High speed Internet access on a high speed train

Trains could offer a high speed Internet connection
Trains could offer a high speed Internet connection
14 September 2004

A project called "Broadband to Trains", partly funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) has demonstrated the use of satellite communications to deliver broadband Internet access at bitrates in excess of 2MBit/s to a train’s onboard system.

21Net successfully tested bi-directional satellite and "Wi-Fi" broadband Internet access on board a 300km/hour train on two occasions over a period of four working days in July. The trials were held in Spain in the presence of representatives of two train operators and of the European Space Agency.

"Ten laptops were connected simultaneously and were able to send and receive emails of 5 MB and more, at the same time a receiving real time streamed video from the Web at 300 km/h, for 5 hours per day (the full train journey time), without any interruption of service", explained Henry Hyde-Thomson, Chairman of 21Net.

Antenna mounted on the roof of the train
Antenna mounted on the roof of the train

21Net believes this service is very important in order to provide business class internet services and to support broadband options for the train operator and its customers. A custom-built bi-directional satellite antenna mounted on the roof of the train provides the high data rate broadband connectivity. Onboard the high-speed trains, the equipment allows Wireless LAN access for the passengers.

"This trial was critical to demonstrate the technical feasibility of the broadband offering, also in order to assess the potential commercial implications in terms of services that can be offered", said Fermin Alvarez Lopez, the ESA representative. "All train operators are looking for Internet access and service solutions for millions of European passengers, without having to manage the service themselves, or to modify their trains. This test shows this is possible". 21Net will begin pre-operational pilot service trials in October, focusing on bringing a complete set of services to passengers, including broadband Internet access, on-board entertainment and location-aware information.

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