Cisco and ScotRail are to trial 300Mbps Wi-Fi services on trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow as part of a wider goal of improving connectivity on Britain’s railways.
Project SWIFT, developed with CGI, Network Rail Telecoms and Wittos, uses existing trackside fibre and masts to relay the signal, while additional infrastructure will be installed along the route.
A number of train operators, including ScotRail, already offer on-board Wi-Fi, but Cisco claims a third of all Internet requests during journeys fail. It also believes cellular coverage has failed to improve matter because of patchy coverage and tunnels on routes.
“Project SWIFT embodies the art of the possible. If the UK is to truly benefit from what digital technologies have to offer, then connectivity has to be a given – even when travelling at 140mph.” said Scot Gardner, Cisco’s UK CEO.
“If only a fraction of the time that we spend travelling is made more productive, the potential for commuters, the train companies and the UK as a whole is immense.”
The system has already been tested on a closed track but will now be piloted in the real world until March 2018.
Besides improving productivity, Cisco also says better connectivity can help train operators themselves. Real time CCTV will be a reality, while it would also be possible to determine which carriages are crowded and where there are seats.
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In a capacity that will see ScotRail prove this concept on their network for the wider benefit of the rail industry, said: “We are delighted to be a part of this project,” said Rob Shorthouse, ScotRail Alliance Communications Director.
“Our customers consistently tell us that one of the things that they expect on their journey is fast, reliable Wi-Fi. This pilot scheme, which we are undertaking on behalf of the entire rail industry, will allow us to fully understand how we take our current on-train WiFi to the next level. We are really excited to be involved.”
Last year, the government announced plans to make free Wi-Fi available to the majority of rail passengers in England and Wales by 2017. It has allocated £50 million in funding for the rollout and will make it a condition of any future franchise bid.
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