Last weekend I was in the ICE train from Cologne to Frankfurt and realized that there was a WLAN system installed in the train. I tried it and successfully used a WLAN connection at 300 km/h.
I already knew that the German train company offers WLAN at these specific train connection, but had no idea what it really was about. I had some news in my mind that the data you could access were only these stored on a server in the train – and this server would only cache some important news pages and the train company web pages.
However, when I was sitting in the ICE train I realized that there was an open WLAN available:
Of course I was curious what this was (and if it worked with my Linux/NetworkManager) I logged in and got an IP without any hassle. However, when I tried to access a page like Google I was referred automatically to a page which informed me that I had to pay to use the Internet access.
This was not too surprising, but the costs were: 15 minutes cost 2 Euro, but 3 hours cost 14 euro, and 24 hours cost 18 euro. Also, if you are a T-Mobile (mobile network provider) user you have better conditions because the network between the ICEs and the rest of the world is driven by T-Mobile.
While I think the prices are quite high my curiosity pushed me to purchase a 15 minutes pass. So I entered my credit card information – and got Internet access. It just worked, out of the box! And there were no limits to specific pages or something – everything worked. I chatted with a friend over ICQ, I downloaded all my feeds with Akregator and even had a quick look at the gitweb interface of freedesktop.org – it all worked.
And all the time a web page kept me up2date about the time left:
But frankly, there was one drawback every user should keep in mind using this connection: it was not encrypted. Not at all. But there were clear warnings about that so every user is warned when he/she uses the connection.
Despite the high price this experience was really exceptional: since this train travels with 300 km/h I used WLAN at this velocity, and this is a funny thought. Hey, they future has landed in that train.
Additionally, according to the train company they plan to introduce this technique – called “HotSpot service” – on all big ICE connections in the close future. At the end of 2007 the connection Hamburg – Frankfurt – Munich will already be connected. And I believe that several customers (especially the business people) will like this new opportunity to really work from within the train.