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Author Topic: "free wi-fi on trains across England and Wales from 2017"  (Read 7452 times)
stuving
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« on: February 12, 2015, 09:45:22 am »

From this DfT press release yesterday:
Quote
Free wi-fi to help rail commuters stay connected
From:Department for Transport, HM Treasury, Claire Perry MP and The Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP
First published:11 February 2015

Rail passengers to benefit from on-board wi-fi across England and Wales.

Rail passengers will benefit from free wi-fi on trains across England and Wales from 2017, Rail Minister Claire Perry announced today (11 February 2015).

Train operators are being asked to set how they will meet the commitment to provide this important service for passengers. All train operators bidding for new franchises and direct award agreements will have to include this specification in their bid.

Where there is no new franchise agreement due in the next 2 years, almost ^50 million of funding will be released from the Department for Transport to ensure wi-fi is available on selected services from 2017. The operators in this group are:

Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN)
Southeastern
Chiltern
Arriva Trains Wales.

...

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

"As someone who regularly travels from the north of Scotland around the country, I appreciate the value of fast, cheap internet connections on trains for both leisure and business travellers. That^s why the government is earmarking around ^50 million to provide free wi-fi on trains; this and our other franchising improvements mean that nearly three-quarters of rail journeys will be made on trains with wi-fi provision."

The department has challenged rail industry operators to begin installing equipment as soon as possible to deliver wi-fi by 2017.

The operators will now work with the department to develop detailed proposals identifying the most appropriate services and routes to benefit. Funding will be awarded subject to satisfactory proposals being received from TSGN, Southeastern, Chiltern, and Arriva Trains Wales.

Some operators have already installed equipment to provide improved mobile coverage on-board their trains, or are in the process of doing so. By targeting the investment at franchises that would otherwise have no immediate plans to introduce wi-fi, the government is ensuring that as many passengers as possible benefit.

The ^47.8 million funding is money that Network Rail has been required to return to the government for missing punctuality targets set by the Office of Rail Regulation. It is the first time such money has been reinvested into improvements targeted at passengers.

Out of the ^53.1 million total penalty against Network Rail, ^5.3 million has been allocated to the Scottish government, in line with the proportion of the penalty paid by Network Rail for late train running in Scotland.

Now what kind of incentive does that give to ToCs to invest in such extra customer services?

And note how "across England and Wales" mutates into "nearly three-quarters of rail journeys" in the text.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2015, 11:34:57 pm by stuving » Logged
Rhydgaled
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2015, 09:57:40 am »

Interesting to see that TSGN is included on that list. Now why didn't the DfT specify Wi-Fi on the new class 700 fleet for TSGN?

I also wonder how much of the ATW fleet/network will get Wi-Fi.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2015, 10:18:10 am »

I'm starting to make use of the WiFi when travelling on HST services on FGW - it's a strong encouragement to me to use the train even if my journey time is extended and although it's not bringing any direct income to First, I suspect it will help in customer retention and market development.

But I'm not seeing anything about WiFi extension in the FGW area onto other long distance services such as Portsmouth to Cardiff, or Bristol to Penzance services run by class 15x units.   Is there a chance this will be in the franchise from September? 
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stuving
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2015, 10:23:06 am »

Well, there's an inference to be drawn, isn't there -
Quote
Where there is no new franchise agreement due in the next 2 years ...
That suggests that, where there is, something will be included. Maybe not a 100% must-have, perhaps more of a "brownie points on offer for"?
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insider
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2015, 03:57:25 pm »

Not sure if posted elsewhere....but


Can Confirm that Wi-Fi fitment on the 16X fleet has now commenced.
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thetrout
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2015, 05:35:51 pm »

Wouldn't mind seeing some Power Sockets and WiFi on our Class 158s.

Even if the power sockets were limited to a newly created First Class section. It would be useful for long journeys.

I've used the WiFi with FGW HSTs and I am extremely impressed. Train WiFi for once that has been done properly...





Whereas CrossCountry Complimentary in First Class... Angry



A Cellphone Connection using an inbuilt 3G Modem in a Laptop...



Finally my home connection just on it's own... I can double this speed if I bond it with my business connection...

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ChrisB
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2015, 06:40:25 pm »

Strewth! Who supplies that latter connection? Guess its a fibre connection?
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thetrout
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2015, 07:26:41 pm »

Strewth! Who supplies that latter connection? Guess its a fibre connection?

I'm not going to break the rules of advertising on the forum Tongue

But Virgin Trains I'm told have launched new 152MB/s Services... Oh no sorry. 125mph services many years ago Grin
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ellendune
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2015, 08:11:30 pm »

A Cellphone Connection using an inbuilt 3G Modem in a Laptop...

