Photo credits: Natasha Lomas, silicon.com
TGV passengers on the Wi-Fi-equipped trains can use the onboard internet service for free at present--both in First class (pictured) and Second class coaches.
Passengers with their own Wi-Fi-enabled laptops (or smart phones) can get internet access during their journey at 2Mbps download and 512Kbps upload rates. The system, which is still in a test phase, only supports 50 users per train at present--or around 15 to 20 per cent of the total passengers per train.
Photo credit: SNCF
Here a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop has detected the onboard network: WiFi-TGV. The other wireless networks listed are local networks in and around Paris' Gare de l'Est.
First-time users of the Wi-Fi service are asked to register via an online form before gaining unrestricted access to the internet and a multimedia portal that is regularly updated with videos, news, city guides and other content. SNCF hopes the portal will help attract passengers to use the Wi-Fi service, which is unlikely to be free to use if it is rolled out commercially.
The portal also has real-time geolocalization data--showing the speed the train is traveling at, how far the traveler has progressed on their journey and a map of the train's current location.
Here silicon.com reporter Natasha Lomas logs onto Google as the TGV travels east across France towards Switzerland. The train can reach a top speed of 200mph which SNCF says presented extra challenges to developing the wireless Internet access infrastructure.
During the train trip from Paris to Basel, Switzerland, the Internet connection was not always reliable--perhaps owing to the number of laptop-wielding journalists testing it out. However, when the system was up and running it handled streaming video from YouTube and playing QuickTime movie trailers without too many hiccups.
While it was possible to initiate a call--even a video call--the audio quality was poor and the call itself was dropped repeatedly.
SNCF said the Internet connection is available 98 per cent of the time on the test routes--with only the crossing of the Vosges Mountains not currently available to facilitate passenger Web access.
But a rack of servers (pictured) on board each train ensures content on the multimedia portal is accessible to passengers 100 per cent of the time.,p> Photo credit: SNCF
After several hours of browsing, checking e-mail, testing Skype and accessing the VPN, it's time to leave the train and take in the sights of Basel, Switzerland.