The non-mobile counterpoint to on-train WiFi, Station WiFi, appears to be making quite an impact in at least two major rail markets. In the UK, nearly half-a million travellers every month are reportedly logging on to the Telent-managed WiFi services at the country’s busiest mainline stations. Meanwhile, in India, RailTel, the privatised off-shoot of Indian Railways, has launched a scheme to monetise the WiFi connections at over 6,190 railways stations across the subcontinent.
In Britain, Telent recently completed an extensive programme to design and install WiFi networks at 19 mainline Network Rail operated stations. Working with technology partners GlobalReach and Lumen, the supplier designed, installed, tested, and commissioned a user-focused solution that provides continuous coverage at each terminus. It reports that more than 50 miles cable and more than 700 WiFi6 access points and switches have been installed.
The 19 stations include London Waterloo, Reading, Leeds, Edinburgh Waverley, Manchester Piccadilly, and Birmingham New Street and the service allows users to connect at an enabled station and seamlessly reconnect at their destination. According to a recent report from Telent, 87% of respondents to a customer satisfaction survey said that the WiFi service ‘enhanced the station experience’.
Since launching, there have been up to 3.5 million sessions in a single month.
Meanwhile, in India, RailTel, the privatised technology branch of Indian Railways, recently revealed plans to capitalise on its massive network of station WiFi hotspots. The company plans to offer high-speed broadband and WiFi services in remote villages using its vast fibre-optic network to facilitate fast connections in the country’s rural hinterland.
RailTel, which has introduced WiFi connectivity at more than 6,190 stops across the subcontinent, says it has signed up a consortium of technology forms led by 3i Infotech Ltd, to try to wring some revenue out if its estimated 1.1 million daily WiFi users. The consortium is aiming to generate income via targeted advertising and offering passengers an extensive array of multimedia infotainment.
Other major rail markets have had mixed success in terms of installing and capitalising on high-speed WiFi in stations. In France, some 253 stations offer connectivity to waiting passengers, including at 128 main stations. Deutshe Bahn in Germany has WiFi installed at 130 larger stations, though some regional operators have made their own arrangements with local ISPs. Italy seems to have the fewest train stations hooked up with only a few dozen major termini offering WiFi.
However, in terms of offering WiFi at more remote train stations, Australia, appears to be leading the way. Late last year, Transport for NSW launched a three-month trial supplying free on-station WiFi at the out of the way, one platform, request stop, Nambucca Heads. The transport company is using Starlink low earth orbit (LEO) satellites for connectivity and says that if pilot scheme proves successful, it may roll out the service to other rural stops across the outback. Perhaps, launching a service for other train companies in Europe and the US to follow?
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