Sunday 12 August 2012

Review of Tim Hortons Wi-Fi Hotspot in Sault Ste. Marie

I tried the new “free” Tim Hortons Wi-Fi hotspot offering  at the Trunk Road location in Sault Ste Marie on Saturday,  11 Aug 12 around 4:30 pm.  I used a Bell Samsung Galaxy S II.

The handset detected the availability of the hotspot immediately and connected. When I opened the browser application, I was offered two choices: - Tim Hortons Wi-Fi Plus and Free Wi-Fi. The former required a registration process involving a name and email address. There is no additional information on the Tim Hortons’ website but other sources state the registration for each device is a one-time requirement and my handset will be recognized when I try to connect in the future.

I was able to access the Internet immediately by selecting the free option but I am not sure if this is available to all users. The hotspot is supplied by Bell and Bell customers get “free” access to a number of “free” networks. Since the “free” networks are available to all users regardless of their home network, I am not sure what Bell is offering their customers except they claim Bell devices are recognized and no password sign-in is required.

I followed the registration for the Wi-Fi Plus option. This required I get access to my e-mail account to acknowledge receipt of the verification message sent by . Once I verified the registration, the connection performed well.

I conducted a number of speed tests using Mobile on both the Wi-Fi connection and a Bell HSPA+ 3G/4G connection with the following average of five results.

0.60 Mbps
4.62 Mbps
0.21 Mbps
3.28 Mbps

I am not sure why the Wi-Fi readings were so slow. It may be the system is still being fine-tuned as the publically announced in-service date is Sep 2012. Also, none of the Sault Ste. Marie outlets are listed as Wi-Fi enabled on the main Tim Hortons’ website.

Noted added 01 Sep 12:  I retested the Wi-Fi speeds today and consistently received around 2 Mbps download and about .60 Mbps upload. 

Nevertheless, the access was sufficient to check e-mail and surf a few websites. I had no problem accessing the International bridge camera to check on traffic tailbacks.  I did not try a VoIP call, but the speeds are very close to the limits for acceptable voice quality although the ping times were low in the 50 ms range.

While the service may not be acceptable to the power user, I feel the service will satisfy the basic needs of most users and save valuable bytes from their data plan cap.


  1. Right on and thanks for the added speedtest data! Yea I wasn't expecting to see +4 Meg download speeds considering its free however the nice thing is...its free! Imagine being in the US (assuming they are on board) and firing up nettalk to call home Desbarats that will good down good with a double double.


    1. I seldom if ever use my phone on the 3G/4G networks while in the US. In my opinion, the roaming and long distance fees are just too costly on a casual use basis and I don't use it enough to get one of the outside Canada plans available from most carriers.

      I rely on the rapidly growing number of free hotspots available. The list is almost endless. A lot of the Interstate highway rest stops are equipped, especially is they have a welcome or tourist centre, or "center" seeing as it is the US, collocated. Also all the MacDonald's and Starbucks have hotspots as do a number of the other chain restaurants. Even the smallest town is likely to have a public library with public Wi-Fi access.

      Once I get access to a hotspot, I use Skype to do the calling I need to do to anywhere in world. The last time I renewed my subscription it only cast $13.00 for a year or $30.00 if I wanted a Skype number. There are also totally free VoIP applications available such as netTALK (, as noted in the comment above.

      This approach works very well for me since I usually stop every two hours or so for a rest breakfast when I am travelling and I can take care of my telephones needs such as check on voice mail and make reservations. And it is also safer since I am safely parked and off the highway.

      The same approach works for overnight enroute stops and extended periods at a final destination.

      I have also used broadband home phone while travelling. You read about my experiences using this approach at this blog (

  2. If only the verification service worked? I have been trying for a month to get it to validate. The server is always down. Finally called tech support today. Was told by someone that sounded like they were from a land far away that I had to call from a TH to get tech support? Strange system!!!!!

    1. I was in the same location last week and could not even get a Wi-Fi signal. I hope they get it sorted out so it is consistent. The advertised in service date is still Sep 2012 so I am optimistic they will get it sorted out by then.
      There is a MacDonald's in the US I use about once a month for a Wi-Fi hotspot. About a year ago it used to be around 256 kbps download. Since this spring it has been above 3 Mbps all the time.

    2. So there is no charge for the wifi plus???

    3. I used it as recently as Saturday, 26 Apr 14. It worked well and was free.