Free Wi-Fi on buses

An increasing number of bus operators are providing ‘free Wi-Fi’ on selected buses and services across the West Midlands, such as National Express West Midlands’ “Platinum” and Arriva’s “Sapphire” services.

A recent post on our Facebook page asked the question “Is free WIFI something you use? Does it make you more or less likely to use the bus?” to which there have been mixed responses, which I’d like to address in this article.

A common complaint is about the ‘allowance’ given, in particular on NX Bus’ Platinum services. I agree it is not very high, but people need to understand the aim of the service and how it works.

First of all, remember that this is a ‘free’ service, and there is no charge for using it. It is intended for passengers to catch up on emails, general browsing of the internet, light social media use etc. It is not provided for people to stream videos, such as BBC iPlayer or Youtube.

Anyone who already has a smartphone or tablet device no doubt has ‘mobile broadband’ access, or ‘data plan’ as part of their contract, or paid for in addition to pay-as-you-go charges, so will be already aware of the costs and allowances given to them by their mobile operator.

On-bus Wi-Fi internet access is also provided through mobile broadband; I don’t know the exact costs and allowances given to the bus operators as part of their contract, but this is the reason that limitations do apply.

Imagine sharing your phone’s wi-fi with some other users, your ‘data allowance’ that you pay for! And then somebody else decides to start watching last night’s Eastenders on catch-up; your browsing gets much slower as you lose bandwidth and then before you know it, your monthly data allowance has been used up!

So you can see that having limitations makes it fair for ALL users of the service.

Personally, I don’t bother with the ‘free wi-fi’, as my new phone contract gives me a very generous monthly allowance of 12gb, and I notice that a lot of new phone contracts are coming with ever greater monthly data allowances.

I see ‘free wi-fi’ being provided as a bonus extra for passengers; I will get on a bus regardless of whether it offers this service or not.

So to those complaining about the small allowance given, remember this is a ‘free’ service, and if you want more then use your own mobile data plan!


About WMBU

Stu is the founder of this West Midlands Bus Users website.
He is not a bus enthusiast, but as a regular passenger takes an interest in public transport related matters, having relied on buses to get around for over twenty-five years now.

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