WiFi Train a Comin’

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Unstrung and WiFiNetNews report that Nomad Digital has been selected by Virgin Trains as preferred bidder for passenger WiFi internet services on board its high-speed trains.

The new service, which will be launched in 2007, will allow passengers to read emails, browse the web and download digital data, such as music and games, throughout their journey on West Coast Main Line routes.

Nomad’s mobile communication system links the train to trackside wireless base stations, with radios located every few miles. WiMAX provides continuous broadband connectivity — even through tunnels or underground.

QinetiQ Rail developed the Connected Carriage system that uses every available Wide Area Network (WAN) to create the best possible train-to-shore link. It employs WiMAX, bi-directional satellite terminals, Wi-Fi and cellular networks, then selects the best available connection so passengers can enjoy a continuous broadband connection throughout their journey. QinetiQ’s ERA G2 satellite antenna is just 85mm high.

Working with Caltrain, which operates trains between San Francisco and San Jose, Intel and Nomad also demonstrated their technology along a 16-mile section of track. The “proof of concept” for wireless broadband on Caltrain commuter rail service has been successfully completed. With continuous high-speed Internet access at train speeds of 79 mph over 16 miles of track between the Millbrae and Palo Alto stations, Caltrain claims it is the first rail service in the U.S. to provide broadband services.

Now Caltrain is seeking funding to roll out the system along the full 50 miles of track to provide its 35,000 passengers daily with broadband connectivity.

For some time, Caltrain has been seeking technology solutions for providing high-speed wireless access that would give Caltrain passengers uninterrupted Internet links onboard moving trains. Sensoria, together with Nomad Digital and Redline enabled commuters to utilize WiFi connections inside the train.

Caltrain runs from San Francisco through the heart of Silicon Valley. The proof of concept was deemed a success when multiple people surfed the Internet simultaneously, watched streaming video, answered e-mail and completed a large file download all while maintaining continuous connectivity at broadband speed.

  • Redline provided a seamless broadband wireless backbone based on WiMAX technology (IEEE 802.16-2004) using their AN-50e which operates in the license exempt 5.470 – 5.725 GHz and 5.725 – 5.825 GHz bands.
  • Nomad provided its innovative mobile communication system which links the train to trackside wireless base stations, with radios located every few miles along the rail line.
  • Sensoria’s EnRoute500 wireless mesh routers provide WiFi connectivity inside the train.

With the proof of concept successfully completed, Caltrain will continue work on engineering that’s required before the wireless access can be implemented along the entire rail mainline.

Connecting to the backbone may soon get lots cheaper — especially for metropolitan area bus and rail systems. Just slip a 3G or Mobile WiMAX card into a mobile wireless router (like the Linksys unit below).

Bingo. DailyWireless has more on Train Surfing and Transportation’s Big Show.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, September 21st, 2006 at 7:54 am .