Amtrak looking to bring broadband speed to its on-board Wi-Fi

Summary:The railroad service is now soliciting bids for a proof-of-concept project that would bring a trackside wireless network to the Northeast Corridor.

If you frequently travel on Amtrak trains between Washington and Boston, your on-board productivity level (or mindless Web surfing) could be in for a major boost.

Currently Amtrak restricts large file downloads and heavy media streaming aboard its trains, but the rail service is now looking to upgrade its on-board Wi-Fi service in the Northeast Corridor by constructing a dedicated wireless trackside network. The revamped network would provide high-capacity broadband speed and close the coverage gaps along the NEC. 

The goal is to increase available bandwidth per train from the 10Mbps available today to a minimum of 25 Mbps (and scalable to even faster speeds as technology advances) to meet the demands of growing customer data usage.

"We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience — something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time — and we want to make that possible," said Amtrak CMO Matt Hardison, in prepared remarks.

But it sounds like the network is not quite a sure thing. Amtrak said it is soliciting bids for a proof-of-concept project to determine whether it is technically and financially feasible to construct such a network along the entire 457-mile NEC.

Topics: Mobility, Networking


Natalie Gagliordi is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in Louisville, Kentucky, covering business technology for ZDNet. She previously worked as the editor of Kiosk Marketplace, an online B2B trade publication that focused on interactive self-service technology, while also contributing to additional websites that covered retail tec... Full Bio

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