- The government of the United Kingdom has released a "call for evidence" requesting ideas for how best to deliver on its initiative for improved Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity on passenger trains.
- Providing the service will involve an infrastructure build-out, which could include laying fiber lines and building wireless receivers along the train tracks.
- The plan is part of the UK's strategy for rolling out 5G technology, which was revealed last March. The plan should be in place on main routes by 2025.
The connectivity plan not only attempts to catch up with current expectations, but also aims to "future proof" the system to avoid quick obsolescence and to pave the way for the introduction of 5G technology. The goal is for each train to provide connectivity speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, which would be fast and reliable enough for every passenger on board to simultaneously stream videos without service interruptions. It would also prevent service from cutting out in tunnels.
With this initiative, the UK's government recognized the prevalence of mobile device use on passenger trains and the customer expectation of high-quality, reliable connectivity. Officials said reliable Wi-Fi is no longer optional, it's a necessity.
Rail passenger trips in Great Britain have more than doubled over the past 20 years while other forms of transportation have experienced declines, according to the Department of Transport. However, the department has noticed that the passenger rail ridership has slowed, and the most recent data even indicates a small decline. Offering customers an additional service that they desire, such as better connectivity on trains, has the potential to boost ridership. It could especially help attract commuters, who would be able to work better and without interruptions while riding the train.
Although passengers widely approve of the measure, some have expressed frustration with how long it is expected to be before the trains have the increased service. Seven years is a long time to wait, considering how quickly technology changes in the modern day, and 5G is expected to be well established by that time. But work already is underway on a pilot between Manchester and York, so it is possible that customers could see the service on their trains earlier than 2025.