That's not much use on Cross Country between Birmingham and Cheltenham Spa as there is almost no 3G available on the whole route.
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bignosemac
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2015, 10:21:07 pm »

What's the future with on train WiFi?

Currently trains can use either linking to a cell network or a satellite uplink. Is the future with those options which will continue to improve over time as new technology increases speeds and coverage? Or will we see the railways go with the in house solution of using spare bandwith on the railway specific GSM-R network? Are there inherent dangers in opening up parts of the GSM-R spectrum to public access?
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Worcester_Passenger
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« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2015, 10:22:31 pm »

I've used the WiFi with FGW HSTs and I am extremely impressed. Train WiFi for once that has been done properly...
Alas, nothing like that once you get beyond Oxford on our line - I gave up trying to run load speedtest.net this evening. Very unimpressive.
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stuving
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« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2015, 11:49:38 pm »

What's the future with on train WiFi?

Currently trains can use either linking to a cell network or a satellite uplink. Is the future with those options which will continue to improve over time as new technology increases speeds and coverage? Or will we see the railways go with the in house solution of using spare bandwith on the railway specific GSM-R network? Are there inherent dangers in opening up parts of the GSM-R spectrum to public access?

The DfT announcement in the OP was largely a repeat of one in July. That contained this:
Quote
The work will complement an upgrade currently taking place on Network Rail^s trackside infrastructure to ensure that a good signal is available up and down the busiest rail routes.

There are statements by NR and others that the fibre lineside network is largely built, which can provide more than enough backhaul for on-board WiFI and phone users. There are other statements that NR planned to provide radio equipment mounted on GSM-R towers for the train-shore links - presumably LTE ("4G"). Note this isn't a mobile phone system - it's point-point - but it uses the same radio standards. However, I can't find anything concrete about that programme - what it is, what spectrum it uses, how far it's got, where it is being put, etc.

There is the obvious point that the two ends of such a link are operated and owned by different parties. They might agree on a design solution, and each buy the right bits for it, but that would involve a big engineering overhead just to do the paperwork and it still might not work well.

So I await confirmation of exactly what is being done. Note that a ToC might in any case add this new capacity to a solution involving satellite, mobile phone, are whatever.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 09:52:35 am by stuving » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2015, 10:44:05 am »

Can Confirm that Wi-Fi fitment on the 16X fleet has now commenced.

Yes, I hadn't realised until fairly recently that the Turbo units were getting free wi-fi fitted as well as the 180s and HSTs.  Excellent news.
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stuving
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2015, 01:00:26 pm »

I'm still looking for hard data about this plan to provide on-board Wifi and mobile phone services via a radio link to a kind of base station that NR will install on GSM-R masts. The fibre network that would connect those boxes to the world has mostly been built already. I can't find anything to tell me how far the plan has got. That may be partly because I do not know what it is called (my friend Google is so very literal-minded).

This was part of the CP5 Strategic Business Plan, and appears in the document "SBP Asset Management Services" (dated January 2013). However, this is even worse written than most of the SBP, and stuffed full of aspirational jargon. The relevant words are in the section headed "Network Rail Telecom (NRT) ":

Quote
Partnering
NRT needs to deliver 4G mobile data services for future train operational needs, ORBIS trackside applications and passenger Wi-fi. Our strategy is to partner with one or more partners, using their spectrum and our physical masts and backhaul assets to build this network at least cost to Network Rail. This in turn will drive value added service provision and help meet strategic themes.

Market Segmentation Strategy
NRT currently delivers services via Layer 0 in the diagram below ^ Using the existing low capacity FTN network and 3rd party services from BT and Level 3 to run the railway. Layer 1A is the first step in extending the network to support future rail operational needs. FTNx ^ a new high speed network overlaid on FTN ^ will support data hungry services (SCADA, TM, ROCs, Corporate Voice and DATA) and high definition CCTV while allowing NRT to migrate from 3rd party suppliers and bring down provision costs. Using FTNx, layer 1B services will be extended to the rail family along the rail corridor ^ connecting TOC stations, depots and switching centres to more efficiently run the railway. Consideration will be given to full utilise strategic partnerships Layers 2 and 3 will extend FTNx and mobile services beyond the rail corridor to run our rail family corporate functions and have potential to support CNI networks such as the British Transport Police. Finally, Layer 4 services will be considered proving traditional wholesale and enterprise data services and supporting UK PLC through rural broadband initiatives etc.

The layers are shown in the diagram.

Has anyone else seen anything at all concrete? I've even tried looking for technical articles on how LTE would be used in this application - on the grounds it should be at least a partly-open standard - but found nothing about the UK.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2015, 01:28:27 pm »

I think itr has barely started & nothing yet is in the public domain
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