Consortium pushes train Wi-Fi

The push to provide wireless Internet access to rail passengers is intensifying

A group of IT vendors are negotiating with train operators to offer them another way of providing their passengers wireless broadband access via satellite.

The group, made up of the likes of Cisco and QinetiQ, has teamed to sell Odyssey — a high-speed Internet service that they say can provide real time digital television and telemetric information onboard moving trains.

"We can deliver a wireless broadband solution that offers high-speed services to rail providers," said Paul Wells, a spokesman for Qinetiq. "Many of these systems have already been proved."

The Cloud, Interfleet Technology, KVH Industries and Newtec have also participated in the project, while Aramiska developed the satellites.

The service, which QinetiQ said could be available in 2006, will enable PDA, laptop and smartphone owners to surf the Web while travelling at high-speed.

QinetiQ said that the price for using the service would be set by the train operator.

Satellite connections typically suffer poor latency, as network traffic has to travel from the earth up to the satellite and down again. They also tend to struggle with tunnels.

Odyssey will have to punch its weight in an increasingly competitive market, as several train operators including GNER, Southern Trains and Virgin are already pushing on with their Wi-Fi plans.

Southern Trains, in partnership with T-Mobile, has deployed a Wi-Fi service which uses WiMax rather than satellite for its main connections.

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