On the same day that a Japanese Maglev train broke its own record to reach a speed of 603kph, an online report claimed that an Irish train had also entered the record books for "the World’s slowest WiFi connection".
As the Maglev train and Japanese engineering rose to prominence on global news outlets, the story of its antithesis in Ireland was broken by the "Waterford Whispers News."
The online article quoted an irate passenger on the 7.20am train from Portlaoise to Dublin, who claimed he had to wait until the service reached the Irish capital to finally complete the sending of an e-mail.
Of course, the story in the WWN is clearly untrue, or at least unprovable; no global attempt has been made to systematically measure and compare on-board WiFi connection speeds.
Yet it does highlight a major problem for all train operators currently offering free WiFi or contemplating doing so. Whilst passengers were once happy to get any sort of Internet access, they will make no end of a fuss now if the link is slow, or perceived to be slow.
There is no evidence that WiFi on Iarnród Éireann trains, or even on that particular route, is worse than any other services, but the story clearly struck a chord. The WWN article later jokingly refers to two iPhone users assaulting a café owner on being told they had to pay for the WiFi connection, another bugbear for wireless enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, the fact that several commentators defended Irish Rail’s WiFi speeds will go largely un-noticed. One commuter even replied that, ironically, he often read the online version of the WWN from start to finish doing the trip.
The problems of offering WiFi services on board trains at speeds that customers find acceptable will be one of the main focuses of this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference – Train Communications Systems 2015 – www.TrainComms2015.com – sponsored by Icomera, Nomad, 21Net, Fluidmesh, BA Infrastructure and Radwin.