. It worked when I wanted to use it. A small few areas only connected at 4G at the time instead of LTE. AT&T coverage has since improved nationwide and speeds and coverage would be even better. Verizon is also know to have good coverage and T-Mobile has improved as well.
 
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jebr

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Existing providers will be using satellite in the future which will work on regular devices so coverage will improve on applicable plans.
The average cell phone almost certainly won't have satellite capacity anytime soon, at least with any sort of reliability compared to existing networks. There's certainly options available for satellite phones, but they're quite expensive. As for cell tower backhaul, satellite is already used today when needed, though fiber is preferred (and will continue to be) and microwave is currently preferred over satellite if fiber isn't available.

I'm also not sure we'll see satellite backhaul on Amtrak anytime soon - there's issues with needing a clear view of certain portions of the sky, and tracks are often obstructed. There's also clearance issues depending on how big the satellite dish needs to be.

Coverage is superior on your own data plan as Amtrak will have shared service at a fixed speed which is shared and will be slower and less reliable than having your own connectivity.
While speeds will almost certainly be better with your own plan, coverage may not be. If you have a T-Mobile plan but Amtrak's wifi uses Verizon, for example, then Amtrak's wifi may have better coverage since there are areas where Verizon has coverage but T-Mobile doesn't. Ideally Amtrak would have data plans with all of the major networks, both to reduce dead areas and to provide increased bandwidth when multiple providers are available.
 

adamj023

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The satellite service will work with existing devices, not specialized equipment. Lets say you have an iphone. Only update needed would be a carrier update to the latest version if the device doesn’t have the newest one. The satellite service broadcasts the service where device sees it as existing wireless bands so your phone will be able to receive them. As this service will be available from the wireless carriers, I would assume Amtrak will include this into their existing Wifi services as well. It will already be part of the network but it could be an extra cost service. Pricing has not been released yet.

Remember, bandwidth costs money on hotspot plans and its unlikely that Amtrak would have unlimited data without speed throttling as well as hotspot data plans are very costly for data usage.
 
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Tlcooper93

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I find on Lake Shore Limited and Silver service WiFi is ok. I was able to download episodes while in meals and watch a few in the evening.

Along the NEC, WiFi is pretty ok, but then again, cell data is good there too.

Which train are you considering?
 

nendee

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I find on Lake Shore Limited and Silver service WiFi is ok. I was able to download episodes while in meals and watch a few in the evening.

Along the NEC, WiFi is pretty ok, but then again, cell data is good there too.

Which train are you considering?
I’m thinking about the LSL from Springfield to Chicago. But that’s not as critical for WiFi since I’ll be sleeping most of the time. A bucket list ride on the Southwest Chief is the train of most concern.
 

Tlcooper93

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I’m thinking about the LSL from Springfield to Chicago. But that’s not as critical for WiFi since I’ll be sleeping most of the time. A bucket list ride on the Southwest Chief is the train of most concern.
Unfortunately, Western LD trains don't have wifi. On my Zephyr trip I had service occasionally, but most of the time it was no service, especially in the mountains.
 

Bob Dylan

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Unfortunately, Western LD trains don't have wifi. On my Zephyr trip I had service occasionally, but most of the time it was no service, especially in the mountains.
You'll only have spotty Service along Major Highways and while in Biggerv Cities on the Western Trains.

Lots of the Small Towns in the West have no service from the Major Carriers, but Roaming on Local Networks is available in some.

As Tlcooper93 said, there's lots of areas in the West where there's No There There, since there's so few people!
 

adamj023

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Ok, hotspot it is. I suppose air travel has unobstructed satellite signal to be able to offer pay or free WiFi.
Airlines use wireless or satellite depending on the aircraft and airline if they offer wifi.
 

Ryan

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You're going to have to be a lot more specific in your language to make sense, since satellite is wireless.

I assume that by "wireless" you mean "terrestrial cellular", and claiming that with nothing more than a carrier update current iPhone hardware will be able to receive service from satellites instead of terrestrial towers?
 

adamj023

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You'll only have spotty Service along Major Highways and while in Biggerv Cities on the Western Trains.

Lots of the Small Towns in the West have no service from the Major Carriers, but Roaming on Local Networks is available in some.

As Tlcooper93 said, there's lots of areas in the West where there's No There There, since there's so few people!
The new satellite service working on existing phones will fix these issues in the future. But also there are a of smaller areas which have wireless coverage but you need a plan which require roaming in those areas to use them and not all plans have these as different carriers have different carrier agreements and some plan types exclude roam.
 

PVD

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Some people, myself included, have plans (as well as phones) that allow "tethering" where the phone may serve as a hotspot. Depending on your plan and your data needs, this can be more than suitable.
 

adamj023

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You're going to have to be a lot more specific in your language to make sense, since satellite is wireless.

I assume that by "wireless" you mean "terrestrial cellular", and claiming that with nothing more than a carrier update current iPhone hardware will be able to receive service from satellites instead of terrestrial towers?
Not sure what was confusing. If you have a regular wireless phone like Iphone which is a non satellite phone, you will be able to pick up the frequencies as if it was broadcasting on existing wireless bands that the Iphone uses.
 

Chatter163

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Two weeks ago I had almost no problems on the Crescent, Empire Service, and Lake Shore Limited, all viewliners. The Capitol Limited, a super liner, had no WiFi.
 

Rasputin

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I’m thinking about the LSL from Springfield to Chicago. But that’s not as critical for WiFi since I’ll be sleeping most of the time. A bucket list ride on the Southwest Chief is the train of most concern.
On one of our trips, the Southwest Chief did have WiFi service. I believe this was on our round trip on the Chief in May 2017. The sleeping car attendant posted the password in the car. I am not sure what service if any was provided to coach passengers. My wife used it to work on some projects during the trip and sometimes it worked well but other times not at all. It was basically unreliable but was very helpful when it worked and my wife was able to get some stuff done as long as she was patient.

I understand that this service was an experiment designed by Amtrak management in California. I don't know if it was on other western trains at the time or not.

As I recall, on our trip the following year (2018) on the Chief, the service was no longer being offered.
 

FrensicPic

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Souvenir from the Coast Starlight five or six years ago. The reverse side of the card was "Hello My Name is"
Each SCA set up a "MiFi" hotspot (Verizon, I believe) in their sleeper with one additional in the PPC. As has been mentioned many times, it worked when there was cellular service. The device was located near the center of the car. At the end of the trip, an announcement was made for the SCA's to turn in the devices. Haven't seen this again since then.
In the PPC, one of the SCAs set up a laptop and GPS displaying a map showing our progress.
2021-07-14-0001.jpg
 
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