Amtrak long distance (overnight train) WiFi performance

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In 2013-2015, Amtrak trialed WiFi in their long-distance overnight trains by having Verizon MiFi (the handheld size portable) units put in each car’s SCA (Sleeping Car Attendant) roomette and in the Lounge Car. These MiFi were on the unlimited plan, and provided basic, reasonable service. They actually provided better service than on the highly overloaded Northeast Regional train WiFi.

Amtrak overnight train Wifi equipment installed in 2015-2016 brings real improvement to the Wifi performance.


Equipment will vary over time, but here are some photos of Amfleet coach installs.

Two workers installing 4G antenna on train roof blue 4G radios with cabling in train Roof panel down in Amtrak coach car as worker installs WiFi AP
Photos courtesy Amtrak 2014.

In Viewliner sleeper cars, the WiFi AP antenna is installed in the middle of the car, near rooms 4/5. The AP MAC was from Zebra Technologies (a subsidiary of Extreme Networks, Inc.). Since in general Amtrak cars (coaches, sleepers) are about 26 meters (85 feet) long, this is a reasonable maximum range.

There is 5 GHz BSSID with hidden SSID at 20 MHz bandwidth. AmtrakConnect is 802.11n on 2.4 GHz at 20 MHz bandwidth, MCS-15 (130 Mbps) 2x2 spatial streams (at least, my hardware is 2x2).

Measured Performance

Tested with

Latency (ms) Upload (Mbps) Download (Mbps)
50 - 100 0 - 8 0 - 12

The Acela Express Wifi is 2x2 antenna, MCS-9, 40 MHz as of Fall 2017. This yields a 400 Mbps raw connection rate.

VPN connections do drop periodically, which might be annoying for you. I would avoid watching video, but if you do, consider low quality (144p or 240p) video to avoid sucking up too much of the train LTE bandwidth. Also informally I believe they rate limit devices (via MAC address) that use too much bandwidth, so be glad for what you get.

The network traffic is tunneled through to New York as with other Amtrak WiFi service.





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