Virgin Trains get connected with WiMax and HSDPA

Connectivity off the rails...

Connectivity off the rails...

Virgin Trains has opted for WiMax to connect passengers wanting to browse the internet from their seat.

Virgin will be experimenting with the long range broadband wireless standard on its west coast mainline service, with the first installation already completed on a Pendolino train.

The rail company has signed up QinetiQ Rail to provide wireless connectivity for travellers using a mix of wi-fi, HSDPA, pre-standard WiMax and satellite technology.

CEO Magnus McEwen-King told that using both WiMax and satellite will enable the company to keep costs down.

He said: "If we were to use WiMax throughout the whole route - for the west coast mainline, that would be 1,500km - it would be very expensive. WiMax will be used in urban areas and satellite will give us 90 per cent of our reach."

QinetiQ Rail said it has chosen to go with non-standard WiMax due to the lack of availability of certified 802.11e kit and to be able to operate in licence-exempt spectrum.

According to Qinetiq Rail, the system will be able to provide a connection of up to 49Mbps for trains travelling up to 200kmph, although satellite downlink will be around 20Mbps. Users can expect a "home broadband experience" in terms of speed, according to McEwen-King.

This isn't the first time WiMax has been used to keep train travellers connected. Rail company Southern is also testing the tech on its services with supplier T-Mobile. A commercial launch is expected this summer.


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