Thursday, 27 August 2009

How mobile a mobile broadband may be?

Quite recently I had a chance to travel by train from London towards Manchester and back. The journey was not bad in fact - first class on Virgin Trains does the trick... even more when you have free wi-fi included and power sockets for almost all seats.

So does it work at all? Well - quite frankly yes, it does. Even at the cruise speed it's quite stable, but don't expect broadband speeds! I was wondering how it's done, because the hot-spot is provided by
T-Mobile, so most likely something like 3G broadband type deal, shared among all passengers. Let's see where we are...

Yes - that is T-Mobile IP block and we have a proxy! Surprised? Shouldn't be - having not very reliable connection (as I consider 3G to be) using proxies is the only reasonable way to do it. OpenVPN did the trick of course and I got where I needed to be, but it was very very slow and sometimes dropped out. My 3G USB stick (also from T-Mobile) didn't even log into the network inside the car, despite being in 'improved reception area', so the provided link is based on better hardware and surely has better antenna :-) The same happened for mobile phones - some had full signal strength while others had nothing - that's the way it is with RF.

To wrap it up - this "mobile broadband" is really quite mobile! If you want to read some articles on the web, catch up with blogs, maybe access webmail if you really have to (over open wireless anyway), the link they provide will do. Actually I did a bit of work on the train - almost like I was in the office (except in the office there is nobody to serve lunch and drinks at my desk). It seems like the days when we wasted a couple of hours on the train are are now gone - finally.

Just remember - those networks are 'good to have' but far away from being secure. Who usually travels first class and uses laptops/pda's on the move? How hard it is to sniff open wireless? How much information about you is 'leaked' every time you use public hot-spots? There is more questions like that, so please think before you connect and enjoy your journey :-)