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

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.