Lithuanian Railways (LTG) is to be the latest train company to participate in the rejuvenation of satellite as a means of supplying broadband to trains. The national rail operator this week announced plans to test Internet on its trains provided by Starlink satellites. The three-month pilot project is slated to start sometime this quarter.
Once one of the contenders to be a central channel for delivery of broadband to trains, satellite appears to be making a come-back in the train-to-shore connectivity stakes. Recently CGI, started work with the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Icomera to demonstrate a hybrid satellite and terrestrial communications network for use on trains in remote parts of Britain’s rail network.
SpaceX apparently initiated operations in Lithuania at the end of 2021, after the Lithuanian Ministry of Transport and Communications had contacted the company. There are currently approximately 4,000 Starlink satellites, in the air. The satellite company also has a contract to provide internet to Ukrainian railways.
According to Vytautas Bitinas, Director of Technology at LTG, quoted in RailTech, a contract worth Euros 6,864 has been signed with Belgian company Venn Telecom to purchase the necessary equipment and testing services.
Satellite communications featured in several projects in the pioneering days of on-train WiFi. GNER, as was, employed it to provide in-fill coverage and terrestrial back-up between 2004 and 2010 and SNCF and Thalys ran satellite links to trains for several years before deciding that the associated operational and maintenance costs were too high.
More recently, however, changes in antenna technology, lower data costs and increased demand for blanket coverage has led to a renewal of interest in what satellites can offer the rail industry. This, combined with a more compatible link-up with emerging 5G services, means that satellite companies are no longer left on the outside looking in.
The UK satellite project will be one of many train-to-shore connectivity services discussed at this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference – Traincomms 2023 (www.Traincomms.com )
This year’s Traincomms 2023 Conference will take place on the 14th and 15th of November at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in central London www.Traincomms.com.
A very limited number of early booking discount tickets are still available.