News from BWCS

Zoom Rooms, with High-Speed WiFi, Replace Smoking Booths on Japanese Trains

Tue 31 Aug 2021

In a sign of the times, in more ways than one, Central Japan Railways has announced that it will replace “Smoking Rooms” on its Shinkansen Trains with “Zoom Rooms”.

The hastily renamed “S-Work Vehicles” will offer travellers WiFi at “twice the speed” offered to the rest of the train. The train operator will even lend passengers a mouse, a privacy screen for their laptops, portable chargers and a pillow on which to rest their computers. With smoking now banned in Japanese trains the spaces formerly occupied by ash-trays and smokers was up for grabs.

While WiFi on the high-speed trains is not new, Central Japan Railways says it recognizes that the pandemic has made video-conferencing meetings more frequent and that its trains must be prepared so that business travellers can make these calls comfortably. However, passengers will have to make sure that they have reserved a seat in these special coaches.

Meanwhile, fellow Japanese train operator JR East says it is also testing some Shinkansen cars as designated teleworking spaces on its high-speed trains running between Tokyo and northern Japan. The new “office cars” are available on up to ten shinkansen trains a day.

Currently, passengers on trains in Japan are strongly discouraged from talking on mobile devices, as it disturbs fellow travellers. However, within the designated office space passengers can freely take work-related calls and full online meetings are also permitted.

Earlier this year, Japanese mobile giant NTT Docomo reported that it had successfully trialled 5G connections on board JR East's high-speed Shinkansen trains. The tests, which were carried out on the ALFA-X1 Shinkansen test train running at 360kmph, apparently confirmed that it is possible to ensure stable mobile communications on Japan’s prized fleet of high-speed trains.

The mobile company says it hopes to prove that stable, high-speed communications will help to encourage more business travellers. A statement from DoComo said that “highly stable communication at 100Mbps or higher was achieved over a distance of approximately 5km, confirming the possibility of practical, reliable communication. Successful handover was confirmed while maintaining data rates at 100Mbps or higher.”

The trials showed effective transmission 4K and 8K high-definition video data: “The advanced capabilities of this new technology are expected to open up a wide range of high-value services for customers travelling on high-speed trains,” said JR East.

Not to be outdone, rival Japanese mobile operator KDDI said it had successfully trialled 5G technology on board a moving train in 2018. However, back then the company used a train travelling at only 100kmph.

The full programme for this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference (November 16th and 17th) is available now at .

For more information, please contact .

On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects this year’s  - in-person - WiFi on Trains Conference.

The 2021 conference (  ) is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, RADWIN, BAI Communications, Westermo and GlobalReach Technology.