Wi-Fi gets onboard Asia's trains

Public train operators in the region are warming up to the idea of implementing Wi-Fi networks, which could benefit passengers as well as rail staff.

SINGAPORE--Wireless Internet service, currently available on Japan's Tsukuba Express, is slowly making its way into other public train networks in Asia.

Chris Koeneman, senior vice president of wireless technology provider Colubris Networks, told ZDNet Asia that it has clinched a deal to provide Wi-Fi services to commuters in the waiting and boarding areas of Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system.

Koeneman said MTR, which serves more than 2.4 million passengers daily, will be looking at providing its commuters with onboard Internet connection in phase one, and the implementation of wireless video surveillance in phase two. Colubris wireless LAN (WLAN) access points will be deployed to all 51 MTR subway stations by the end of the year.

Singapore's public trains could also be equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, too. Early this year, the Land Transport Authority of Singapore issued a Request for Information (RFI) for a trainborne surveillance system.

Koeneman said it is "still early" to say what Singapore's plans are, since the government has only called for an RFI.

According to Colubris Networks, train operators typically build a business case for Wi-Fi based on five applications: video surveillance, infotainment, passenger Internet connectivity, voice communications for employees, and train maintenance.

While different train operators would have different motivations to implement Wi-Fi, Koeneman said, video surveillance would probably be the key reason, especially for countries like Singapore which are "very security conscious".

Koeneman also said that of the five applications, "security is the one that gets the budget".

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Howard Kim, managing director for Asia-Pacific and Japan at Colubris Networks, said other potential markets include Korea, China and Malaysia.

Colubris Networks announced this week at CommunicAsia a tri-radio access point where one radio is fully dedicated to continuous RF (radio frequency) security, leaving the other two to provide support for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

According to Koeneman, the Colubris MultiService Access Point 630 helps ensure users have reliable performance for high-bandwidth business applications, as well as full-time network security.