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.