GNER's on-board Wi-Fi arrives early

GNER has already kitted out all 30 of its electric trains with Wi-Fi and is now putting the finishing touches to its diesel trains

East coast rail operator GNER is on target to fit out its entire fleet of trains with Wi-Fi by the end of this summer — eight months ahead of schedule.

GNER has already kitted out all 30 of its electric trains with Wi-Fi and is now putting the finishing touches to its diesel trains.

GNER is the first UK rail operator to go Wi-Fi on all services across its entire network and claims it will help lure travellers back to trains from budget airlines and the car.

Martin Shaw, systems programme manager at GNER, said: "It is particularly useful competing with the airlines but also the car on journeys to Leeds. It's a full mobile office working environment, especially in first class."

GNER calculates that 22 percent of journeys that have shifted from air to rail have done so because of the Wi-Fi offering.

The service is free for first class passengers but the charges for those in standard are £2.95 for 30 minutes, £4.95 for 60 minutes, £7.95 for 120 minutes and £9.95 for unlimited 24 hour access. The 24 hour tariff is aimed at those travellers who will make a return journey within that period.

The technology for GNER's Wi-Fi service is supplied by Icomera and consists of an antenna fitted to each train that provides a 2Mbps satellite downlink and links to Orange and Vodafone's 3G and GPRS networks along the route. The signal is then passed on to a wireless access point fitted on each carriage.

The combination of satellite and 3G coverage ensures 100 percent connectivity for passengers, even through tunnels, and GNER said it is confident the Wi-Fi service on each train can support 40 customers simultaneously at the moment.

As well as the customer Wi-Fi offering, GNER is also using the technology for its own staff using handheld computers and PDAs on board the trains so that information can be wirelessly sent back to GNER's main back-office systems.

Shaw said GNER is also looking at the possibility of using wireless broadband 3.5G technology HSDPA in the future, for enabling the on-board Wi-Fi service.

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