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UK rail to benefit from high-speed mobile broadband

Anh Nguyen | Oct. 2, 2013
But there's a six-year wait, and not all of the network will be connected by then

The UK's rail industry is planning to roll out high-speed mobile broadband to the majority of passengers by 2019, the Department for Transport has announced.

Under the plans - which will not receive any government funding - 70 percent of rail travellers will benefit from faster broadband by 2019, with passengers expected to begin noticing the improvements in 2015. The government revealed it was having discussions with railway operator Network Rail to improve connectivity on trains earlier this year.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Passengers deserve to have the best mobile technology and that is why I am pleased that industry is coming together to make that a reality.

"Be it hardworking commuters preparing for the day on their journey into work or leisure travellers making final plans for their weekend away, today's announcement marks the beginning of the end of poor coverage on our railways."

Improving mobile broadband on the railway network will include upgrading Network Rail's existing telecommunications infrastructure and train operators installing equipment that will boost broadband signals on trains.

Network Rail has a large telecoms infrastructure along the network that is used by the industry for railway communications. It recently upgraded its fixed fibre infrastructure to an IP platform, which has given it "surplus capacity", a Network Rail spokesperson said, adding that it made "economic sense" to open this up to passengers.

"[Network Rail will also put in] telephone masts in any known blackspot areas to make use of the extra capacity to provide 4G to trains," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, it will be up to train operators such as Virgin Trains and East Coast to decide whether or not they will charge passengers for the broadband access.

Network Rail and industry will now work on a business case to outline how they will fund the work, the DfT said.

Last year, Network Rail awarded a multi-million pound contract to O2 Unify for the upgrade of its entire Cisco switch and router estate across 450 sites.

It also revealed in June 2012 the details of a £350 million telecoms framework.


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