Shan Henderson: the director of mobile at Yahoo UK
Shan Henderson: the director of mobile at Yahoo UK
A view from Shan Henderson

Yahoo UK's director of mobile says patchy Wi-Fi is his secret work weapon

Great Western Railway's patchy Wi-Fi is its greatest asset, writes Yahoo UK's Shan Henderson.

It may appear, to seasoned commuters, optimistic to refer to the Wi-Fi on Great Western Railway trains as a "weapon", as the fundamental components of any weapon should reasonably be reliability and effectiveness.

The service can lay claim to neither of these credentials. It would be closer to the truth to describe it as patchy and frustrating.

That said, its shortcomings are its greatest asset because the speed at which it operates renders it suitable only for email, messaging and tweets. All other video and image-based demands are rebuffed.

Not for me the two-minute distraction of a firework display in a distant acquaintance’s garden, nor the hour-long immersion of a Netflix episode.

I am often asked, mainly by young people, about the benefits of living in rural Wiltshire when faced with a four-hour round trip every day. My default response concerning fresh air, space and the availability of pheasants is not the whole story.

The true benefit of several hours on a train every day, apart from Olympic standard armrest-jostling techniques and an almost complete absence of Playmobil horses, is that I am my own master.

I can respond to emails, research my day, write documents and other old-fashioned disciplines that form the bedrock of our digital civilisation.

On the few occasions when a faster connection speed is needed, the train fortunately passes through those glamorous 4G behemoths – Slough and Newbury. For a few fleeting seconds, I can listen to Low on Spotify, look at photos of old Saabs on Tumblr and check which of my friends have sold their businesses.

The quiet, Betjeman-esque rhythms of train travel, along with the gentle murmurs of Wi-Fi, provide a welcome contrast to the plangent pull of London and ensure I arrive at the office refreshed, informed and, more often than not, late.

Shan Henderson is the director of mobile at Yahoo UK.