It seems that improvements are on the way to mobile calls and broadband infrastructure for rail passengers. The Department of Transport (DoT) has announced plans to improve broadband infrastructure on the rail network, which should see 70% of the travelling public benefit by 2019, with the first improvements noticeable in 2015.
The programme is aiming to tackle the many not-spots that are either gaps in the existing commercial mast network, or the topography of the rail network, e.g. tunnels/cuttings makes wireless reception difficult. There appears to be no firm commitment on the level of funding that will be spent, as the DoT talks about working on a business case for the improvements.
Interestingly while the DoT is talking about the business case, the BBC is suggesting that the improvements will be part of a £1.9 billion programme by Network Rail that is already underway to improve fixed and mobile communications on the network. Reading the BBC article we are assuming that Network Rail is looking at open femtocell technology to improve signal reception in carriages, and improving speeds for Wi-Fi access in carriages.
The figures of 192,000 Gigabit per second are touted as something the new network will be capable of, which when you look at the trend over the last decade for traffic flowing through LINX, which is hitting a maximum of around 1700 Gbps and while it is climbing (400 Gbps 3 years ago) there looks to be no need for the need for capacity of 192,000 Gbps. In short, do not get the idea that a train ticket will be the way to enjoy a network running at a 1 Gbps in the next few years. What many will not know is that the CCTV, signalling, information and security systems mean that the comms infrastructure for the rail network comprises the largest private telecoms network in the UK.
For those who oppose the HS2 project, the cost benefit analysis for these improvements may be interesting, as it may show how productive train journeys can be given a table to work on and access to power and Internet connectivity and potentially undermine the spending to reduce journey times between by 25 minutes from London to Birmingham.