Train operator East Coast today reveals a £2.2 million upgrade of its on-board wireless internet systems – 24 hours after Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin announced plans to make high-speed mobile broadband available to 70 per cent of train passengers across the country.
East Coast’s investment will include the installation of industry-leading hardware on-board each of its 44 trains, as the operator focuses on achieving a more reliable internet connection for every user, every time.
The train operator’s improvements, which will begin to roll out in early 2014, will also ensure that its passengers are among the first to benefit when Network Rail upgrades its fixed line and mobile infrastructure at the trackside, delivering much faster broadband speeds and greater capacity by 2019.
East Coast Commercial and Customer Service Director Peter Williams said: “We know that Wi-Fi is one of the key reasons why people choose to travel with us, instead of driving or flying.
“It’s vital that our system keeps up with rapidly rising demand from passengers, starting with a more reliable connection into the system from the moment their journey with us begins.
“The investment we are making will upgrade the consistency of the service, by replacing on-train servers, access points and switching equipment which is used to deliver Wi-Fi in every carriage.
“We want our passengers to feel at home whenever they travel with us. A key part of that is staying connected throughout the journey – that’s why we’re investing now to ensure our Wi-Fi users can look forward to a reliable connection and faster connection speeds in years to come.”
The East Coast route was the first in the UK to offer Wi-Fi on a moving train ten years ago in 2003, when trials began using what was then groundbreaking technology.
On-train systems have been progressively improved since, but the extension of fibre optic broadband to millions of homes and the surging popularity of smartphones and tablet computers have raised customers’ expectations from on-train wireless internet.
The Government announced yesterday (30 September 2013) that investment at the trackside will focus on a series of ‘not-spots’ – areas alongside key rail routes with intermittent or poor mobile phone signals. Network Rail is already mid-way through a digital communications improvement programme to upgrade its fixed line and mobile infrastructure.
Further improvements will follow, including an increase in the number of mobile phone masts to fill in gaps in signal coverage, using the most up-to-date technology capable of delivering higher access speeds.