Keeping subscribers connected on their journey to the coast
For those packing up their cars to drive to the coast, good mobile connectivity is an essential part of making the journey pleasant and stress-free.
July 19, 2021
It’s that time of year again when many of us think about turning on ‘Out of Office’ and setting off for a well-earned vacation. This year is rather different, however. Amid continuing concern about Covid-19, many more people plan to drive to their destination in 2021 rather than take a plane. While nervousness about flying continues, a recent survey found that 92% of Americans would be confident enough to take a road trip by September, a considerable increase in the number of people making longer car journeys than in Summer 2020.
For those packing up their cars to drive to the coast, (or to the mountains or the forest), good mobile connectivity is an essential part of making the journey pleasant and stress-free. Keeping kids as well as adult passengers entertained with movies and online games makes a boring journey go by much faster, and tempers can get frayed if the connection drops or becomes too slow. It’s no surprise that mobile network operators are becoming ever more focused on 5G network performance along major roads – if their coverage is perceived as patchy, subscribers may begin looking for a new contract while they are relaxing in the sun.
Several carriers are already rising to this challenge. In the USA, for instance, T-Mobile recently announced that its 5G network now covers 92% of the total miles of Interstate Highway across America – a full one-third more miles than its closest competitor. Although all the major carriers offer almost ubiquitous 4G coverage, benchmarked by Ookla, it is the faster, low latency 5G connectivity that makes the real difference for a smooth video streaming or immersive gaming experience.
Of course, the need for good connectivity extends beyond just vacation travel. With the gradual relaxation of social distancing and work-from-home directives, business trips are making a comeback, but again the proportion of such journeys made by road compared with those by air is likely to stay higher than pre-Covid numbers for some time yet.
Rail travel is also regaining popularity for both business and leisure travel. As it offers more opportunity for catching up on work while traveling, connectivity is a huge issue in attracting business travelers to take the train rather than to use any other mode of transportation. This is a particularly hot issue in Europe, where high-speed rail has long been a popular alternative to flying or driving for the business traveler. In Germany, for example, Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom have recently announced a collaboration to improve mobile connectivity across rail routes, pledging to eliminate coverage gaps along all long-distance and regional railway lines by 2026 at the latest. Deutsche Telekom specifically wants to supply all major rail routes with data rates of more than 200Mbit/s by the end of 2024. The joint announcement by the two companies acknowledged that a train needs to be a mobile office and conference room as well as a place to relax, and that almost all passengers already use the Internet when possible while they are on the train. They point out that seamless mobile coverage is essential to enable rail travelers to make phone or video calls, surf the Internet or stream media with the best of network quality.
So how can network operators achieve this ideal of high-quality 5G coverage across all major road and rail routes, and thus ensure they can maintain their competitive advantages by giving subscribers the exceptional mobility experience they demand? Installing additional cell sites is only part of the answer. They also need intelligent real-time analytics that can provide a 24/7 insight into the actual mobile experience of each and every subscriber on the network, whether they are driving off on vacation or taking the train to a business meeting, just as much as when they are walking down the street or sitting in their office.