Virgin Trains boosts on-board mobile signals

Company is fitting its Voyager train carriages with GSM repeaters to amplify mobile signals, but only Orange customers will benefit

Virgin's cross-country trains are being fitted with equipment which will boost mobile signals. Because of the design of Virgin's Voyager trains — the windows are made out of glass containing metal compounds — making a phone call can currently be difficult.

But now the train company is fitting all its London-to-north-Wales and cross-country trains with GSM repeaters, which will amplify mobile signals within each carriage. Eighteen of its 78 trains have already received the upgrade but, because the equipment is being fitted by Orange, only customers of that mobile operator will benefit.

"The improved 3G and 2G mobile network coverage is great for both consumers and business travellers. For businesses, access to mobile email and information offers greater productivity and less downtime while travelling away from the office. Our efforts here reflect the fact that both Orange and Virgin Trains strive to offer the very best networks for business," said Neil Laidler, vice president of Orange Business Services UK.  

The installation of the repeaters is separate from the on-board Wi-Fi hotspots being tested on Virgin's Pendolino trains, which service the west coast. That testing is being carried out by Nomad Digital, which has already rolled out a similar service on Southern Trains' London-to-Brighton route and the Heathrow Express. The hotspot system uses WiMax transmitters placed alongside the track for backhaul, utilising additional 3G-based connectivity from T-Mobile.